February 29, 2012

06CN: Adventists Monitor U.S. Contraception Mandates

Adventists Monitor Health Care
Rules on Contraception

Potential curtailing of religious liberty is concern, PARL says (Poststed Feb. 29, 2012)

BY MARK A. KELLNER, news editor

The recent moves by the federal government to mandate provision of contraception in employer-provided health care is drawing a cautious look from religious liberty experts in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

A  January 20, 2012, “final rule” issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says employers--including religious institutions that are not specifically houses of worship, i.e., church-owned schools and hospitals--that provide health insurance must offer “a full range of contraceptive services to women without copay, coinsurance, or deductible,” according to a document released by the General Conference’s Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department.

“This will include all Food and Drug Administration-approved forms of contraception as well as female sterilization,” the document noted.

While that isn’t a specific concern for Seventh-day Adventist institutions--church policy does not bar the use of contraception, and health insurance offered by most, if not all, United States Adventist institutions currently covers contraceptive services--the concept of an institution being required to act against its own principles is troubling. The leadership of one major United States denomination, the Roman Catholic Church, and several large Protestant communities, raised objections that, on February 10, caused a revision by the government, putting the cost burden on the insurance companies rather than insurers.

That move has not mollified the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who claim the government is still requiring them to act against their conscience in providing contraceptives, medication or services that violate their religious principles.

The Adventist Church document reflects the movement’s concerns about individual rights and the rights of faith communities to follow their consciences.

“Consistent with its longstanding practice of defending religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is concerned any time government requires a religious organization to violate its religious beliefs,” the document said. “The General Conference Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department and the Office of General Counsel continue to watch this developing issue closely and will do all that is appropriate to defend and protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience.”