A proposed revision to the Obamacare regulation requiring health insurers to provide coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients is being praised by liberals and condemned by conservatives.
The only good part of the proposal, which will now have 60 days for public comment, is that it slightly enlarges the original narrow definition of a house of worship to include those that provide charitable assistance to all persons regardless of their religious affiliation. The previous definition did not exempt a church from being covered if, for instance, it operated a soup kitchen that provided food to anyone in need.
But the new regulation does two things that upset many religious leaders.
First, the Obama Administration explicitly rejected an exemption for private companies owned by persons who have moral objections to contraception, sterilization, or abortifacients.
Furthermore, Brian Burch of CatholicVote points out that neither secular pro-life organizations, schools, charities, nor individual polices are exempt.
Second, it provides that non-profit institutions with direct ties to a religious body can provide health insurance that doesn't include coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients--but all employees would automatically be enrolled in a separate policy provided by an insurance company at no additional cost to the institution.
Emily Belz in World Magazine observed that reporters immediately recognized this as a gimmick. "Who is paying for it?" one asked. "Who is subsidizing this?"
Robert Pear in the New York Times said the Obama Administration's initial answer was that insurers would bear the cost, but would save money in the long run because they would "experience lower costs from improvements in women's health and fewer childbirths."
Sam Baker in The Hill wrote that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) later said that "insurance companies will now get a rebate from the federal government to offset the cost of providing coverage."
As could be expected, liberal groups are enthusiastic over the new regulations.
"This policy delivers on the promise of women having access to birth control without co-pays no matter where they work," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood of America.
"Today's draft regulation affirms yet again the Obama Administration's commitment to fulfilling the full promise of its historic contraception policy," said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
"The important thing for us is that women employees can count on getting insurance that meets their needs, even if they're working for a religiously affiliated employer," said Cindy Pearson, executive director of the National Women's Health Network.
But conservative organizations are very critical of the proposed regulations.
Matt Bowman, Senior Legal Counsel of the Alliance Defending Freedom, said, "The administration's narrow gesture does nothing to protect many faith-based employers or religious families from the unconstitutional abortion pill mandate."
Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, said the Obama regulations were "bad news for all who love religious freedom."
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said, "We demand respect for non-religious entities, such as the Susan B. Anthony List, that recognize that the taking of human life is the antithesis of health care."
Sarah Torre (pictured) of the Heritage Foundation wrote:
"HHS's 'notice of proposed rulemaking' does not change the coercive mandate that is currently forcing countless employers to provide and pay for coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization in their employee health plans--regardless of moral or religious objection…
"The latest proposal fails to protect businesses such as Tyndale House, the nation's largest Bible publisher; or Hercules Industries, a family-owned and operated HVAC company; or Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts retailer--all of which seek to operate according to deeply held religious and moral beliefs…
"Only the precious few who are deemed religious enough by the Administration would be afforded true protection of their religious freedom and ability to live and act in accordance with their beliefs.
"For everyone else, the Administration is clear: Get over your deeply held beliefs and get in line with the HHS mandate."
As reported in previous issues of this newsletter, Obamacare's mandate on insurance coverage tramples on religious beliefs and will ultimately be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.
As Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, notes in LifeNews.com, the Obama Administration has lost 10 of the 14 cases on this matter that have been decided so far by lower courts.
The previous issue of What's Happening with Seniors Benefits: HR 351, to repeal the rationing board in Obamacare
The previous issue What's Happening with Conservatives and the Tea Party: Results of a new Gallup Poll on abortion AND MORE!
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