Pelosi’s ‘Message to Church:’ ‘Catholic Women…From 14…Or Younger…Are Practicing Birth Control’

By Terence P. Jeffrey | February 25, 2012 | 11:07am EST

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

( - House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) used her closing remarks at a special hearing called by the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on Thursday to summarize what she described as a “message” to the Catholic Church: Your teaching on birth control “isn’t even accepted by the laity churchgoing people themselves.”

To illustrate her claim, Pelosi, who is Catholic, said that "an overwhelming number" of American Catholic girls from age 14 “or younger” are using birth control. Pelosi cited no source for this assertion.

After asserting that “over 300,000 people” had complained that no woman had testified on a panel in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that had discussed the Obama administration’s regulation that will force all health-care plans—including those provided or purchased by Catholics and Catholic institutions--to cover sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients, Pelosi was interrupted by the Georgetown Law School student she had called in to testify to rectify the matter.

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“Well, it just demonstrates how many women and men care so deeply about this issue and how much it means to their lives,” said Sandra Fluke.

Fluke was formerly the president of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice, and her testimony focused on her complaint that Georgetown, a Catholic school, did not cover contraceptives in its student health insurance plan.

“Well, it does,” said Pelosi, “and it also speaks to the fact that this is what the practice is in our country. If an overwhelming number of Catholic women of childbearing age--and stretch that from 14 to 50 or however older or younger you want to go--are practicing birth control, then that has to be some message to the church that please don't expect employers and insurance companies to enforce an attitude that you have that isn't even accepted by the laity churchgoing people themselves.

“So,” said Pelosi, “we have a problem here, which you have really clearly presented an answer to: A voice of a young woman in an institution of higher learning that is Catholic, I always thought with a capital C and a small c. Let's hope that that is the case.”

In the 1968 Encyclical Letter “Humanae Vitae,” Pope Paul VI said the church well understood that some people would not "easily accept" its teaching against sterilization, artificial contraception and abortion and that the teaching might be attacked by opponents taking advantage of “modern means of communication,” but that that did not diminish the church’s responsibility to teach it.

“It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching,” says Humanae Vitae. “There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a ‘sign of contradiction.’ She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.

“Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter—only their guardian and interpreter,” says Humanae Vitae. “It could never be right for her to declare lawful what is in fact unlawful, since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of man.

“In preserving intact the whole moral law of marriage, the Church is convinced that she is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization,” says the encyclical. “She urges man not to betray his personal responsibilities by putting all his faith in technical expedients. In this way she defends the dignity of husband and wife.”

Pelosi’s closing statement at Thursday’s hearing—including the “message” she wanted the Catholic Church to take note of—was televised by C-SPAN.

In the same statement, Pelosi said preserving the administration’s sterilization-contraception-abortifacient insurance mandate was about protecting the “God-given free will” of the women who would receive the coverage ordered by the Obama administration.

“Does that person, or that chairman of committee, have any judgment on what it means to a family to personally and religiously make decisions about the size and timing of their family?” Pelosi asked of House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R.-Calif.), without mentioning Issa by name.

“Does that person have any knowledge, is he qualified to talk about the danger to women's health, and therefore the care of the family, to a mom if she and her husband, their doctor and their God cannot make those decisions?” Pelosi said.

“Is that committee chairmanship and leadership of the Congress qualified to make a decision about how people exercise their God-given free will to take their responsibility and to answer for how they exercise that God-given free will?” Pelosi said.

Pelosi did not discuss the impact of the Obama administration’s order that all  health insurance plans cover sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients will have on the “God-given free will” of Catholics who will be forced to pay for these things against their conscience and against the teachings of their faith.

Most Catholic bishops around the country had priests read a letter from the pulpit during Catholic Masses last month denouncing the Obama administration’s regulation. Many of the letters said: “We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law.”

Pelosi’s remarks were televised by C-SPAN. They begin at 51:40 in the recording posted online here.

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