House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday morning that the government should require self-insured religious institutions, such as the Catholic church in Washington, D.C., to directly pay for contraception and abortifacients.
At a press conference, Leader Pelosi was asked by THE WEEKLY STANDARD: "The Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., is a self-insured institution. Should the Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., be required to pay for these morning-after pills and birth control if they find that morally objectionable?"
Pelosi talked about the importance of women's health, and then said, "Yes, I think that all institutions who cover, who give, health insurance should cover the full range of health insurance issues for women."
President Obama said last week that he would accommodate religious institutions by requiring their insurers to pay for free contraceptive and abortive drugs rather than the religious institutions themselves. Many scholars and other public figures have said Obama's "accommodation" is a distinction without a difference--an accounting gimmick that will still leave religious institutions footing the bill for services they find morally objectionable.
Obama's "accommodation" doesn't even pretend to provide an out for self-insured religious institutions. "In order to provide insurance consistent with our religious beliefs, our health benefit plan is a self-insured plan that extends coverage to 3,600 employees," Cardinal Donald Wuerl wrote in a letter to Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington last weekend. "[L]ike Aetna or Blue Cross, the archdiocese and other self-insured religious organizations would be required to both provide and pay for drugs and procedures we consider morally wrong in our employee health plans." (The HHS mandate's exemption for houses of worship does not apply to the Archdiocese of Washington because it insures many non-Catholic employees.)
Although Leader Pelosi clearly supports using the government to force the Catholic church in Washington, D.C.--and other large self-insured churches, hospitals, and universities--to directly pay for services it finds morally objectionable, Senator Richard Durbin, the second ranking Democrat in the Senate, has expressed concern about this policy.