Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pelosi dubs bishops ‘lobbyists’ for defending conscience rights

(EWTN News) U.S. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi reaffirmed on Dec. 1 her commitment to require private health insurance plans to cover contraception and sterilization. She also described the U.S. bishops as “lobbyists” for voicing their moral objections to the requirement.

Describing herself as “a devout Catholic,” Rep. Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a Dec. 1 press conference that she has “great respect for our bishops when they are my pastor.” However, she said, she has “some areas of disagreement” with the bishops “as lobbyists in Washington, D.C.” She reiterated her belief that women should have “the opportunity to have full reproductive health options available to them in their insurance wherever they receive it.”

In August, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a mandate requiring private health insurance plans to cover contraceptives and sterilizations, both of which are opposed by the Catholic Church.
Although a religious exemption to the mandate does exist, critics have argued that it is too narrow and would exclude many Catholic organizations, including schools and hospitals, because they serve the general public rather than primarily members of their own faith.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent its objections to the Department of Health and Human Services, saying that the mandate would force many Catholic organizations to choose between dropping health insurance for their employees and violating the teachings of their faith.

At a press briefing on Nov. 29, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that President Obama has not yet made a final decision about the religious exemption but is working to strike a balance between “expanding coverage of preventive services and respecting religious beliefs.” Rep. Pelosi was asked by a reporter on Dec. 1 if she agreed with the bishops’ description of the regulation as “an unprecedented attack on religious freedom.”

The reporter also questioned the House minority leader about the bishops’ objections to the “proposed regulation under the new health care law that would require that health care plans cover sterilization and all FDA approved contraceptives.”

Rep. Pelosi responded by saying, “I don't know if I agree with your characterization of what the HHS put forth.” Emphasizing the importance of “reproductive health options” in insurance coverage, she said that she could not answer the question because she did not “understand the proposal” as it had been described in the question.

However, she did state that she is satisfied with the current “waiver that is there for the churches."

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