Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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Notre Dame Selects Trustee Who Advocated HHS Mandate, Criticized Bishops

Notre DameThe University of Notre Dame, which sued the federal government over the HHS mandate, has just named a new member to its Board of Trustees who has publicly supported the same mandate and criticized the U.S. bishops’ opposition to it.

The Cardinal Newman Society has discovered that Katie Washington, Notre Dame’s valedictorian in 2010 and an M.D./Ph.D. candidate at the Johns Hopkins University Schools of Medicine and Public Health, contributed to an op-ed in 2012 along with fellow Johns Hopkins students which appeared in the Baltimore Sun, saying they, “strongly disagree with any employer — religious or otherwise — that would refuse to provide full insurance coverage, including contraception, for its employees.”

The op-ed was primarily written by fellow Johns Hopkins student Max Romano, who this school year served with Washington on the governing board of SOURCE, described as “the community service and service-learning center” for medical and public health students. Among SOURCE’s “community partners” are Planned Parenthood of Maryland, which performs abortions and distributes contraceptives, and the pro-contraception Center for Adolescent Health.

This is not the first time that a problematic selection has been made to the board of trustees at Notre Dame.  In 2011, newly elected trustee Roxanne Martino resigned from the board after The Cardinal Newman Society discovered and reported that she had contributed thousands of dollars to a pro-abortion organization.

The 2012 op-ed contributed to by Washington called contraception a “human right” and dismissed religious freedom arguments against the mandate.

“The Obama administration's announcement that insurance companies must provide contraception averts an immediate threat to women's health; however, we fear the continued erosion of women's right to access contraception in the name of religious liberty,” the opinion piece stated. “We look forward to practicing medicine in a country where all individuals have the right to complete health care — including contraception without deductibles and co-pays.”

The op-ed squarely criticized the bishops’ stance against the mandate.

National Catholic leaders, including Cardinal-designate Edwin F. O'Brien of Baltimore, have said that they would not comply with the law on religious grounds. After President Barack Obama announced a compromise on Friday — that insurance companies must provide free contraceptives when employers refuse to pay — Catholic officials still were not moved.

As physicians in training, we see contraception as an essential component of effective primary care, not as a political line item in Washington or the Vatican. Just as we provide tetanus shots and Pap smears, we prescribe contraception to maintain the well-being of our patients. Universal contraceptive access is a matter of reproductive justice and a major determinant of whether both men and women have control over their own futures, regardless of socioeconomic status.

A few months after the op-ed was published, Politico reported:

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who’s suing the Obama administration over the birth control mandate, said Tuesday that President Barack Obama doesn’t understand the “horror” that the Catholic Church feels over a “strangling” religious exemption to the mandate.

The opinion piece from Washington and her fellow students contradicted the bishops’ stance by saying, “Our country's employment-based health insurance system does not give employers the standing to deny their employees safe and effective health care.”

Doctors for America, an organization which was originally named Doctors for Obama, touted the op-ed as part of its efforts on its website.

In 2012, Washington retweeted President Obama’s announcement about the HHS Mandate which said, “Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, women won't have to pay out-of-pocket costs for contraception as of Aug. 1.”

Again in 2012, Washington retweeted the following: “Michael K. Williams of The Wire and Boardwalk Empire supports marriage equality: http://tinyurl.com/73plajv . Join him or Omar will get you.”

And in 2013, she encouraged others to join Organizing for Action, the Obama campaign’s grassroots effort that includes advocacy for contraception and “reproductive rights.”

Notre Dame has sued the Obama administration over the HHS mandate but the University’s commitment to its own lawsuit has been questioned numerous times. While the University’s lawsuit clearly states that the HHS mandate “would require Notre Dame to commit scandal,” President Fr. John Jenkins recently attempted to explain away the University’s decision to submit to the mandate by saying at a student Town Hall event last semester, “I don’t see this as a scandal because we are not giving out contraceptives.”

Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit reportedly questioned the University’s desire for injunctive relief from the mandate since it had already submitted the required form to opt-out and switch the cost for abortifacients and contraceptives for employees to a third party administrator.

Bill Dempsey, chairman of the Notre Dame alumni group The Sycamore Trust, told The Cardinal Newman Society that with Washington’s appointment, “Notre Dame has just handed the government a loaded gun in its lawsuit.”

“It is hard to believe that, after the embarrassment of the appointment as trustee of a contributor to the pro-choice cause a couple of years ago, the Notre Dame board would misfire again with the appointment of a public opponent of the University’s and the Church’s ’s stand against the abortifacient/contraceptive mandate,” he said. “Ms. Washington should have the good grace to resign, or the board should force her to.”

Dempsey added that Washington serving on the board of trustees is “a threat to the school’s claim of conscience, and her counsel as trustee in matters pertaining to the school’s Catholic identity would be deeply suspect.”

According to the University, Washington studied biology and Catholic social teaching as an undergraduate at Notre Dame.

The University did not respond to The Cardinal Newman Society’s inquiry by the time of publication.

Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.

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