Wednesday, 05 September 2012 13:48
By Christopher M. Riggs
The HHS mandate is forcing Catholic companies and other organizations who do not want to go against their consciences into a moral dilemma.
Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk (puh-HOLE-chick), director of Education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, said the center has carefully analyzed the issues facing those who do not wish to comply with the mandate.
“One of the choices that is definitively ruled out – that would definitively be unacceptable, morally speaking – would be to willingly assent,” he said in a telephone interview. “In other words, you decide that we’re just going to comply and were going to go ahead and provide the morally objectionable insurance coverage.”
The other options are going to involve some prudential judgments, he said.
One option, albeit an unlikely one, would be for an employer to provide insurance for his employees that did not include coverage for contraception, abortion-inducing drugs, or direct sterilization as required under the mandate.
“So you could choose to, in a sense, ignore the mandate,” Fr. Pacholczyk said, adding that as a result, the employer would be fined $100 per day per employee.
“So for most small businesses, that’s not going to work. Providing morally non-objectionable insurance doesn’t look feasible because of these penalties.”
Another possibility would be dropping all coverage, he said, but doing so would transfer responsibility to the employees.
“There are some moral concerns about this,” he said. “In one sense you could say, well, the employer clears the deck here for his own personal conscience because he’s not subsidizing any of these morally problematic procedures or interventions. But the employees are left on their own to try to go out and get insurance elsewhere.”
Fr. Pacholczyk said he has often run into a situation where, for example, an employer has a man working for him whose wife is also covered by the company’s health insurance. “His wife right now is getting therapy for cancer. If they drop both of them, his wife will be basically uninsurable, nobody will take her.”
In that situation the employer probably couldn’t morally drop the employee’s insurance, he said, if they have no other recourse available to them.
The third situation is that a company could temporarily comply with the mandate – under protest. That would only be advisable until January of 2014, Fr. Pacholczyk said, because that’s when the state insurance exchanges will be coming online. The state exchanges allow coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
The problem with that scenario, he added, is that the employees would be forced to purchase the insurance themselves through exchanges that would include coverage for the morally objectionable procedures.
“There are some pretty serious reasons here in terms of a person’s life and health that are at play in the face of this particular mandate,” Fr. Pacholczyk said, “so there probably does exist a proportionate reason in certain cases that would allow employers to do this.
“But, you see, at the end of the day this is going to be a decision that the individual employer will have to make,” he said. “I’ve run into people who will say I just don’t think I can do this. I don’t think I can subsidize contraception, abortion-inducing drugs, and direct sterilizations for my own employees. Some people have phrased it by saying this is a foxhole I’m willing to die in. I’m not willing to do it under any circumstances.”
An employee purchasing insurance for himself also faces the dilemma of contributing funds into an insurance system, into a pool, that is subsidizing contraception, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization procedures – even if he himself declines to ever use that coverage.
“Inherently unjust situations don’t usually admit of simple solutions,” he said. “They typically challenge us.”
Fr. Pacholczyk said he believes the mandate is a clear violation of the First Amendment.
“It’s only a matter of time before this moves its way through the court system and it will be overturned or undone in some fashion,” he said. “That’s what I suspect the future holds.
“But it may take some time for that to occur. There will probably be some judges who will be supportive and higher courts will overturn it. It may have to go fairly high before there’s a definitive undoing or overturning of the HHS mandate.”
• The HHS mandate would force almost all private health plans to pay for sterilization and contraceptives, including drugs that can cause abortion.
• If we are not free in our conscience and our practice of religion, all other freedoms are threatened.
• Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk says Catholics can never willingly assent to comply with the mandate.
• The mandate will force some companies into difficult situations that have no completely moral solution.
• Father believes the courts will rule against the mandate in the end.