Catholic University law school Professor Mark Rienzi was among the three expert panelists invited to participate on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show on Feb. 2, 2012, to discuss “Catholics, contraception and the new health care law.”
Catholic groups are challenging a new federal rule requiring religious-affiliated employers to cover contraception in their health care plans. In late January, the administration reaffirmed new regulations requiring employers to include birth control in their health care plans.
Churches are exempted from the ruling. But Catholic groups had lobbied hard for the exemptions to include faith-based organizations such as Catholic universities and hospitals. The White House refused, and some Catholic groups now say they will not comply with the new mandate.
Through the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Rienzi is representing two Catholic organizations that have filed suit against this provision of the administration’s Affordable Care Act.
“The federal government has no power to force religions institutions or individuals to violate their beliefs,” said Rienzi.
The new regulations stipulate that health care plans offered to employees of religious organizations employing people of other faiths must cover contraceptives, the “morning after” pill, and other drugs relating to abortion.
“Why should a Catholic soup kitchen not be exempted [from the new rules] simply because it chooses to feed Jewish, Muslim, or non-Catholic people? That’s absurd,” said Rienzi.
“Why can’t the federal government, if it finds this so compelling, provide contraception to anyone who needs it without asking employers to violate their religious beliefs?”
Fellow guests included Julie Rovner, health policy correspondent for NPR, author of "Health Care Policy and Politics A-Z," and contributing editor for National Journal Daily; and Judy Waxman, vice president of healthcare and reproductive rights for the National Women's Law Center.
The panel also responded to phone calls and emails from the popular radio program’s nationwide audience.