Bishop Zubik Rips Obama on Health Care Mandate
Bauder, Bob, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The Obama administration thumbed its nose at Catholics across the United States last week on birth control issues in a direct affront to religious freedom, Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik said on Friday.
The administration did so when it upheld rules requiring employer health care plans to offer contraceptive and sterilization services at no cost to women, Zubik said.
In a letter posted on the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh's website, Zubik wrote: "The Obama administration has just told the Catholics of the United States, 'To Hell with you.' "
"I believe that religious liberty is being threatened by this mandate," Zubik said in a phone interview, insisting the church would never support it.
Kimberlee Evert, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, said doctors have concluded that access to birth control is a health issue for women.
"This benefit doesn't require that anybody dispense and use birth control," she said. "It's just a benefit that's there to ensure women have access to health care that includes affordable birth control."
Guidelines the Obama administration released as part of the implementation of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act stipulate that individual and group health insurance plans cover all FDA-approved contraceptive and sterilization procedures as preventive care. After evaluating public comments, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Jan. 20 announced that the contraceptive rule would stand.
Nonprofits not providing the coverage because of religious beliefs will have until Aug. 1, 2013, to comply, Sebelius said. The rules offer an exemption for religious organizations, but Zubik said it was so narrowly defined that "Jesus Christ and his Apostles would not even fit the exemption. …