Panel discussion reviews HHS mandate
Catherine Owers | Tuesday, April 15, 2014
On Tuesday evening, panelists discussed the ramifications of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate in a discussion titled “After the Mandate: The Consequences of Compliance.”
Panelists included Notre Dame professor of law Gerard V. Bradley, program director of Notre Dame’s University Life Initiatives Jessica Keating, program director at St. Joseph County Right to Life Jeanette Burdell and Notre Dame Right to Life president Erin Stoyell-Mulholland. Carter Snead, professor of law and director of the Center for Ethics and Culture, moderated the discussion.
The University is currently petitioning the entire United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit for a rehearing of its lawsuit against the mandate, Bradley said.
“That’s certainly a plausible, understandable tactical move at this point,” he said. “What it means is that the status quo is that a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit denied our appeal of a lower court’s denial of a preliminary injunction, so that the mandate would apply to Notre Dame, and in fact Notre Dame is complying with the requirements of the mandate.
“I should say its compliance is surely with an asterisk. The document Notre Dame is required to file in order to comply with the mandate, indicates in a notation typed by Notre Dame at the bottom of the second page, that Notre Dame does so under protest, that Notre Dame considers compliance to be a violation of its religious beliefs and that should Notre Dame receive or obtain relief from the mandate in a court action, that Notre Dame would then withdraw its compliance with the mandate.”
Bradley said the University’s main focus involves getting the petition for the rehearing granted.
“It’s at least fifty-fifty that they will succeed,” he said. “The outcome, if it’s favorable, would be a preliminary injunction, that Notre Dame would not be required to comply with the dictates of the mandate.”
Stoyell-Mulholland said the mandate from the Obama administration sends a message to women about success and health that is at odds with the Catholic perspective of women’s health and success.
“Obama’s perspective implies that for a woman to be successful, she must suppress a significant aspect of who she is, her fertility,” she said. “Whereas the other, the Catholic perspective, fully embraces and integrates all aspects of a woman’s personhood.
“Additionally, Obama’s perspective tends to level the playing field with men, and sameness is key, whereas the Catholic perspective sees women and men as equal in dignity but intrinsically different.”
According to Obama and other supporters of the mandate, Stoyell-Mulholland said, contraception leads to women’s success.
“So if a woman wants the opportunity to be successful or equal in the workforce, she must suppress her fertility,” she said. “Her fertility is viewed as a hindrance to her goals and to her ultimate fulfillment.”
Stoyell-Mulholland said a woman’s true success is not achieved until her fertility is embraced.
“We can’t just take the easy way out by providing free contraception and ignoring the underlying causes of how this mentality came about,” she said. “Women deserve better than that.”
Burdell said birth control also does not support women due to the many side effects and long-term risks of birth control.
“Breast cancer, due to an excess of estrogen … and cervical cancer,” she said. “Liver cancer, which I didn’t necessarily believe until I met someone, one of my clients in crisis pregnancy work, who had 40 tumors on her liver, and her doctor admitted that was from her years of contraceptive use.”
The rampant accessibility to birth control drugs is increasingly problematic, Burdell said.
“There is less regulation of these, and in a very quick time they went from needing a prescription, to needing to be 18 or over to have them,” she said. “But then that age has gotten gradually reduced, lower and lower. Now it’s down to no parental consent needed at all for some of these.”
Keating said birth control is frequently marketed in a way that displays serious issues in culture, commodifing relationships and children. She showed a commercial for the birth control Beyaz, sold by Bayer, as an example.
“There’s sort of visual crassness here in the ad’s representation of persons as standing in equal value alongside things and reminds us of the timeliness of Blessed John Paul II’s exhortation to reorient our scale of values, such that the primacy of being over having and person over things is once again lifted up.”
The practice of contracepting affects the form and focus of relationships, Keating said.
“Relationships where fragility and vulnerability are the greatest, where self-giving love is intimately known and received and where life is generated and nourished now become more merely momentary experiences rather than encounters unfolded into the discipline and joy of Eucharistic self-giving,” she said.