Last week, the Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services announced the final version of a rule that would require all employers and insurers to provide sterilization and contraceptives, including some abortion inducing drugs in their health plans. Although it was earlier announced that certain religious organizations would be exempt from the rule, the definition of qualifying organizations is so narrow that many Catholic universities, hospitals and other organizations fail to qualify.
The move signals an unprecedented intrusion into an area of conscience by the Federal Government. In a statement following the decision, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan summed up his outrage like this:
Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the bill of rights.
In the world of bombastic and sensationalized dialogue, pro-choice activists have struck out at Dolan’s statements, calling them hypocritical because Catholic pro-life organizations have been advocating for government intervention in matters of conscience (in the abortion debate) for decades.
In Texas, this debate has taken a turn towards our own fight, as the legal system weighs a recent law passed that requires doctors to provide a sonogram to every woman seeking an abortion. Abortion advocates and profiteers, fearful of a negative impact on their bottom line, have argued that the law interferes in the relationship between a doctor and their patient. Further, they argue, it undermines a woman’s ability to make moral decisions on her own.
The Texas law points to the most glaring difference between the Catholic bishops’ position on the DHS’s rule and abortion advocates’ argument. Over the past several decades, the abortion industry has attempted to deceive the American public of the moral consequence of a decision for abortion. They have labeled a child in the womb as a “lump of cells,” and even a “parasite,” all in an effort to strip the human embryo of it’s humanity and call abortion something other than infanticide.
The Texas laws seeks to inform women, showing them the signs of human life, the tiny heartbeat of their child. It is aimed at dispelling a lie. The Department of Health and Human Services’s decision to force religious organizations’ compliance does no such thing. It forces religious organizations to turn from the conclusions of their own earnestly developed moral consciences or be in violation of Federal law.
The battle lines of the 2012 election have never been more clear and Catholics have a moral responsibility to step up and get involved in the process to enact change. The bishops have made it clear that we must prayerfully consider who we support with our political action and resources. Now, more than ever, it is clear that the only wrong thing that any of us can do is nothing. Please keep our political leaders in prayer for conversion of heart and mind. Our battle may never be won on political fronts, but will be waged in the hearts and minds of all whom we encounter in love.