In wake of proposed contraceptive mandate, Cardinal DiNardo urges Congress to support Respect for Rights of Conscience Act

July 25, 2011

WASHINGTON — Responding to a proposal from the Institute of Medicine that private health plans be required to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the U.S. bishops urged Congress to support the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179).

In a July 22 letter, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, chair of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the legislation, introduced by Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Dan Boren (D-OK), would prevent any new mandates under health care reform from being used to disregard Americans’ freedom of conscience.

“Those who sponsor, purchase and issue health plans should not be forced to violate their deeply held moral and religious convictions in order to take part in the health care system or provide for the needs of their families or their employees,” wrote Cardinal DiNardo. “To force such an unacceptable choice would be as much a threat to universal access to health care as it is to freedom of conscience.”

Cardinal DiNardo said that respect for conscience rights in health care has received bipartisan support for decades. He cited examples such as the Church amendment, which protects participants in federal health programs from being discriminated against for their objection to abortion, sterilization and other procedures, and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which exempts religiously affiliated health plans from any contraceptive mandate.

Cardinal DiNardo also addressed the Institute of Medicine proposal in a July 19 statement.