Patrick McPartland/Staff Photographer - Bishop Edward U. Kmiec answers questions from the press about the Health and Human Services mandate that all employers, including religious institutions, must provide contraception in their health care plans even if it goes against the group's religious beliefs.
Pro-life supporters gathered at Classics V in Amherst on Feb. 15 for the St. Gianna Molla Pregnancy Outreach Center banquet. The night featured pro-life speaker Rebecca Kiessling, as well as the first public statement from Bishop Edward U. Kmiec about the Health and Human Services mandate on contraception.
Before the event, Bishop Kmiec spoke to the media outside of the banquet facility to address the recent revisions to the HHS mandate, which he called “a distinction without a difference.”
“The simple thing would be just leave it as it had been before,” he said. “No mandate. Just leave it. Preserve our religious freedoms and religious liberties. This is an intrusion.”
The mandate would force religious institutions to pay for contraceptives, sterilization procedures and abortion-inducing drugs, which is contrary to the Catholic teaching and belief. In a recent revision, the cost of such services would become the responsibility of the insurers, not policyholders.
Bishop Kmiec reaffirmed the Church’s teaching on birth control and abortion, saying, “pregnancy is not a disease.”
“Try to put this in a frame of health care,” he said. “It’s not health care. If you’re dealing with abortifacients, with sterilization, this goes well beyond any kind of health care issue.”
The bishop also said that, although the recent revisions place the burden on insurers, Catholic bishops are concerned that the cost will be passed onto religious institutions in other ways.
“It’s against our conscience, against what we hold as a Catholic Church – morality,” Bishop Kmiec said. “If people do that, they do that. Whatever they are doing they’re doing wrong, but we should not have to provide it for them. If they wish to use it, it would be up to them to somehow provide for it.”
Bishop Kmiec gave opening remarks later in the evening at the beginning of the banquet, which was held to raise funds for the St. Gianna Molla Pregnancy Outreach Center. Cheryl Calire, director of Pro-Life Activities, presented two awards to pro-life groups. The first, UB Students for Life, received the Best New Group Award.
“In the face of overwhelming adversity, they have grown stronger and bolder in the fight for life,” Calire said.
Angels for Life from Holy Angels Academy in Buffalo was presented with the Best Teen award.
Pro-Life speaker Rebecca Kiessling shared her life story with the attendees after dinner. Kiessling was conceived when her mother was attacked by a serial rapist and later found out that her mother had visited several abortion doctors before deciding to give her up for adoption.
“I remember feeling so ugly and so unwanted and thinking about who will ever love me,” she said.
Kiessling, who was raised in an abusive adoptive home, was recently legally adopted by her birth mother and her birth mother’s husband. She is a family law attorney and mother of five who speaks against the “rape exception” in the abortion debate.
“They talk about how much they care about women,” she said of pro-choice activists. “Well, I’m a woman and they could care less about me.”
Kiessling said that her self-image changed when she realized that her creator was not her father, but God.
“God thought that I was pretty valuable,” she said. “Not worthless, but priceless.”
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