A Catholic Knight

A Catholic Knight

28 February, 2013

Senator Maria Cantwell Responds

Senator Maria Cantwell, from Washington State finally responded to my letter from January 2012. 

My response follows her message.

Dear Mr. Cooney,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Institutes of Medicine's rules for women's preventative services.  I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue. 


The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148) requires new health plans to cover women's preventive services.  In July 2011 the non-partisan Institute of Medicine recommended that well-woman visits, breastfeeding support, domestic violence screening, and Food and Drug Administration-approved birth control be included without cost-sharing in insurances plans as women's preventive health services.  New health plans would be required to include these services with plan years beginning on or after August 1, 2012. 


On August 1, 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued an interim final rule adopting the Institute of Medicine's recommendations regarding which women's preventive health services would be covered by new health plans without cost sharing.  HHS included a provision in the rule permitting certain religious employers to opt out of the requirement to cover contraception without cost-sharing. 


On February 10, 2012, the President announced that his Administration would publish final rules in the Federal Register that exempt churches and houses of worship from covering contraception.  These rules also allow other religious organizations, including those that employ people of different faiths, to qualify for a one-year transition period while this new policy is being implemented.


During this transition year, the Administration will finalize a new rule that ensures that women who work for employers with religious objections can get contraception free of additional cost directly through insurance plans.  According to the Obama Administration, the new rule will require insurance companies to cover contraception if the non-exempted religious organization chooses not to. Under this policy religious organizations will not have to provide contraceptive coverage or refer their employees to organizations that provide contraception.  Free contraception coverage will be offered to women by their employers' insurance companies directly, with no role for religious employers who oppose contraception. 


In an effort to overturn this rule, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced an amendment to the Transportation Authorization Bill (S. 1813) on February 9, 2012.  If enacted, the proposed amendment would exempt any employer from providing any preventative health service, including but not limited to contraceptive, based on religious beliefs. On March 1, 2012, the U.S. Senate voted to table the amendment by a vote of 51 to 48.


Ensuring coverage of certain preventative services without cost-sharing is critical for women's health.  It is important to me that this benefit remains available to all women.  In addition to being used for family planning, birth control also helps many women manage a range of other health problems such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts, bone loss, breast disease, and anemia.  Under Washington state law, insurance carriers are already required to provide coverage for contraceptives if they offer prescription drug coverage. 


Please be assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind and will continue to work to ensure that women have full access to preventive health services. 


Thank you again for contacting me to share your thoughts on this matter.  Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance.

Maria Cantwell
United States Senator

Here is my response.

Senator Cantwell,

Thank you for responding to my message from January of last year.

What amazes me about your response is that you, and those who continue to support this mandate, keep acting as though pregnancy is some sort of medical illness that makes contraception fall under "preventive care." This is absolute nonsense. You also completely ignore the fact that the most popular forms of birth control, including "the pill and "the morning after pill / emergency contraceptive / Plan B" are abortifacients. There is no excuse for pretending that this is not the case, just read the medical information included with these products and you will see it in black and white. Therefore, this rule not only violates the beliefs of Catholics, whose faith prohibits contraceptives, but also of pro-life Muslims, Jews, Christians, and others. Even Mother Teresa's religious order would not qualify as an exempt religious organization!

Sadly, you also continue to promote the lie that these costs will be born by the insurance companies. This is not only a lie, because everyone knows that those costs will be passed on to the religious employers who are being forced to provide this coverage, but it completely ignores the real point of the objection, that religious employers are forced to PROVIDE coverage of procedures that violate their religous beliefs. This is an absurd trampling on religious freedom. The fact is that, as I stated previously, religious employers - whether they run a charity or a book store - try to run their businesses in compliance with their religious beliefs because that is part of how they exercise their religion. Religion applies to all aspects of ours lives, not the one hour out of 168 we spend in church for the week.  Another lie is that the employer will not, in fact, have to provide the insurance coverate. The truth is that ALL insurance policies will have to provide such coverage. Even if all religious employers decided not to provide coverage for their employees, self-insured organizations and health insurance providers that operate according to religious beliefs will be forced to violate those beliefs. Additionally, this "new rule" you say the Obama administration is promising has yet to see the light of day. Just how incompetent are they, that they cannot come up with a proposal for the public concerned to see in a whole year? Quite frankly, those of us who are currently being threatened by the Obama administration see no evidence that we can trust what he says. No, I'm not impressed or assured by his assurances.

I ask you, just how hard is it for women who want contraceptives to get them? The government already subsidizes them, and there are many organizations out there who willingly provide them to poor women. There is no need to force employers who want to run their businesses in conformity with their religious beliefs to provide coverage that violate those beliefs. The Obama administration, and all of the legislators who back this ruling, have created a false crisis. To what end? The only one I can see is that, like the ancient emperors of Rome, the Obama administration is moving rapidly to a point where people will be forced to choose between the State, and God. I feel sorry for those who would put the State over God, but those of us who actually believe in God, who know our faith and make our decisions with eternity in mind, have already chosen. None of your lies about "preventative" health care services will change our minds.

In the end, your actions will make those truly needed services you listed, well-woman visits, breastfeeding support, and domestic violence screening, less available to women in need. Catholic hospitals and clinics, which provide these services at little to no cost for poor women all across this country, will either cease to be charitable religious institutions, or be forced to shut down by the fines you will impose on them for now bowing to the supreme will of the State. Other businesses, whether run by Catholics or persons of other faiths who try to conduct their businesses in accordance with their faith, will face the same fate. All because of your ideological, totalitarian, dictatorial insistence of trying to force religious employers to violate the tenets of their faiths. If you really cared for these women, you would oppose this mandate instead of trying to defend it based on weak lies.
David W. Cooney

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