The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Local Catholics pray against new rule requiring insurance coverage for birth control
Wednesday marks the launch of new federal health insurance rules that require employers and insurance providers to cover many women’s reproductive health services — including birth control — for no cost to women. The new rules kick in as health plans are renewed, or for new plans.
But religious groups, most notably the Catholic church, still object to the new regulations. The Catholic church opposes birth control, and says some methods of birth control work by aborting fetuses. The church has lobbied strongly against the new regulations, saying it shouldn’t be forced to cover birth control for employees at Catholic-run institutions, like hospitals and colleges.
Several dozen Fredericksburg-area Catholics and Knights of Columbus members marked the day by gathering at the religious freedom memorial in Fredericksburg this morning to pray for a change in the policy.
“This is a clear violation of our constitutional guarantee of our religious freedom,” said Knights of Columbus member Andy Taylor.
But Neil Buttimer, of the Knights of Columbus, said the group’s prayer meeting was to support the church’s position, and protest the “infringement of our religious rights.”
Under the new rules, Buttimer said, churches and church institutions “have to provide something that the church is opposed to.”
Father John Ziegler, of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Chancellorsville, led the groups’ prayers and spoke of a need to restore a “proper sense of God’s laws.” He said he hoped to see a greater respect for life in the U.S. in general.
The Obama administration estimates that the rules changes will help 47 million women nationwide get better access to health care. That includes 1.3 million women in Virginia.
The new regulation requires coverage not just of birth control, but also includes services like domestic violence screening, testing for HPV, HIV and other diseases, screening for gestational diabetes for pregnant women, breastfeeding support and other services.
Interest groups on both sides of the issue weighed on on the change today, sending out statements and press releases praising and decrying the new rules.
The American Life League, a Catholic pro-life advocacy group based in Stafford, put out a statement saying the requirement that anti-abortion groups cover birth control threatens other liberties.
“Virginia women shouldn’t have to forego critical care because they are worried about the cost,” said Ashleigh Crocker, of Know Your Care Virginia. “Thanks to the Affordable Care Act,, women now have access to vital preventive care measures that will go a long way towards keeping average Virginia families healthy.”