Catholic panelists to examine Obamacare

An upcoming panel discussion set for March 19 will bring together four prominent Catholics to analyze the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as “Obamacare,” through the eyes of the Church.

Panelists presenting at “Dissecting Obamacare,” co-sponsored by the Denver guild of the Catholic Medical Association and Holy Ghost Church Respect Life Ministry, will include: Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, president and CEO of Hercules Industries William Newland, and professor of moral theology at the Augustine Institute Michel Therrien, S.T.L., S.T.D. The panel will be moderated by attorney Peggy Hoyt-Hoch, a specialist in employment law, founding board member of the St. Thomas More Society of Colorado and a secular Franciscan.

The goal of the discussion, according to organizers, is to help Catholics—those providing health insurance as well as those seeking it—to understand their moral obligation when it comes to the federal health care overhaul. The Church, longtime supporters of universal health care assistance, oppose the Department of Health and Human Services provision of the act as it mandates coverage of contraception, sterilization and potential life-terminating drugs in violation of Catholic beliefs.

“(Obamacare) affects every Catholic,” said Michelle Stanford, M.D., president of the Catholic Medical Association, “including physicians as business owners, employees, those seeking out insurance and those seeking care.”

Each panelist will give a 15-minute presentation before the floor is opened to questions. Suthers, attorney general of Colorado since 2005, will address the legal challenges to the ACA including the attorneys general challenge last year and current religious freedom issues. Suthers was among 12 attorneys general that sent a letter to HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius last March asking the department to expand the mandate’s very narrow religious exemptions.

“We fear that the HHS mandate is the first of many regulations under the Affordable Care Act that will conflict with legal protections for religious liberty and the right of conscience,” the letter concluded. “We respectfully submit that (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) requires you to adopt the broadest possible religious exceptions to the HHS mandate.”

Newland will share the story of how his family entered into a legal battle to keep the federal government from forcing their family-owned business, Hercules Industries, from violating their religious beliefs when providing employee mandated health insurance.

Therrien, a moral theologian, will address the principles of the Catholic moral teaching in the ACA itself and matters of conscience.

“In a nutshell, I want to look at the plan in the light of the Church’s moral principles and Catholic social teaching,” he told the Register.

He also plans to speak on systematic structural issues related to the ACA, a topic he said that doesn’t get much conversation.

“I would like to raise awareness that there are many problems with this law on a structural level,” he continued. “Besides the morally compromised position we are in with respect to conscience and cooperation with evil.”

The event will begin with a rosary at 5:45 p.m. at Holy Ghost Church at 1900 California St. followed by 6:15 p.m. Mass celebrated by Archbishop Samuel Aquila. The panel will begin at 7:15 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, and free parking will be available in the lot at 19th and Welton streets. A light dinner will be served. RSVP via email to by March 14. For more on the Catholic Medical Association, visit

‘Dissecting Obamacare’
What: panel discussion
Panelists: Attorney General John Suthers, Hercules Industries CEO William Newland and moral theologian Michel Therrien
Moderator: Employment law attorney Peggy Hoyt-Hoch
When: March 19
Time: 5:45 p.m. rosary, 6:15 p.m. Mass celebrated by Archbishop Samuel Aquila, 7:15 p.m. panel
Where: Holy Ghost Church, 1900 California St., Denver
RSVP: Email by March 14

COMING UP: Care for Her Act: A common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies

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The pro-life community is often accused of only being pro-birth; however, a congressman from Nebraska is seeking to not only bring more visibility to the countless organizations which provide care for women experiencing crisis pregnancies through birth and beyond, but to also imitate that care at the federal level and enshrine it into law.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R), who serves the first congressional district in Nebraska, is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill that’s been in the works since last year. The overall goal of the bill is to “[commit] to care for that journey of life through a complementary set of services whereby the government makes a decided choice on behalf of the life of the unborn child and meeting the needs of the expectant mother,” Rep. Fortenberry told the Denver Catholic.

The Care For Act seeks to accomplish this through four basic provisions: A $3,600 tax credit for unborn children which would apply retroactively after the child is born, in addition to the existing tax credit for children; a comprehensive assessment and cataloguing of the programs and resources that are available to expectant mothers; providing federal grants to advance maternal housing, job training mentorships and other educational opportunities for expectant mothers; and lastly, offering financial incentives to communities that improve maternal and child health outcomes.

The Biden Administration recently indicated that they’ll be removing the Hyde Amendment in next year’s budget, which has historically been in place to prohibit pubic funds from going to abortions. The Care for Her Act would circumvent this to some degree, and it would also test whether Rep. Fortenberry’s dissenting colleagues who have in the past expressed that women should be cared for throughout their pregnancies and beyond are willing to stand by their words.

While the conversation around pregnancy and women’s health often centers around abortion, Rep. Fortenberry intentionally crafted the Care for Her Act to not be against abortion, per se, but rather for women and their babies.

“Abortion has caused such a deep wound in the soul of America,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “However, the flip side of this is not only what we are against, because it is so harmful, but what are we for? So many wonderful people throughout this country carry the burden of trying to be with women in that vulnerable moment where there is an unexpected pregnancy and show them the gift of what is possible for that child and for that woman. Let’s do that with government policy as well.”

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R) of Nebraska is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill which seeks to provide a community of care for women facing an unexpected pregnancy. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives)

Even The Washington Post has taken notice of the Care for Her Act. Earlier this year, Rep. Fortenberry introduced the idea to his constituents, and as to be expected, he received mixed feedback. Those who are pro-life were supportive of the idea, while those who support abortions were more apprehensive. Still others shared consternation about what the government ought to or ought not to do, expressing concern about what the Care for Her Act seeks to do.

“My response is, if we’re going to spend money, what is the most important thing? And in my mind, this is it,” Rep. Fortenberry said.

However, he was very encouraged by one response in particular, which for him really illustrates why this bill is so important and needed.

“One woman wrote me and said, ‘Jeff, I had an abortion when I was young. But if I had this complement of services and commitment of community around me, I would have made another decision,'” Rep. Fortenberry recalled. “And I said ‘yes.’ That’s why we are doing this. For her.”

So far, Rep. Fortenberry has been able to usher support from a number of women representatives on his side of the aisle. He is hopeful, though, that support could come from all sides of the political spectrum.

“Is it possible this could be bipartisan? I would certainly hope so, because it should transcend a political divide,” he explained. “We, of course, stand against abortion because it is so detrimental to women and obviously the unborn child. At the same time though, I think that others could join us who maybe don’t have the fullness of our perspective, who want to see the government actually make a choice on behalf of protecting that unborn life.”

Amidst the politically polarizing discussions about pregnancy and unborn life, the Care for Her act is a common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies. It offers women facing an unexpected pregnancy the chance to experience hope in a seemingly hopeless situation and make a life-giving decision for both herself and her child.

“I’m excited by this,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “I think it opens a whole new set of imaginative possibilities for America, a transformative ideal that again makes this moment of vulnerability when there is an unexpected pregnancy, our chance, our commitment as a community of care.”