I refer to the letter by Ms Carmen Hartono (State Must Provide ‘Health Services’, CN, March 11).

Contrary to what was presented in that letter and in many media, the issue is NOT so much about women’s health as it is about freedom of religion and one’s inalienable right to witness to one’s faith, and the right to act and live according to one’s conscience.

Indeed, there are many Jews, Protestants and people of other faiths strenuously opposing this Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate too.

The “amendment” to the proposed bill, by shifting the financial burden to the insurers, is just an accounting game. Ultimately the cost will still be included in the premiums calculated and paid for by Catholic institutions.

What about organisations associated with the Church who self insure? Under the bill, they will have to provide contraceptives, sterilisation and medications taken for the purpose of causing abortions, or face hefty fines that escalate year after year.

What about “women’s health” then? There are other very effective ways that these “health services” can be dispensed, and Ms Hartono would be pleased to know that contraceptives, sterilisations and abortion causing drugs are freely available in the US through many channels including the more than 820 federally funded Planned Parenthood centres located in all 50 states that provide such services as well as abortions. And they charge close to nothing because they are funded by private and public monies to the tune of over a billion dollars annually.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 50 million babies have been aborted in the US in the name of women’s health since 1973 when the US Supreme Court legalised abortion in their judgement in Roe vs Wade.

Since when has fertility become a disease that women have to be protected from?

According to Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, if the bill is approved and implemented, institutions associated with the Catholic Church and closely tied to her mission of spreading the Gospel, like hospitals and schools, will either have to disassociate themselves from the Church or close down.

The Catholic Church and its associated institutions are the largest providers of medical, social and educational services after the government in the US. If they are forced to shut down, what would happen to the millions of beneficiaries and people that these institutions care for?

What will be next? The Catholic Church being forced to marry homosexual couples in the name of equal rights? Several Catholic orphanages have already been forced to closed down as they refused to give up their orphans to same-sex couples in states that recognise same-sex marriage.

Or maybe a bill that requires our priests to make a police report whenever they hear a confession that pertains to breaking the law? Or maybe the Church being forced to ordain female priests in the name of gender equality?

Yes, there is a fine line that separates Church and state, but a line there is and it must not be crossed.

During this Lent, let us pray for the Holy Spirit to strengthen our brothers and sisters in the US and everywhere in the world where the Church is experiencing persecution for her witnessing to the truth as proclaimed by Jesus Christ.

Edmund Augustine Loh

Related links:
Letter: Fine line between Church and state - but it exists

Letter: Church not abolishing anyone's 'right'

Letter: State must provide 'health services'

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