It is a remarkable time in current events when we witness a major media outlet calling out a liberal president for disregarding the moral tenets of the Catholic Church. But that’s exactly what happened when the USA Today editorial board concluded that the Obama administration’s so-called contraceptive mandate “not only crossed the line. It galloped over it.”
The accompanying opposing view authored by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is breath-taking in its audacity. The USA Today editorial actually did a decent job of debunking three lines of defense that the Obama administration is spouting. While a much longer treatment is called for, here’s three quick facts that everyone should know:
1) It’s an abortifacient mandate; not just a “contraceptive mandate.” The HHS rule requires large employers to provide insurance for free sterilizations, abortion-inducing drugs, and artificial contraceptives. Our side would do well to refer to it as the “abortifacient mandate.”
2) The religious exemption is absolutely meaningless. The so-called religious exemption is written so narrowly that, as one commentator noted, even Jesus and his twelve disciples wouldn’t qualify. Here’s why: A “religious employer” is defined in the rule as an organization that meets all four of the following criteria: (1) the organization’s purpose is the inculcation of religious values (Catholic food banks are out); (2) the organization primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the organization (Catholic universities are out); (3) the organization serves primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the organization (Catholic hospitals are out); and (4) the organization is a nonprofit that is a house of worship or religious order. Given that houses of worship and religious orders exist with a mission to serve the least amongst us regardless of their faith, that means requirement (3) is not met, so everyone is out.
3) Contraceptive drugs are carcinogenic. It’s one thing for Secretary Sebelius to champion the pill for what she sees as a requirement for women’s freedom and autonomy. That’s an argument for another day. But the secretary goes beyond that to claim that artificial contraceptives “have significant benefits for [women’s] health, as well as the health of their children.” Well. It’s hard to believe that the secretary is not aware that combined estrogen progestogen oral contraceptives (COCs) are classified as “Group 1: Carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization. The American Cancer Society website has published that list, where the pill ranks along side asbestos, coal tar, benzene, and tobacco products.
Secretary Sebelius and the White House claim the HHS mandate “respects” religious liberty. They’ve shown about as much respect for the First Amendment as they have for the truth.
UPDATE: The NCI’s Q and A on oral contraceptives and cancer risk can be reviewed here.
— Nikolas T. Nikas and Dorinda C. Bordlee are the founders of the Bioethics Defense Fund, a public interest legal and educational organization. The attorneys of The Becket Fund have compiled a more in-depth fact sheet about the White House’s false HHS claims that can be reviewed here.