Rights of conscience must be recognized —and guarded…
(CUSA) – Illinois is a cesspool of political correctness and worldly wisdom.
The anniversary of Roe v. Wade which just passed reminds us that at the local level there are many who want to force everyone to participate in the culture of death. —Ed.
SPRINGFIELD BISHOP THOMAS PAPROCKI—
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
On April 1, 2005, the day before the death of Pope John Paul II, then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued an “emergency rule” that required pharmacies that sell contraceptives to fill prescriptions for birth control without delay.
There was no provision for pharmacists who objected in conscience to filling prescriptions for contraceptives as a matter of their religious beliefs. In fact, the reason Blagojevich issued his executive order was precisely because some pharmacists had refused to fill such prescriptions as a matter of conscience. It was the former governor’s position that pharmacists had no rights of conscience, saying, “Just fill the prescription.”
As I am the son and grandson of pharmacists who ran our family pharmacy in accord with the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, the governor’s order caught my attention.
I mentioned earlier that Blagojevich issued his contraceptive order the day before the death of Pope John Paul II because it was just a few days later that I received word that Gov.
Blagojevich and his wife planned to attend a memorial Mass for Pope John Paul II that I would be celebrating as auxiliary bishop of Chicago for the Polish community at St. Hyacinth Church. At the end of Mass in a packed church of over 3,500 people, I thanked the governor and Mrs. Blagojevich for coming to pay their respects for our deceased Holy Father, but I noted that the best way to show our respect for Pope John Paul II would be to show respect for his teachings.
Since Pope John Paul II was a staunch defender of the right to life and the church’s teachings on artificial contraception, I respectfully asked the governor to rescind his contraception mandate, especially since abortion-inducing drugs were also included in his executive order. He listened attentively, but unfortunately, he ignored my plea.
Shortly thereafter, a complaint was filed by two individual pharmacists and corporations that own community pharmacies for declaratory and injunctive relief. In the complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that enforcement of the rule should be enjoined, as it conflicts with the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act and the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Under the latter act, government may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion unless it demonstrates that application of the burden is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.
In August 2009, a preliminary injunction was granted prohibiting defendants from enforcing the rule. Ultimately, the Fourth District Appellate Court of Illinois held that the Conscience Act applies to pharmacists and pharmacies, even though they are not specifically named in the statute, and that the provision of emergency contraception is not in fact an “emergency” whereby health care personnel are obliged to provide emergency care under the rule.
A similar scenario is being played out at the federal level. In January 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a mandate under the Affordable Care Act that requires all employer health plans to provide free contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs, regardless of any moral or religious objections.
The ministries of institutions like Catholic schools, hospitals and charities — educating the young, caring for the sick, feeding the hungry — are not considered sufficiently religious to qualify for the mandate’s narrow “religious exemption,” providing only an “accommodation” that in fact triggers the provision of objectionable services by a third party.
As was the case with Blagojevich’s illegal order, courts have been intervening to stop the HHS mandate. On the side of for-profit employers, the United States Supreme Court held last June that the HHS mandate was illegal as applied to closely-held corporations.
As regards not-for-profit employers, there are 55 cases representing 132 plaintiffs, 40 of them religious charities like the Little Sisters of the Poor and other Catholic entities such as the University of Notre Dame. Of these cases, 33 have received injunctions blocking enforcement of the HHS mandate, while only six temporary injunctions have been denied. It is expected that one of these cases will eventually be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
All of this is important to keep in mind as we mark the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the case by which the U.S. Supreme Court made abortion legal throughout our country.
Just as the Jan. 22, 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade was preceded by and based on a case about contraception in 1965, Griswold v. Connecticut, whatever is decided with regard to the HHS mandate and rights of conscience will have a crucial bearing on future cases involving the right of conscience of health care practitioners to refuse to perform abortions and religious institutions to refuse to provide such services.
There are those who want to force doctors at Catholic hospitals to perform abortions. Such efforts that refuse to recognize rights of conscience must be vigorously opposed.
May God give us this grace. Amen.
From the Springfield Catholic Times