The Catholic Church is at odds with the Obama Administration over a recent decision to end Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funding to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops because of its stance on birth control and reproductive rights. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was previously awarded grants from HHS to help victims of human trafficking. In September, HHS awarded the grants to other organizations because the Catholic Bishops refused to provide referrals for reproductive services to human trafficking victims.
Last spring, as the contract between HHS and the Catholic Bishops was set to expire, HHS issued new guidelines for the awarding of the funds which included a “strong preference” for a contractor who would refer victims to family planning and reproductive health services. The ACLU had filed a lawsuit in 2009 because many victims of human trafficking are raped and need access to a wide range of services, including abortions and birth control. Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Bishops, told the Washington Post, “The principle of church teaching is that all sexual encounters be open to life. It’s not a minor matter; this is intrinsic to our Catholic beliefs.”
Ms. Magazine previously exposed this issue of the Catholic Church refusing to provide reproductive health services as early as 2006 and it appeared as a cover story in the Winter 2010 magazine. The Catholic Church is now claiming discrimination and calling the decision politically-motivated. The Church was already angered with the Obama Administration’s recent mandate that private insurers not charge co-pays for contraceptive services for women. The HHS funds for the victims of Human Trafficking, $4.5 million, will now be split between three nonprofits- Heartland Human Care Services, Tapestri and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.