Obamacare Regulation Effectively Bars Catholics from Owning Health Insurance Companies

Terence P. Jeffrey | July 2, 2013 | 4:39am EDT
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Pope John Paul II reiterated the Catholic teaching that abortion is murder and Catholics cannot cooperate in it in his 1995 encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae. (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri)

(CNSNews.com) - The final version of Obamacare’s “preventive services” regulation that the Department of Health and Human Services published on Friday discriminates against faithful members of the Roman Catholic Church by effectively barring them from owning and operating health-insurance companies.

This is because the regulation orders health insurance companies to provide sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs to all female beneficiaries except those insured by “religious employers”--which, according to the regulation, includes only actual “houses of worship” (n.b. parish churches), their immediate auxiliaries, associations of houses of worship and the “exclusively religious activities of any religious order.”

The Catholic Church teaches that sterilization, artificial contraception, and abortion are intrinsically immoral. The church also teaches that Catholics are not allowed to cooperate in evil acts such as abortion--which the church says is a form of murder.

Under the final regulation, even Catholic organizations such as Catholic hospitals, universities and charities are not counted as “religious employers.”

Thus, if a Catholic university wanted to seek out and do business with a health-insurance company whose owners ran their company wholly in keeping with Catholic teachings, the university would not be allowed to do so because all insurance companies providing health insurance to Catholic universities will now be required to pay for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs for the employees of those universities.

When the final version of the regulation was proposed earlier this year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) presented comments to the Department of Health and Human Services pointing out that the regulation would require insurers who had conscientious objections to the mandated services to nonetheless provide them.

Pope Benedict XVI (L'Osservatore Romano)

“Those without an exemption or accommodation include conscientiously-opposed individuals, for-profit employers (whether secular or religious), nonprofit employers that are not explicitly religious organizations (even in cases where their objection is religious in nature), insurers, and third-party administrators,” the USCCB said in comments dated March 20, 2013. “Respect for their consciences demands some adequate legal protection, but under the current proposed regulation they have none.”

“In addition,” said the USCCB in its March 20 comments, “the proposed regulation fails to recognize the religious and moral objection of insurers and third-party administrators (TPAs). All insurers and third-party administrators will be required to provide, or administer and arrange for, respectively, a plan with contraceptive coverage, with the narrow exception of insurers and TPAs that serve only exempt ‘religious employers.'”

The regulation defines as “religious employers” only those that fall under Section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) and (iii) of the Internal Revenue Code—the aforementioned houses of worship, their immediate auxiliaries, associations of houses of worship, and religious orders.

In the final regulation that HHS issued Friday, a non-profit organization that “holds itself out as a religious organization”—such as a Catholic hospital, university or charity--can “certify” that it objects to providing sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in its health-care plan. But that does not exempt that Catholic organization from facilitating coverage for these things for its employees—nor does it exempt the Catholic organization’s insurance provider from paying for these things.

In fact, under the regulation, if a Catholic hospital, university or charity refuses to buy coverage for the objectionable services, the regulation affirmatively commands that the health insurance company providing coverage to the organization must provide the organization's employees and their dependents with free sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs. If the “religious organization” self-insures, the regulation requires that the third-party administrator for the self-insurance plan must either pay directly for the objectionable services or “arrange” for an insurance company to do so—also free of charge to the employees and their dependents.

The regulation says the government will give insurance companies discounts from the fees they pay to participate in the government-sponsored insurance exchanges to compensate them for the direct payments they make to cover sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs for the employees of religious non-profits such as Catholic hospitals, universities and charities.

An insurance company that refuses on moral and religious grounds to pay for abortion-inducing drugs is barred by the regulation from taking as customers individual private citizens, for-profit corporations and their employees, non-religious non-profits and their employees, and religious non-profits and their employees.

The Catholic Church has always taught that abortion takes the life of an innocent human being, and that Catholics cannot cooperate in it. In modern times, the church has made clear that this extends to abortions carried out by pharmaceutical, rather than surgical, means.

“But no word has the power to change the reality of things: procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth,” Pope John Paul II wrote in the 1995 encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae.

“The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize that we are dealing with murder,” the pope said.

Pope Francis (AP Photo)

“The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end,” declared the pope. “It is in fact a grave act of disobedience to the moral law, and indeed to God himself, the author and guarantor of that law; it contradicts the fundamental virtues of justice and charity. ‘Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action.’”

The pope said that all human beings have both a duty and a right to refrain from cooperating with evil acts like the taking of an innocent life.

“Christians, like all people of good will, are called upon under grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God's law,” he wrote. “Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. Such cooperation occurs when an action, either by its very nature or by the form it takes in a concrete situation, can be defined as a direct participation in an act against innocent human life or a sharing in the immoral intention of the person committing it.

“This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it,” said the pope.

“Each individual in fact has moral responsibility for the acts which he personally performs; no one can be exempted from this responsibility, and on the basis of it everyone will be judged by God himself.

“To refuse to take part in committing an injustice is not only a moral duty; it is also a basic human right,” he said. “Were this not so, the human person would be forced to perform an action intrinsically incompatible with human dignity, and in this way human freedom itself, the authentic meaning and purpose of which are found in its orientation to the true and the good, would be radically compromised. What is at stake therefore is an essential right which, precisely as such, should be acknowledged and protected by civil law. In this sense, the opportunity to refuse to take part in the phases of consultation, preparation and execution of these acts against life should be guaranteed to physicians, health-care personnel, and directors of hospitals, clinics and convalescent facilities. Those who have recourse to conscientious objection must be protected not only from legal penalties but also from any negative effects on the legal, disciplinary, financial and professional plane.”

In June 2012, the Catholic bishops of the United States unanimously approved a statement declaring Obamacare’s sterilization-contraception-abortifacient regulation a “violation of the personal civil rights” of health insurers.

“The HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values,” said the unanimous bishops. “They, too, face a government mandate to aid in providing ‘services’ contrary to those values—whether in their sponsoring of, and payment for, insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees; or as insurers themselves—without even the semblance of an exemption.”

In their comments on the regulation in March, the bishops said that the proposal continued to be “an unjust and unlawful mandate.”

Under this regulation, the only people who will be able to own and operate health insurance companies in the general American marketplace will be people willing to follow the Obama administration’s regulatory command that they facilitate and pay for abortion.

Catholics cannot do that.

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