Five Facts: The Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate

This Five Facts article focuses on objections to the Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate, a portion of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). This crosscuts a great deal of Church teachings previously mentioned this week, so I will focus more closely on the objections.

Five Facts: The HHS Mandate

  1. The primary objection revolves around the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
  2. The HHS Mandate requires religious employers and insurance companies to provide contraception, abortificants, and sterilization with extremely narrow exceptions.  This violates Catholic moral teachings and requires Catholics materially cooperate in evil.
  3. Should an employer or insurance agency drop their policy and refuse to participate, they will be fined $100 per employee per day.  In many cases this would amount to enough to shutter these organizations.
  4. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has released several statements uniformly opposing this mandate.
  5. In addition, the USCCB corrected (with breakneck speed) false statements made by Vice President Joe Biden during the vice-presidential debates, where he claimed that no Catholic individual or organization would be required to pay for or offer contraception.

So why does this matter to you?

Honestly, I get a lot of eye-rolling from my liberal friends when this topic comes up.  They think the heart of the issue is the Catholic Church trying to legislate their agenda regarding contraception, and the religious freedom argument is a line-item overreaction.  In reality, the Church is just asking for it’s Constitutional Right to free exercise of religion.  My personal argument is that the government is forcing me to pay for things that violate my conscience.

I don’t want to pay for someone else’s abortion.  I don’t want to pay for someone else’s contraception or sterilization.  Availability isn’t a problem either – all of these things are available enough via the private sector, often at subsidized rates for those with low-income.  While I don’t want anyone to use these products and services, they are able to already  without government intervention.

As if that was not bad enough, the fines imposed by the HHS Mandate make it impossible for Catholic (or other religious) organizations to disobey this unjust law… the fines would be enough to cause them to shut down.  In the past, mandates of this kind would employ an exemption process that Churches, hospitals, and other faith-based organizations could apply for and receive.  Not so in this case.

Don’t misunderstand me: I think the overall goal of getting affordable health care to everyone is noble.  I just think in this case they went too far.  If the HHS Mandate were to allow a broad, easy-to-receive exemption for anyone who morally disagreed with the policy I probably wouldn’t be writing this article right now.  The fact of the matter is that they do not, and misinformation abounds to try to make the argument go away.

To underscore how serious the threat of eroding religious liberty is, I am reminded of a quotation from His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago:

“I expect to die in my bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”

I pray it doesn’t come to that.

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