(CNSNews.com) -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) on Thursday described America’s Roman Catholic bishops as “lobbyists in Washington, D.C.” in their efforts to persuade the Department of Health and Human Service to rescind a proposed regulation under the new health-care law that would force Catholics to act against the teachings of their church by compelling them to purchase health-care plans that cover sterilizations and all-FDA approved contraceptives, including abortifacients.
The proposed regulation, scheduled to take effect on Aug. 1, 2012, would require every health-insurance plan in the United States to cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives (which include abortifacients) without charging any co-pay. The Catholic Church teaches that sterilization, artificial contraception and abortion are morally wrong and that Catholics cannot be involved in them.
CNSNews.com asked Pelosi at her press briefing on Thursday: “In August, HHS issued a proposed regulation under the new health care law that would require that all health care plans cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives. The U.S. Catholic bishops have called the regulation an unprecedented attack on religious freedom and have asked HHS to drop it. Do you agree with the bishops?”
Noting that she is “a devout Catholic,” Pelosi said she sometimes disagrees with the Catholic bishops when they act as “lobbyists.”
“I don’t know if I agree with your characterization of what the HHS put forth,” Pelosi said, “but as a mother of five children in six years, as a devout Catholic, I have great respect for our bishops when they are my pastor. As lobbyists in Washington D.C., we have some areas of disagreement.
“Again,” she continued, “I don’t understand the proposal as you described it. So, I won’t be able to answer it. But I do think that it’s important for women to have the opportunity to have full reproductive health options available to them and their insurance wherever they receive it. I support the waiver that is there for the churches now. I don’t know the exception as expanded by what you’re saying there.”
The regulation HHS has proposed includes a “religious exemption” that does not apply to individuals who will be mandated under the new law to buy health insurance. To qualify as a “religious employer” who will get an exemption an organization must meet four criteria: their purpose must be the “inculcation of religious values,” they must “primarily employ persons who share the same religious tenets,” they must “primarily serve persons who share its religious tenets,” and they must be organized under the specific section of the Internal Revenue Code used by churches per se.
As drawn, the exemption from the sterilization-and-contraception mandate would not apply to Catholic individuals, Catholic hospitals, Catholic universities and Catholic charitable organizations. Thus, Catholic individuals would be forced to purchase health insurance plans that pay for sterilizations, contraception and abortifacients, in violation of the the teachings of their church, and Catholic hospitals, universities and charitable organizations would be forced to choose between dropping health insurance for their employees or paying for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients in violation of the teachings of the church.
In September, the Catholics bishops issued a rare “call to action” that was distributed in church bulletins around the country. The bulletin insert stated that the regulation “poses an unprecedented threat to individual and institutional religious freedom” [italics in original] and called on Catholics to contact HHS and urge that the proposed regulation be rescinded... (continued)