Thursday, September 29, 2011

President Jenkins' open letter to Secretary Sebelius

University of Notre Dame President John I. Jenkins, CSC, has written an important letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius regarding the federal requirement for private insurance to cover all contraceptive (and some abortifacient) prescriptions, including sterilization procedures.  The "Interim Final Rules on Preventive Services" puts Catholic institutions like Notre Dame between a rock and a hard place, requiring us to cover something to which we are morally opposed, leaving us the choice between eliminating health insurance for students and employees or covering contraceptive and abortifacient drugs. Notre Dame would not be exempted under the conscience clause, because the conscience clause is the narrowest on record, excluding organizations like Notre Dame that serve and employ many non-Catholics.

An excerpt from Fr. Jenkins' compelling letter:

"Surely you know that we welcome the Administration's decision to require health plans to cover women's preventive services, such as critical screenings that will make preventive care more widely available and affordable. However, I'm sure you also understand that the inclusion in that mandate of contraceptive services that the Catholic Church finds morally objectionable makes it imperative that the Final Rule include broader conscience protections. In their current form, these regulations would require us to offer our students sterilization procedures and prescription contraceptives, including pills that act after fertilization to induce abortions, and to offer such services in our employee health plans. This would compel Notre Dame to either pay for contraception and sterilization in violation of the Church's moral teaching, or to discontinue our employee and student health care plans in violation of the Church's social teaching. It is an impossible position."

We urge you to read the full text of the President's letter here and we commend the President for speaking out for Catholic institutions across the country who refuse to pit the Church's moral teaching against the Church's social teaching. His is a voice which needs to be heard in this debate, and we hope other university presidents and directors of Catholic hospitals will follow his lead in proclaiming the truth.

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