(CNSNews.com) - As the Catholic Church was preparing to begin a nationwide two-week protest against what it considers federal threats to religious liberty—especially the Obamacare regulation that requires virtually all health insurance plans to cover sterilizations, artificial contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs--First Lady Michelle Obama boasted in two different speeches on Wednesday that her husband’s health care plan will require insurance plans to provide “preventive services,” including contraception, for free.
In one speech, she referred to the mandated "preventive services" as “basic things like contraceptives.”
In a unanimous statement of their own, the Catholic bishops of the United States have called the sterilization-contraception-abortifacient regulation an “unjust and illegal mandate.”
“But you can also tell people about health reform, because we passed health reform,” Mrs. Obama said Wednesday at an event in Pueblo, Colo. “Yes, indeed, together we passed health reform.
“And because of that reform, the people we love will no longer have to skip important health screenings because they can’t afford them. Not in America,” said Mrs. Obama. “Instead, insurance companies will have to cover preventative care, basic things like contraception, cancer screenings, prenatal care, and cover them at no extra cost. That’s what health reform has done. But people have to know. They have to understand what this all means.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Mrs. Obama addressed another event in Centennial, Colo., and made the same point.
“Because we passed health reform--health insurance--people need to understand that insurance companies will have to cover preventative care, things like contraception and cancer screenings, things like prenatal care, and they have to do it at no extra cost,” she said.
The Catholic Church, which teaches that sterilization, artificial contraception and abortion are morally wrong, initially asked the administration to rescind the regulation, arguing that because it would require virtually all health care plans cover these things it would force Catholic individuals, employers and institutions to act against their faith in buying and/or providing them.
When the administration refused to rescind the mandate, 43 Catholic diocese and institutions, including the Archdioceses of Washington, St. Louis and New York, and the University of Notre Dame and Catholic University of America, sued the administration. The lawsuits, filed in 12 different federal courts, argue that the regulation violates the right of Catholics to the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Two weeks ago, all the Catholic bishops of the United States unanimously endorsed a statement, “United for Religious Freedom,” that cited their “vigorous opposition to this unjust and illegal mandate.”
In April, the bishops issued “A Statement on Religious Liberty” that called the regulation an “unjust law.”
“It is a sobering thing to contemplate our government enacting an unjust law,” the bishops’ statement said. “An unjust law cannot be obeyed. In the face of an unjust law, an accommodation is not to be sought, especially by resorting to equivocal words and deceptive practices. If we face today the prospect of unjust laws, then Catholics in America, in solidarity with our fellow citizens, must have the courage not to obey them. No American desires this. No Catholic welcomes it. But if it should fall upon us, we must discharge it as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith.”
The bishops have asked American Catholics to participate in a Fortnight of Freedom that starts today and ends on the Fourth of July. The Fortnight is described as a “special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action [that] will emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty.”
The bishops have also issued a prayer for the protection of religious liberty in the United States.
“Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,” the prayer concludes, “a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters gathered in your Church in this decisive hour in the history of our nation, so that, with every trial withstood and every danger overcome—for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us—this great land will always be ‘one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’ We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
On Wednesday, Mrs. Obama called on the crowd in Pueblo, Colo., to help fight “for the values we believe in.”
“But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, if we keep doing what we know is right and fighting for the values we believe in, then we always get there,” Mrs. Obama said. “We always do. We have never moved backwards, we've always moved forward.”
“God bless you,” said the First Lady on finishing her speech.