Catholics are expressing their serious concerns about the Department of Health and Human Services’ implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that will force business owners to fund employee birth control, abortion drugs and sterilization procedures. On Monday, January 23, Detroit Archbishop Alan Vigneron spoke out in protest against it, saying that the ruling forces an employer to choose between violating the law and violating conscience by paying for unethical preventions. Vigneron called the law fundamentally unfair. ‘We can’t violate our conscience,’ he insisted, ‘we can’t do that!’
In a video, aired on WXYZ TV, Archbishop Vigneron, the leader of 1.4 million Catholics, interpreted, ‘What the government is saying is that this is the way medicine has to be.’ He warned, ‘Once they say that, then a lot of things are going to follow. This is a threat to liberty not only to Catholics but to everyone in the United States.’
His warning is an echo of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, representing the Catholic Church, the largest organization opposing the HHS, whose statements regarding the governmental mandate are sounding an alarm. Calling it a ‘literally unconscionable attack on freedom…a threat to religious liberty… unjust… and an attack on first amendment rights’, the bishops vow to fight, protest, and oppose as they continue to study the implications of the edict.
Implications are profound. Father Jenkins, President at the University of Notre Dame says his position is ‘untenable’. ‘Were Notre Dame to refuse health care coverage for its 5,229 employees, the HHS penalty alone would amount to $10 million each year.’ according to the Wall Street Journal.
While some believe that this law will only affect those who work for the church or other Catholic institutions: hospitals, schools, nursing homes, charities and soup kitchens, Catholics in the Detroit area say the effects will be even more pervasive. According to Dan Argue, a Notre Dame alumnus who owns a small business in Oxford, ‘This is not a problem for religious institutions only! There will be a huge impact on business owners as millions of small businesses, owned by devout Catholics, will now face the same dilemma that the religious institutions do. Do we continue to offer health care coverage to our employees if we are required to fund sterilizations, birth control and abortifacients? If the mandate is upheld, fines and consciences could drive millions of small business owners out of business!’
Even if conscience is not a factor for business owners, their costs will increase according to Don Watza, a Catholic Medical Economist, and president of an Insurance Consulting firm in Bloomfield Township. ‘For most people in Human Resources, life issues are too politically charged to even be discussed. People act as though the moral issues are irrelevant but it ends up costing society more. What is happening now is cost shifting which will be passed on to the employee. There should be a study. There is no proof that this health care reform will save us any money! But lack of morality has a cost.’
The USCCB will fight to repeal the law. The question remains of what the Catholic laity will do. Says Argue, ‘I see the Church under further attack and a resulting renewal of the faith unlike any we have seen in our lifetimes…I suspect we will see that the Church is not a pathetic old dotard but a mighty warrior with millions of energized soldiers….we’ll see..’