Archbishop John Nienstedt sends letter opposing free contraceptives law

In a letter made public yesterday, the Minnesota Catholic Conference, including Archbishop John Nienstedt, voiced opposition to the new federal health care mandate requiring insurance companies to cover birth control free of charge.

"While we support providing access to those services which can truly prevent disease or disability for women, such as pap smears and mammograms," the letter reads, "we join other persons of good will who strenuously object to mandatory coverage for contraceptives and sterilization procedures."

This is further evidence that all decisions about women's reproductive health should be made by old celibate men.

The letter was sent yesterday to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. In early August, Sebelius ruled that contraceptives fit the definition of "preventative care" and should be available without a copay. That means birth control is free starting August 2012.

While that was great news to women, the poor and health care advocates everywhere, the bishops have another interpretation. The letter complains that the rule treats "fertility and pregnancy as abnormal states in need of prevention" and forces religious health care providers and employers to act against their conscience.

Kathleen Sebelius
Kathleen Sebelius

"Fertility is a gift that, exercised responsibly, allows society to prosper," the letter says. "Further, the Rule would also require taxpayers and providers to act against deeply-held convictions regarding the sanctity of life, as the promotion and provision of drugs like "Ella" (ulipristal acetate) and other abortifacient agents are enabled by this mandate."

"Ella" is actually an emergency contraceptive that is effective up to five days after unprotected sex. It is not considered an "abortifacient agent" nor does it cause abortions.

The letter calls for the mandate to be thrown out and is signed by Nienstedt, and the bishops of St. Cloud, Winona, New Ulm, Duluth and Crookston. They join a long list of Catholic institutions and archdiocese from around the country who've written similar opinions.

Linnea House, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota, is naturally displeased with the letter.

"Having the availability of birth control covered for women and for men is going to be a huge step forward," she says. "This is, again, the Catholic congress trying to insert their morality into the lives of Americans where they don't need to be."

Read the whole letter here.

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