Wisconsin’s five Catholic bishops challenged new federal health care reform regulations requiring private health care plans to fully cover sterilization, contraception and related counseling services. In a letter addressed to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, ellaThis screen grab was taken taken from www.ella-rx.com. In marketing materials for ella, a cartoon character egg peeks out from behind a glass door while a cartoon character sperm stands on the steps, apparently cajoling her to come outside. The emergency contraception pill will be available without co-pay or deductible to American women of child-bearing age under the new health reform plan. (CNS)the bishops requested HHS to rescind the mandate.

The bishops said the mandate undermines Catholic teaching that “human fertility is not a disease.”

The letter, dated Friday, Sept. 2, was signed by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee; Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison; Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay and Bishop Peter F. Christensen of Superior.

“As written, the mandate compels our institutions to either act in ways inconsistent with our values or forces them to retreat from service the most vulnerable,” the bishops wrote. “Further, the mandate is also contrary to the very natural law to which our nation’s founders appealed in declaring our nations independence.”

The bishops refer to the freedom to worship and live according to one’s religious views. It specifically condemns drugs like

Ella, which can cause chemical abortion and, according to the bishops, “goes well beyond the stated goal of preventing unplanned pregnancies since it fosters the taking of innocent human life.”

The bishops ask that the regulation be rescinded or modified to expand the religious exemption to “reflect a more inclusive understanding of religion and religious institutional arrangements.”

Rob Shelledy, director of Catholic social justice ministry for the archdiocese, said the letter focuses on part of the faith about serving others.

“I think the bishops did a good job in bringing what could be a pretty complicated issue and stating it in a way that is very straight forward,” he said. “This message and letter stresses the fact that we, as Catholics, have contributed to the common good by serving the poor and vulnerable.”

To comment on the mandate

by Friday, Sept. 30, 10:59 p.m., visit the website or mail written comments to
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services,
Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: CMS-9992-IFC2, P.O. Box 8010,
Baltimore, MD 21244-8010.

Shelledy said he hopes the bishops’ letter inspires others to send similar letters to the department to voice their views.

“There is a limited period when the public can comment on this and those comments have to be submitted by the end of the month, (Friday), Sept. 30,” he said. “It’s a chance to participate in our democracy and tell the folks in D.C. that these regulations can be improved a great deal.”

Shelledy said it is important to let the Obama administration know how the church feels.

“We challenge every administration to try and live up to Catholic social teaching,” he said, noting the church works with Republicans, Democrats and independents to get the best policy.. “The Catholic Church is involved in a lot of different political issues because the Gospel calls us to be involved in that, but we are a non-partisan organization.”