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Conscience Magazine

Catholic Hospitals Find Contraceptive Policy ‘Workable,’ Bishops Not Appeased

September 16, 2013

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued the final version of the contraceptive coverage required in employer health plans under the Affordable Care Act in late June. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) quickly released a preliminary statement from president Cardinal Timothy Dolan stating that, while there were some changes from the initial version, the bishops had not discovered anything in the new language that “eliminates the need to continue defending our rights in Congress and the courts.”

This stance does not match the position taken by Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association (CHAUSA), who said the final ACA compromise was “workable from a legal and theological perspective” and thus “a solution we could make work” in the organization representing the majority of the Catholic hospitals in the country. Keehan’s remarks came during an interview with the Religion News Service in early July.

While Cardinal Dolan, who is the Archbishop of New York, maintained the USCCB’s position that the definition of “religious employers” exempted from providing contraception coverage was still too narrow under the ACA, the Archdiocese of New York continued its decades-long policy of paying for the contraceptive coverage for thousands of unionized employees. At ArchCare nursing homes and clinics, 3,000 people have access to contraception and abortion through employee insurance plans provided by the archdiocese, according to the New York Times. “We provide the services under protest,” clarified Joseph Zwilling, an archdiocese spokesman. The employee benefits flow through a benefits fund administered by a third-party league of nursing homes, in which ArchCare’s membership is voluntary.