WH: Obama Undecided on Whether to Impose Regulation Forcing Catholics to Act Against Their Faith

By Fred Lucas | November 30, 2011 | 7:11am EST

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(CNSNews.com) - President Barack Obama has not yet decided whether to go forward with a proposed regulation under the health care law he signed last year that would force Catholic individuals and instutions to act against the teachings of the Catholic church. 

In August, Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius proposed a regulation--that would take affect next fall--that would require all health care plans to cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives, including abortifacients. The proposed regulation includes a very narrow religious exemption that does not cover individual Catholics, or Catholic universities, hospitals or charitable institutions.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have called the regulation an "unprecedented attack on religious liberty" and have called on American Catholics to contact HHS and demand that the regulation be rescinded.

At Tuesday’s press briefing, Jake Tapper of ABC News noted that he had heard from pro-abortion Democrats who are worried about where Obama was going on the proposed regulation and asked Jay Carney about its status.

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"I’ve heard from a lot of Democrats in the last few weeks who are concerned about President Obama possibly granting an exemption to Catholic churches, hospitals and universities from the requirement that all insurance plans cover contraception," said Tapper. 

"I’m wondering if you could shed any light on this decision," Tapper asked Carney. "I know the President has not yet made a decision, but I think these Democrats, a lot of them in the abortion rights community, are concerned that this is even being discussed. Could you explain why the President is considering an exemption, and what’s going into his decision-making?

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the president seeks to strike a balance on the matter.

"Well, part of the process, Jake, as you know, was seeking and receiving public input before the guidelines that were announced by the Secretary of Health and Human Services would go into effect," said Carney. "That process did result in public input, as well as resulted in numerous comments from various folks who have concerns about this issue. 

"The President has--this decision has not yet been made," Carney continue. "You can be sure that we want to strike the right balance between expanding coverage of preventive services and respecting religious beliefs.  And that’s the balance that will be sought as this decision is made."

Because of Obamacare’s mandate that all individuals must buy health insurance, the “preventive services” regulation would mean individual American Catholics would be forced to buy health insurance that pays for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortions--all of which violate Catholic moral teachings.

Many major Catholic institutions and Catholic business owners would be forced to choose between dropping health insurance coverage for their employees and students or violating their religious beliefs.

"Indeed, such nationwide government coercion of religious people and groups to sell, broker, or purchase 'services' to which they have a moral or religious objection represents an unprecedented attack on religious liberty," the bishops said in commentary on the proposed regulation they submitted to HHS.

On Nov. 22, NARAL Pro Choice America issued a statement urging Obama to “stand firm again anti-birth control organizations.”

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