By Fred Lucas
(CNSNews.com) – Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a House panel Thursday that a reduction in the number of human beings born in the United States will compensate employers and insurers for the cost of complying with the new HHS mandate that will require all health-care plans to cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives, including those that cause abortions.
“The reduction in the number of pregnancies compensates for the cost of contraception,” Sebelius said. She went on to say the estimated cost is “down not up.”
Sebelius took questions from the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health about President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal.
Because the Catholic church teaches that sterilization, contraception or abortion are wrong and that Catholics must not be inolved in them, the regulation forces Catholics–and members of other religious denominations that share those views–to act against the teachings of their faith. Numerous lawsuits have already been asserting that the rule violates the First Amendment’s guarantee to the free exercise of religion. Many of the nation’s Catholic bishops have published letters saying: “We cannot–we will not–comply with this unjust law.”
Sebelius, however, insisted that the mandate “upholds religious liberty.”“The rule which we intend to promulgate in the near future around implementation will require insurance companies, not a religious employer, but the insurance company to provide coverage for contraceptives,” Sebelius told the subcommittee.
The Catholic bishops have called for the regulation to be rescinded in its entirety, so that no employer, insurer or individual is forced to act against his or her conscience.
During the subcommittee hearing, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) said that contraception provided by insurance companies to people employed by religious organizations under the future form of the rule Sebelius described would not be was not free.
“Who pays for it? There’s no such thing as a free service,” Murphy asked.
Sebelius responded that that is not the case with insurance.
“The reduction in the number of pregnancies compensates for cost of contraception,” Sebelius answered.
Murphy expressed surprise by the answer.
“So you are saying, by not having babies born, we are going to save money on health care?” Murphy asked.
Sebelius replied, “Providing contraception is a critical preventive health benefit for women and for their children.”
Murphy again sought clarification.
“Not having babies born is a critical benefit. This is absolutely amazing to me. I yield back,” he said.
Sebelius responded, “Family planning is a critical health benefit in this country, according to the Institute of Medicine.”
Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), a member of the subcommittee, said after the hearing that if mandating contraception saves money there shouldn’t be a need for a mandate.
“Their argument is this: Health insurance companies will offer it for free because they make money. You reduce the number of people getting pregnant therefore you reduce the cost of pregnancy, or low birth weight pregnancies or other kind of pregnancies,” Guthrie told CNSNews.com.
“If you think about it, why don’t health insurance companies provide it now if the argument is health insurance companies are going to make a lot of money? If the health insurance companies were really acting in their own best interest, they would be giving these pills out for free, if it really saved money,” Guthrie added.
Despite the controversy over whether the mandate is constitutional, Sebelius told Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) during the hearing that the administration never sought a legal opinion about the regulation from the Department of Justice.