Charlotte bishop assails part of health reform law
A week after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal health care reforms, Catholic Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte again described its contraception requirements as an attack on religious liberty and led St. Patrick’s Cathedral in prayer that it might be overturned.
Jugis’ sermon Sunday was part of “Fortnight for Freedom,” two weeks of prayer, reflection and social action focusing attention on the fight by U.S. bishops and other groups against the birth-control mandate.
The new rule, which becomes law next February, requires Catholic hospitals, schools and other employers to offer insurance coverage for birth control. Critics say it will force Catholic institutions to pay for health procedures the church considers immoral. Supporters say it guarantees women contraceptive coverage regardless of where they work.
Months of debate has divided Catholics and their leaders. A New York Times/CBS News poll in February said 57 percent of Catholic voters supported the birth-control requirement; 36 percent were opposed. A separate poll in 2011 by the Guttmacher Institute indicated that, despite church teachings, a majority of Catholic women use birth control.
The original measure, announced in January, set off weeks of protests by religious groups and politicians on all sides.
President Barack Obama, who pushed for the health care reform bill, offered a compromise: Insurance companies – not the Catholic institutions themselves – would be responsible for covering birth-control costs.
A host of Catholic groups supported that change. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents a majority of the country’s orders of nuns, called it “a fair and helpful way to move forward.”
The U.S. bishops, however, say it doesn’t go far enough. They want the current exemption for religious groups to remain. Otherwise, Jugis said Sunday, they will be forced to subsidize birth control, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. [More]