I am writing to bring to your attention a request from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to mobilize Catholics to comment on a rule recently proposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that is an unprecedented attack on religious liberty.
In implementing the new health care reform law, HHS recently issued a rule that requires private health care plans nationwide to cover contraception and sterilization as "preventative services" for women. The new rule would force all insurance plans to cover "all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity." The mandate includes drugs that may cause an abortion both before and after implantation of a newly conceived human being. Never before has the federal government required private health plans to include such coverage.
The narrow religious exemption in HHS's new rule protects almost no one. It covers only a "religious employer" that has the "inculcation of religious values" as its purpose and primarily employs and serves persons who share its religious tenets. Most Catholic charitable organizations that serve the public, including hospitals, health care clinics, social service programs, and schools, colleges and universities, will be ineligible. Individuals and religiously affiliated health insurers will not qualify for the exemption.
The public comment period on this rule ends September 30. The USCCB is encouraging Catholics to send an e-mail message to HHS urging our government leaders to ensure that such federal regulations do not violate Americans' moral and religious convictions. This can be easily done simply by visiting www.usccb.org/conscience
Please share the attached information with your parishioners and encourage them to send their comments to HHS by the September 30th deadline.
Thank you for your kind consideration of this request,
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend Barry C. Knestout
Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia
Archdiocese of Washington
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