Ideology Seen as Only Explanation for US Insurance Proposal

Cardinal Blasts «New Threat to Conscience»

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WASHINGTON, D.C., JULY 20, 2011 ( The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee is denouncing a recommendation from the Institute of Medicine to mandate surgical sterilization and abortifacient drugs in private health insurance policies.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, and  chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, voiced his opposition in a statement Tuesday.

The Institute of Medicine recommended the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to mandate coverage of surgical sterilization and all FDA-approved birth control in private health insurance plans nationwide.

Three particular practices included in the recommendation are surgical sterilization; all FDA-approved birth control (including the IUD, «morning-after» pills, and the abortion-inducing drug Ella); and «education and counseling» promoting these among all «women of reproductive capacity.»

In the cardinal’s statement, he recalled that «pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition.»

«Most Americans surely see that abortion is not healthy or therapeutic for unborn children, and has physical and mental health risks for women which can be extremely serious,» he stated. «I can only conclude that there is an ideology at work in these recommendations that goes beyond any objective assessment of the health needs of women and children.»

Paying the bills

Cardinal DiNardo noted that if the HHS implements the recommendation, then anyone who participates in health coverage will cover the cost of these practices.

«Without sufficient legal protection for rights of conscience, such a mandate would force all men, women and children to carry health coverage that violates the deeply held moral and religious convictions of many,» he said.

In this context, the cardinal recommended legislation before Congress, the «Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.»

Cardinal DiNardo also lamented that the institute «missed an opportunity to promote better health care for women that is life-affirming and truly compassionate.»

He called on the government to «focus on the need of all Americans, including immigrants and the poor, for basic life-saving health coverage — not on mandating controversial elective practices in ways that undermine the good of women and children, the consciences of employers, employees and health plan providers, and the common good.»

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