Catholic bishops: Biden’s debate remark on contraception mandate not true

America’s Catholic bishops have a problem with Vice President Joe Biden’s claim that religious institutions won’t be required to pay for insurance coverage that includes contraception, sterilization and drugs that may cause abortion.

They say it isn’t true.

"With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear,” Biden said during his debate with Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan on Thursday. “No religious institution -- Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital -- none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact."

The U.S. Conference of Bishops disagreed, and issued a letter on Friday taking issue with Biden’s position.

“This is not a fact,” the letter states. “The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain ‘religious employers.’ ”

The bishops argue the White House offered a proposal in February that essentially would have put the responsibility of providing such drugs and services on the institution’s insurance companies. The offer was essentially rejected, and the issue is being played out in roughly 40 lawsuits, including one filed by the University of Notre Dame, in 12 federal courts across the country.

“That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to ‘Catholic social services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital,’ or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served,” the bishops’ letter continued.

They also said the proposal does not even “potentially” relieve organizations from the obligation to pay for contraception and to be a “vehicle” to get contraception.

The White House did not respond to a request Monday for comment.

The group also said the organizations will have to serve as a “vehicle” because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries, the group said.