The abortion mandate still stands

The Obama administration announced “updates” this morning to Obamacare’s abortion mandate. The original mandate was a shell-game, and this latest “change” is only more of the same. The original rule required religious employers to pay money to an insurance company that would then provide abortion-inducing drugs for employees that wanted them. That is still true today despite the overhyped announcement. There’s no substantive difference. The changes are cosmetic at best. The underlying religious objection has not been addressed, and employers would still be morally implicated in paying for abortion-inducing drugs for their employees.

Today’s announcement comes after some of the lawsuits against the mandate were put on hold until the Obama administration clarified its religious exemptions. This morning’s announcement provided some clarity, but it did not provide any relief for employers who object to covering abortion-inducing drugs. In short, the Obamacare mandate is every bit as offensive to religious liberty now as it was before the announcement this morning. The Washington Post describes “change” this way:

Under this proposal, objecting nonprofits will be allowed to offer employees a plan that does not cover contraceptives. Their health insurer will then automatically enroll employees in a separate individual policy, which only covers contraceptives, at no cost. This policy would stand apart from the employer’s larger benefit package.

The faith-based employer would not “have to contract, arrange, pay or refer for any contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds.”

Before the announcement, CNN had reported that religious non-profits would be able to opt-out of the abortion mandate. Even now, both The Washington Post and The New York Times are spinning this news as a “compromise.” But it is no such thing. The new rule is still too narrow and only exempts houses of worship and their affiliates. Other religious employers are in the same boat that they were before. In essence, the Obama administration has dug in its heels and is gambling that it will win the challenges in court. Indeed, a senior official in the Obama administration tells Politico,

The proposed new rules… were aimed more at strengthening the administration’s hand in court than winning over the Catholic and other religious groups that objected to the Obamacare provision.

So beware of the spin. There is no compromise here, but the papers of record have obscured that fact.

Sam Baker reports for The Hill what this “update” really means: “HHS rejects calls to expand contraception mandate exceptions.” Baker writes:

The Health and Human Services Department rejected calls to let any employer opt out of the mandate based on religious objections to contraception. Instead, the department released regulations that hew largely to the policy it had previously announced… Religious-affiliated insurers, such as Catholic hospitals and universities, would still be exempt from paying for the coverage directly, but their employees would still be able to access contraception without any cost-sharing through their insurance company.

In short, there is no exemption for religiously affiliated organizations. Catholic hospitals, Wheaton College and other religious groups that have filed suit are still having their first amendment rights trampled upon. Obamacare still requires them to implicate themselves in providing chemical abortions to their employees.

If you still have any question about the nature of today’s “changes,” then you might find it clarifying that Planned Parenthood is celebrating the decision. Cecile Richards writes:

This policy delivers on the promise of women having access to birth control without co-pays no matter where they work… This policy makes it clear that your boss does not get to decide whether you can have birth control.

Planned Parenthood has reason to be confident. White House spokesman Jay Carney was quick to assure everyone that the new “opt-out” would not prevent women from obtaining abortion-inducing drugs. No one will be “opting-out” under this new agreement. And that is why Planned Parenthood lauded today’s news. It probably helps as well that abortion rights groups were briefed personally by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. I wonder if she gave a briefing to pro-life groups as well?

One more thing. These “changes” don’t even pretend to offer relief for for-profit employers like Hobby Lobby, whose first amendment freedoms have been no less trampled upon than the religious non-profits. As I noted in my last post, the courts have been trending against the mandate (though Hobby Lobby is a notable exception), which means that this mandate is going to end up in the Supreme Court. The best case scenario for for-profits is that the mandate would be stopped cold there.

Obamacare’s abortion mandate is the most egregious violation of religious liberty that I have ever seen. It must not stand. Let’s hope and pray that it doesn’t.

10 Responses to The abortion mandate still stands

  1. Aaron W. February 1, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    Note that Baker refers to “any employer” and you refer to “religious employers”

    The law does not define “religious employer” the way you do so. It simply never has.

    But, if we’re going to do as you’ve done and expand the definition of “religious employer” to include any employer with a stated faith-based moral objection to this or that, then what’s the point of the “religious” descriptor?

    The idea that any employer, especially a for-profit employer, with a moral objection can opt-out of a federal/state/local law gives great credence to one of your favorite Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia who famously said in Oregon v. Smith: “To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.”

    I didn’t agree with the Smith decision but Scalia does have a point. Do you disagree?

    • Denny Burk February 1, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

      I wasn’t using “religious employer” in a legal sense. In any case that’s beside the point. My point is that no employer with religious objections should be forced to comply with this mandate.

    • Roy Fuller February 2, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

      Good point Aaron, my question exactly. The principle of “no employer with religious objections should be forced to comply with this mandate” as stated below, would seem to be Pandora’s box. Where do we draw the line as to which “religious objections,” even which “religions” could be asked? This principle of allowing any employer with a religious objection to opt out of whatever mandate, coverage requirement, safety issue, etc. is bad precedent. I know that the presenting issue here is abortion, but the law of unintended consequences should be considered

  2. Don Johnson February 1, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    Sheesh. More shell games from a con man. What a carnival, literally. And of course the media spins it as the marionettes they are.

    P.S. http://www.irs.gov/PUP/newsroom/REG-148500-12%20FR.pdf (notice its from the IRS) says that the CHEAPEST (Bronze level) version of Obamacare will cost $20,000 for a family of 4 in 2016. And remember, if you do not get this and are required to do so, you will be fined. This is crazy.

    • James Stanton February 1, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

      Don, can you clarify a few things for me?

      I appreciate you linking to the IRS figures.

      Your post seems to indicate that you think Obamacare is not competitive with a pre-Obamacare private insurance market. Do you happen to know how much a plan for a family of 4 would cost on the private market in your state right now? Or is the assumption that health insurance plans would and should be cheaper?

      You might be surprised to know that family plans sponspored by employers cost about $16000 right now. Buying a plan on the private market will be even more expensive and the increasing cost of medical care means that the price will keep going up. It doesn’t surprise me to see that the IRS expects it to reach 20000 per family in 2016.

      I think its crazy for people with means and a family to not have health insurance. The only people who can justify not having health insurance right now are those with the ability to pay for all health care expenses out of pocket and people with jobs that either don’t provide health insurance or people who are too poor to afford health insurance. Otherwise you risking medical bankruptcy for yourself and your family considering the astronomical bills for even routine medical procedures.

      • Johnny Mason February 2, 2013 at 12:09 am #

        I live in NC. I got a quote from Cigna for my family of 4 and it ranged depending on the plan, from 4k a year to 8k. If ObamaCare will cost 20k for a family for the cheapest package then we will have witnessed the largest transfer of wealth from the people to corporations in the history of the planet.

    • Michael Sweet February 2, 2013 at 11:57 am #

      Don, I have to agree with you here. What we will witness, in my not so humble opinion, will be the law of unintended consequences in the next few years.

      Take my particular case for example. I am an owner of a small business with 3 employees (counting myself). Because one employee has medical coverage through her husbands employer, we cannot qualify for a group policy. Therefore, I have an individual policy through Blue Cross. I paid right at $9,500 in premiums last year. I don’t know about the rest of you, but $800 per month is a big ticket item for us.

      Now we are all very healthy, so our only medical expenses were routine medical exams. While I assume my plan will qualify as a Bronze or better, I really don’t know. I do know this, I cannot afford a 100% increase in my premiums over the next few years. So I will be forced to go with a lesser plan that covers only catastrophic issues with a $10,000 or $15,000 annual deductible. That means that I will be forced to pay a $2,500 tax penalty/fine.

      We am the perfect insurance owners: a healthy family that pays a higher premium to cover the insurance costs for unhealthy families. This new law will result in me decreasing my coverage, so it is working the opposite of what was intended. Depending on cost and availability, I may be forced financially to drop insurance coverage entirely.

      Socialism in action.

  3. Kathleen A. Peck (@purisomniapura) February 2, 2013 at 1:11 am #

    Something that’s frequently being overlooked in this conversation is this… ANY person who pays an insurance premium (under Obamacare) with ANY insurance company is in effect ‘paying for’ the abortion contraceptives. Insurance companies covering them for free??? Come on, people know how business works …& realize nothing is free!!! A portion of our (increased) premiums will now go toward providing all those so called FREE contraceptives the insurance companies are supposedly giving away to people that want them. The fact is … every insurance payer in the country, whether company or individual is now forced to cover the cost of contraceptives which the govt. has now determined is a ‘right’. So in essence, everybody is now obligated to pay for something they don’t want to pay for!. Just as our tax dollars are funneled to pay for abortions through Planned Parenthood against our will, so now our insurance premium dollars will be used to cover the cost of all kinds of contraceptives. Let’s just come to terms with reality …the checks & balances that once functioned to protect liberties in this country have radically malfunctioned!

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