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Bishop conference lobbies against mandating contraception in health plans

Despite the overwhelming acceptance of birth control among Catholics, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church continues to ask U.S. lawmakers to restrict access to contraceptive services. #

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has released a statement asking lawmakers to dismiss the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation to include contraception in a list of preventative health services in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act of 2010. #

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the chairman of the conference’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, writes: #

I strongly oppose the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation today that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate coverage of three particular practices in almost all private health plans: surgical sterilization; all FDA-approved birth control (including the IUD, “morning-after” pills, and the abortion-inducing drug Ella); and “education and counseling” promoting these among all “women of reproductive capacity.” #

According to Catholics for Choice President Jon O’Brien, the bishops are being “disingenuous.” #

“What’s really going on,” he says, “is that they have failed to convince Catholics in their own churches. So, [the bishops] have to go through political lobbying to stop Catholics from using contraception.” #

A report from the Guttmacher Institute shows that 98 percent of Catholic women will use a form of contraception in their lifetime. #

O’Brien says that there is an ongoing disconnect between the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and its members. ”When the bishops speak,” he says, “they do not speak for the people.” #

Despite this, Catholic hierarchy has successfully lobbied policy makers in Florida and all over the country. #

In Florida, for example, Florida Catholic Services lobbied state legislators this year to include an opt-out provision in the state’s Medicaid overhaul that would exclude them from having to provide family planning services for “moral or religious” reasons. Catholic Services got what they asked for, despite efforts by a state legislator to remove the provision. #

O’Brien says it is difficult to confront the Catholic hierarchy on these types of issues. “There is a cycle of intimidation here,” he says. #

It is up to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius whether the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation moves forward. #

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