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August 20, 2012 | Volume 87, Number 21

COMMENTARY

Protecting conscience rights

Virginians who are rightfully concerned about conscience rights and how they will be adversely affected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate (requiring almost all private health plans nationwide to cover abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilizations) are encouraged to express their concerns to their members of Congress during its August recess.

The HHS mandate allows only a very narrow exemption for a “religious employer.” Religious organizations providing education, health care and charitable services to all in need have a one-year delay in enforcement but do not qualify for the exemption.

There is no exemption or delay for individuals, or for businesses owned and operated by individuals with moral or religious objections.

Therefore, as Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, wrote to Congress in an August 3 letter, “Most of those who initiate or renew employee health plans as well as student plans at educational institutions after August 1 must comply with this mandate, notwithstanding their moral or religious objections, or drop their health coverage altogether as some colleges have now begun to do.”

Congress must take action now to protect religious liberty and conscience rights. Please contact Virginia’s two U.S. senators who are Mark Warner and James Webb. One’s Congressional representative depends on the Congressional district in which one lives.

It also wouldn’t hurt to express your views to both George Allen and Tim Kaine, Republican and Democratic candidates, respectively, for the U.S. Senate from Virginia in the upcoming November election.

Urge them to support and work for enactment of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179, S. 1467) this year, whether as a freestanding bill or as part of other legislation.

For those who want a more direct way in sending their message, check the website of the Virginia Catholic Conference (www.vacatholic.org) which has an E-mail Advocacy Network which makes the effort quick and easy.

This is too important an issue to sit back and do nothing.

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