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Catholic Hospitals Join Criticism of Obamacare Contraception Mandate

That’s Mitt Romney, appearing via video at the Faith and Freedom Conference over the weekend, decrying the contraception order put out by the Department of Health and Human Services, which the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has opposed.

The decision by the Obama Administration to attack our first Freedom, religious freedom is one in which, I think a lot of people were shocked to see. Cardinal Dolan in New York City who was the Chairman of the Catholic Council of Bishops was surprised to see the President turn and take a different course than one he had promised during the campaign. A course, which says to the Catholic Church that they would be required to violate their own conscience in fulfilling the obligations under Obamacare.

Under the order, homogenous religious institutions like churches would be exempt from the policy. Only heterogenous institutions that mark themselves as religiously affiliated, like Catholic hospitals and universities, institutions that have non-religious employees or followers of a different religion working there, would have to comply with the birth control insurance coverage under a preventive services regime, and even then, they wouldn’t have to be directly involved in the transaction. So you can see how this is truly an extreme position, with Catholic bishops inserting themselves into a women’s health debate to impose their beliefs on others.

But they appear to have ensnared Catholic hospitals in the debate, which is a reversal from prior support.

Sharpening an election-year confrontation over religious freedom and government health insurance rules, the nation’s Catholic hospitals on Friday rejected President Barack Obama’s compromise for providing birth control coverage to their women employees.

The Catholic Health Association was a key ally in Obama’s health care overhaul, defying opposition from church bishops to help the president win approval in Congress. But the group said Friday it does not believe church-affiliated employers should have to provide birth control as a free preventive service, as the law now requires […]

In a letter to the federal Health and Human Services department, the hospital group said the compromise initially seemed to be “a good first step” but that examination of the details proved disappointing. The plan would be “unduly cumbersome” to carry out and “unlikely to adequately meet the religious liberty concerns” of all its members, the group said.

The Catholic Health Association originally did not join the lawsuit against the contraception mandate, and said at the time they were working on a “negotiation” to broaden the exemption for religious institutions. That obviously hit a wall, and they’ve gone into opposition.

It isn’t much of a stretch to suggest that the bishops had something to do with this reversal.

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David Dayen

David Dayen