By Kevin J. Jones
The Little Sisters of the Poor say the HHS contraception and sterilization mandate threatens their continued ministry to the impoverished elderly. They are “strongly objecting” to the federal rule and say it should be repealed as soon as possible.
“Because the Little Sisters of the Poor cannot in conscience directly provide or collaborate in the provision of services that conflict with Church teaching, we find ourselves in the irreconcilable situation of being forced to either stop serving and employing people of all faiths in our ministry – so that we will fall under the narrow exemption – or to stop providing health care coverage to our employees,” the order said on March 1.
“Either path threatens to end our service to the elderly in America. The Little Sisters are fervently praying that this issue will be resolved before we are forced to take concrete action in response to this unjust mandate.”
Their order serves 13,000 needy elderly of all faiths in 31 countries around the world. In the U.S., it has 30 homes for the elderly, accommodating 2,500 low-income seniors.
The Department of Health and Human Services mandate requires employers to provide coverage for “preventive health.” It defines this coverage to include sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs. The Obama administration’s proposed compromise would mandate that insurance companies, not employers, provide this coverage.
The mandate’s religious exemption applies only to employers who primarily serve and employ their coreligionists and have the inculcation of religious values as their primary purpose.
The Little Sisters of the Poor said that even the indirect subsidizing of such benefits is “unconscionable to us.” Their longstanding health insurance has always explicitly excluded sterilization, contraception and abortion from covered services and this policy has “never been a matter of controversy in our homes.”
The sisters warned that the successful implementation of the federal rule could set a precedent for “further intrusion of government into health care.”
They have done their best to comply with all applicable government regulations and are not prone to making statements on politics or public policy, but they “cannot refrain from speaking out” about the mandate, the sisters said.
“If the federal government succeeds in enforcing this rule, what is to stop it from rationing health care to seniors or including euthanizing procedures on the list of required ‘preventive services’ as a way of eliminating the costs associated with caring for our aging population?” they asked.
“Would health care providers like the Little Sisters of the Poor then be forced to cooperate in such practices?”
“We wish to affirm that the HHS mandate is an unjust and dangerous infringement upon the natural and constitutional rights of Americans and that the only just solution is to rescind it. The Little Sisters of the Poor call upon Congress and the Executive Branch to reverse this decision as soon as possible and we pledge our prayers and sacrifices for the true good of our beloved country,” the order said.
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York said in a March 2 letter to all U.S. bishops that mandate negotiations with the White House appear stalled and that administration officials have said revising the mandate or broadening the exemption is “off the table.”
He urged his fellow bishops to “prepare for tough times.”