Bishop urges action against mandated contraception/sterilization coverage

Bishop urges write to Congress

Bishop urges write to CongressCatholic hospitals may soon be forced to cover sterilization and contraceptive services.
That fear is growing as a result of Aug. 1 regulations for group health plans and health insurance coverage approved by the Department of Health and Human Services. The new rules mandate coverage of surgical sterilization and all FDA-approved contraceptives as part of a package of preventive care services for women.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone sent an Aug. 31 memo to parishes asking the faithful of the diocese to speak out against the ruling because it would force Catholic institutions to cover services that go against church teaching.
“Currently there is no meaningful conscience protection for Catholic institutions to be exempt from this new mandate because we hire and serve people from other faith communities, not just Catholics, so that the ‘religious exemption’ now in place excludes us,” the bishop wrote.
Leaders at one Catholic hospital in South Carolina say the new requirements raise concerns, but won’t affect existing policies that already are in line with Catholic teaching on health care.
The Bon Secours Health System runs two hospitals in Greenville; the 245-bed St. Francis Downtown and 93-bed St. Francis Eastside, formerly known as St. Francis Women’s and Family Hospital. Neither offers sterilization or contraceptive services.
“While the Bon Secours Health Systems are concerned about the employer provisions, and will work to advocate for deeper exemptions, our conscience protections as a provider are thorough,” said John Wallenhorst, vice president of mission/ethics for Bon Secours Health Systems, Inc.
“That is to say, we are not required as a health care provider to make these services available to patients,” he said.
Wallenhorst said they follow the Catholic Health Association of America’s position that a broader definition of “religious provider” is needed in order to have adequate conscience protection for Catholic institutions.
Lee Turza, communications director for Bon Secours in Greenville, said none of the system’s 3,400 employees have expressed concern about the legislation or conscience protections so far.
People are encouraged to write or call their elected representatives in Congress in support of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179, S. 1467), a bill that would offer true conscience protections for Catholic institutions. Find your elected official at
Health and Human Services is also offering a public comment period on the definition of “religious employer” through Sept. 30, and the bishop urges Catholics to share their thoughts and encourage broader protections for Catholic and religious institutions, regardless of the faith of their employees or the people they serve. 
Comments may be sent to or
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops created a new webpage( to help inform people about the issue. The site features a bulletin announcement links to contact Health and Human Services, news releases, letters from the bishops, and a commentary by Richard M. Doerflinger, associate director of the bishops’ Secretariat on Pro-Life Activities on “The High Costs of ‘Free’ Birth Control.”