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May 15, 1998     The Message
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May 15, 1998

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10 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana f Health insurance, ethics clash in Conn BLOOMFIELD, Conn. (CNS) -- Under a measure before the Connecticut House of Representatives, most employers in the state would be required to include coverage of prescriptive contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs and devices if their health insurance has a prescription plan. Senate Bill 400, passed by the state Senate April 23, would cover birth control pills, intrauterine devices, and other drugs and devices, such as the "morning after pill." It also includes a so-called "con- science clause" to exempt religious employers. It's the latest in a series of such bills to come before lawmak- ers recently. Maryland enacted a similar law this spring. The Florida Legislature killed its bill in mid- April. In California, where the governor has vetoed similar bills three times, lawmakers are trying to craft a conscience clause palatable to their governor. And even Congress has taken up the issue. In California, the state Legislature has considered such a measure for the past five years but none has won Republican Gov. Pete Wilson's signature to become law. The sticking point has been a conscience clause to exempt employers morally opposed to contraception, according to David Pollard, associate director for public policy with the California Catholic Confer- ence. When Wilson vetoed the measure in January, he said he wouldn't sign it without such an exemption. The California Catholic Conference, along with family planning advocates, are working with the lat- est bill's sponsor, Democrat Assemblyman Robert M Hertzberg of Sherman Oaks, to develop such a clause. The conscience clause in Maryland's new law, which takes effect Oct. 1, was too restrictive to win the Maryland Catholic Conference's support. It forces employers morally opposed to contraception to can- cel all prescription coverage -- or provide prescrip- tion plans with birth control coverage, said Pat Kelly, the conference's associate director. "You shouldn't be forced," she told Catholic News Service. The Florida Catholic Conference was successful in adding an amendment to exempt any employer on the basis of religious or moral convic- tions, according to D. Michael McCarron, its execu- tive director. The amendment went a step further by prevent- ing coverage for any pharmaceutical which is an abortifacient, McCarron told CNS. The stringent amendment doomed the entire bill, which died in the Legislature, he said. "I don't anticipate there will be any more bills to mandate this cover- age," he said. Congress also has several such measures pending but their future looks dim, according to Richard M. Doerflinger, associate director for pol- icy development for the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. One bill would not only require coverage for prescriptive contraceptives but also had language to ensure access to abortion. "It was doomed to failure from the outset," he said. Connecticut's bill includes a "conscience clause" amendment which exempts religious employers whose "bona fide religious tenets" prohibit birth con- trol use. But it doesn't go far enough, says Marie T. Hilliard, executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference. "We believe this to be a violation of the First Amendment right of freedom of religion, because an individual employer who owns a company and who is Catholic is not exempt  because his business is not church-controlled," she told The Catholic Tran- script, diocesan newspaper of Hartford. Catholic conferences in both Maryland and Con- necticut pushed for broader clauses to exclude both religious and secular employer to contraception. "The best we could religious organizations exempted Connecticut's clause "clearly is a businesspersons of our faith and don't want to pay for Hilliard said. "If we supported such an we would be unfaithful to our faithful." . "No Catholics should be forced to ceptives, which actually is the taking of human life," said Cronin, director of pro-life activities for the: cese of Hartford. supported such an a: we would be unfaithful to our Hilliard also noted that if becomes law, municipalities will traceptive coverage even though no allocated to fund the added costs payers, she said, will end up She estimated the cost per a month, a substantial amount for a ...... ford that employs thousands. Connecticut's bill was income women, especially those fare rolls and off Medicaid, which ceptives, according to Democratic Bozek of New Britain, one of the bill's "As a legislator, my interest is to lower-economic group, to help them selves and have a better life," Bozek Senate voted. Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin of letter April 9 to deans blatant attack on our religious Secrers Out Natural family planning: A detection story Six-and-one half years ago, an engaged Evansville woman found a Natural Family Plan- ning services brochure iD her doctor's office. She shared the NEWS and COMMENTARY By SOOZI SCHELLER Contributing writer news with her fianc6 and they agreed to learn Natural Family Planning together. She began charting her menstrual cycle. The couple brought their records to their NFP Practition- er Shawn Bender who noticed signs in the woman's cycle that do not usually appear in the menstrual cycles of healthy women. The woman had observed premenstrual spotting of significant duration to war- rant a medical referral. Premen- strual spotting can be a sign of hormone imbalances caused by low progesterone or thyroid problems. Bender gave this cou- ple literature describing the causes of premenstruel spotting and referred them to a medical doctor. Fascinated by this sudden rev- elation, the couple studied the information. The woman had been experiencing premenstru- al spotting for three years prior to recording her cycles for Nat- ural Family Planning. She brought this newly-recognized condition to her physician's attention during her annual check-up. The physician ordered tests and consequently diag- nosed her with low thyroid function, which has since been balanced using thyroid replace- ment medication. The woman remarked, "I always wondered why I was so tired! Why had I gained 20 pounds in a year despite exer- cising and watching my food intake? I felt weepy and make Natural Family in the Diocese call St. depressed." Upon receiving the Hospital thyroid medication, her weight in Jasper stabilized, the premenstrual (800) spotting disappeared, and her the energy and joy returned. "My Vincennes at psychological health improved tremendously with this discov- ery." When a couple monitors their fertility, they reap many benefits spiritually, physically 485-4265. ? and emotionally. Natural are Health Matters 485-4110. NFP Introductory supplies foi For more information please call one of the following: the Natural Family Planning Office of St. Mary's Medical Center at (812) 485-4110; the Community Educa- tion Planning Office of Memorial Wisconsin governor signs abortion ban by the Senate on a voice vote March 26. It prohibits the con- troversial procedure unless the mother's life in endangered and makes performance of partial- birth abortions a Class A felony punishable b), life in prison. "This issue has captured our hearts, for the people of Wis- consin will not stand for a pro- cedure so heartless to occur in our state," the governor said in his statement. "This is a matter of humanity. Banning partial- birth abortions is simply the right thing to do." Wisconsin became the 23rd state to ban partial-birth abor- tions, although court orders have blocked enforcement in 12 of them. In Kentucky and Okla- homa, bans awaited a gover- nor's signature. States where enforcement of the ban has been blocked at least temporarily are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Illi- nois, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey and Rhode Island. Michigan passed a ban in 1996 but it has been permanently enjoined. tion to go into Florida, Dakota, West VL,.giaia. """'nO ST. MA medical news ,rom. C.,,o,,. perspective is a courtesy of SCFVICCS MADISON, Wis. (CNS) Gov. Tommy G. Thompson signed into law April 29 a bill banning partial-birth abortions in Wisconsin. In a statement relea.ed by his office in Madison, the Republi- can governor said, "Partial-birth abortion is a morally repugnant and ethically corrupt procedure that will not be tolerated in Wis- consin. It is unconscionable to terminate a life when the child is in the midst of being deliv- ered into this world." The bill Thompson signed was passed by the state Assem- bly on a 77-17 vote last May and 7'