The Obama administration released Friday a proposal updating the rules for enforcing the controversial Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate for women’s “preventive services” coverage under the Affordable Care Act. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius trumpeted the proposal as a compromise that continued to supply the same contraceptive coverage for female employees “while respecting religious concerns.” But because the coverage for abortifacients, like Plan B (the morning-after pill) and Ella (the week-after pill) remains intact, and many religious employers are not exempted from the process, the concerns were not truly respected.
CRE has more than a passing interest in these proposed rules. We have been retained by American Family Association (AFA) – and contacted by other similarly-situated groups – about possibly bringing a legal challenge to the mandate. Christian organizations, like AFA, are caught in the cross-hairs of this heavily politicized effort. Contrary to their religious convictions, and organizational missions, AFA and other religiously-affiliated entities are being forced to enable drug use that cause abortions.
If the proposal is adopted, it would be as egregious as the previous version. While qualifying nonprofit employers would no longer be required to pay insurance companies directly for the objectionable coverage, they must still facilitate the process, contracting with the insurance company and connecting that company with employees for coverage of aboritfacients. The fact that they no longer make direct payment for insurance coverage – knowing that they nevertheless supply it – is of little solace.
It is deeply offensive to hear the media portray this proposal as a “compromise.” This change is purely semantic in nature, a diversion tactic that fails to fool anyone who understands the concerns at stake.
These proposed rules could have been different. In an attempt to reach a compromise, HHS could have included a provision that exempted all religious organizations from participation. Instead, HHS made clear with the new rules that only churches and other “houses of worship” will be afforded an exemption. Other religious entities are given an impossible choice, either: 1) forego health insurance for your employees and subject your organization to cost-prohibitive fines and penalties, or 2) violate your religious convictions and operate in a way that directly contracts your mission.
That’s not much of a choice, and that’s not much respect.
We cannot accept small gestures of accommodation without real and meaningful change to this policy that possibly represents the greatest threat to religious freedom our country has ever seen. More respect is needed. Our consciences cannot be subject to this sort of compromise.
Posted by Nate Kellum