WH: Signatures to Rescind HHS Contraceptive Mandate Exceed Those on Petition in Favor of Policy 5 to 1

By Edwin Mora | February 6, 2012 | 5:06pm EST

FILE - In this Oct. 31, 2011 file photo, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is seen in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. Federal law lays out several criteria for the government to determine which are religious. But in the case of the contraception mandate, critics say Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius chose the narrowest ones. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

(CNSNews.com) A petition calling for the U.S. Health and Human Services’ contraceptives and abortifacients mandate to be rescinded has attracted five times more signatures than a petition urging the administration to retain the policy.

According to “We the People” hosted by Whitehouse.gov, 21,690 Americans had signed a petition entitled, “Rescind the HHS Dept. Mandate Requiring Catholic Employers to Provide Contraceptives/ Abortifacients to Their Employees” as of 4 p.m. Monday.

Meanwhile, as of 4 p.m. Monday, only 4,145 Americans had signed a petition entitled “Stand Strong in Support of New No-Cost Birth Control Policy,” which is in favor of the HHS mandate.

That means that, 5 to 1, more Americans have signed the petition in opposition to the mandate. Those are the only two petitions published on We the People that focus on the HHS mandate, which effective in August, will force religious entities such as hospitals and universities to provide health insurance plans to employees that subsidize sterilizations and contraception, including abortifacients such as the morning after pill.

Catholic leaders have said that the exemption for religious entities included in the mandate is too narrow.

According to “We the People,” 150 signatures are required for the White House to post the petition on their Web site, and 25,000 signatures within 30 days of submission are needed to elicit an official response.

Those in favor of the policy have until March 3 to reach the 25,000 signatures needed to get an official response, and those who want the mandate rescinded have until Feb. 27 to reach the 25,000 threshold. So that means that the petitions were submitted less than a week apart from each other. The one in opposition was submitted first.

That petition, which was created on Jan. 28, notes that HHS “is mandating that all employer healthcare insurance plans provide coverage for procedures which violate the beliefs of the Catholic Church, and Catholic institutions.”

“Basically, the new rules require the Catholic Church, and the institutions operating faithfully under the aegis of the Church, to provide coverage for contraceptive drugs and procedures,” it continued. “This requirement violates the beliefs of the Church.”

“Never before has the United States Government deigned to represent "transcendental truth" on matters of conscience for any religion within these United States,” it further stated. “That in itself is unprecedented, which is also why it is unconstitutional.”

The petition in favor of the policy, created on Feb. 3 stated, “Thanks to the Obama administration, nearly all women will soon have access to birth-control coverage at no cost. It’s a huge victory for our country, where 99 percent of women use birth control at some point in their lives.”

“In developing this policy that will significantly improve women’s health, the Obama administration resisted a pressure campaign from anti-contraception groups,” it added. “These groups wanted to allow many employers, including universities and hospitals, to refuse to cover birth control.

“Unfortunately, those anti-contraception groups continue to call on the White House to rescind its policy,” the petition further stated. “It’s up to pro-choice Americans to speak up for birth-control coverage. Sign your name to let the administration know that you are with them 100 percent.”

The petition to do away with the policy echoes concerns by Catholic Church leaders, such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who argue that the mandate is an unprecedented attack on religious freedom and have called on the Obama administration to rescind it. HHS will begin enforcing the policy in August and has given religious organizations an extra year to implement the mandate.

Despite concerns by the Catholic community including over 100 bishops and leaders of other denominations, the White House last week said that there is: ‘no constitutional rights issues’ surrounding the mandate.

Freshman Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a Catholic, has introduced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which will overturn the HHS mandate.

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