The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says that Vice President Joe Biden’s characterization of the Department of Health and Human Services’ contraception mandate at Thursday night’s vice presidential debate is incorrect.
The conference, which is composed of all current and retired members of the Church’s hierarchy in America, said it is “not a fact” that no religious institution is required to provide contraceptives by the mandate, contrary to Biden’s assertion at the debate.
“With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear,” Biden claimed during the debate. “No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.”
According to the bishops, Biden was incorrect.
“This is not a fact,” USCCB issued in a statement. “The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain ‘religious employers.’ That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to ‘Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,’ or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.”
The conference also said the administration’s so-called “accommodation” for those currently not exempt from the mandate falls short of protecting religious liberty.
“That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation ‘to pay for contraception’ and ‘to be a vehicle to get contraception,’” USCCS wrote. “They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.”
Thursday’s debate was first the Catholic vs. Catholic vice-presidential debate in American history. Towards the end of the debate, moderator ABC’s Martha Raddatz asked both men about they interpret their faith with regard to public policy, specifically abortion, which highlighted the political divisions of America’s Catholic faithful.
While Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan explained his Catholic faith in part informed his public pro-life beliefs, Biden said that he could not impose his religious beliefs on others, and instead felt motivated by other areas of Catholic social teaching.
USCCB continues to urge HHS to discard the contraception mandate.