The National Catholic Bioethics Center is deeply disappointed to learn that virtually the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) remains standing in the wake of the June 28, 2012 U. S. Supreme Court ruling. The ACA includes provisions that violate respect for human life and dignity and the rights of conscience, and that undermine the principle of subsidiarity. Of course, the Court did not rule that the law is good in its entirety or even that it can be effectively implemented and sustained. It merely ruled that it does not violate the Federal Constitution.
We find it odd that the Supreme Court, having found an insufficient basis to judge in favor of the ACA on Commerce Clause grounds, chose to accept the secondary justification offered by the administration, namely, that the mandate is a tax on the American people. As noted in the minority’s dissent, it is dangerous to ignore the legislative intent of the Congress in a case such as this.
The National Catholic Bioethics Center remains opposed to the law not because universal health care coverage is somehow undesirable as a goal, but predominantly because the ACA will provide coverage for abortion on demand and violate the conscience of employers and enrollees who will be forced to subsidize abortion. There also is little protection of health care providers who may be coerced to provide contraceptives and abortifacients. Furthermore, the Health and Human Services mandate has come to be woven into the fabric of the ACA as a post-provision that poisons the well of authentic health care and radically contradicts respect for conscience, which is particularly important in healthcare settings where the human person is vulnerable and easily violated. The National Catholic Bioethics Center thus remains compelled to oppose the measure in its entirety until a proper respect for the First Amendment, religious freedom, rights of conscience, and human life are properly incorporated into the law, and safeguarded in medical decision-making.
From the perspective of social justice, this law jeopardizes the principle of subsidiarity, which, like the principle of federalism upon which our Constitution was written, holds that services ought to be provided by those social agencies and instrumentalities of government that are closest to the point of delivery. Tremendous dangers lie in health care being orchestrated by the highest level of social organization, our federal government.
The Bishops, many Catholics, and others of conscience remain deeply troubled by this law and will continue to work to ensure the protection of the consciences of those providing health care and other social services to those in need.