One of the most troubling things the Obama administration did was trying to compel people to violate their consciences through the HHS contraception mandate.
This morning the Department of Health and Human Services struck a blow for religious liberty by issuing new rules that provide more exemptions for employers holding religious or moral reservations about paying for contraception coverage.
The rules would let a broad range of employers — including nonprofits, private firms and publicly traded companies — stop offering contraceptives through their health insurance plans if they have a "sincerely held religious or moral objection," senior agency officials said on a call about the implementation and enforcement of the new rules.
Health and Human Services officials said the new rule would have no impact on "99.9% of women" in the United States. The agency calculated that at most, 120,000 women would be affected — mainly those who work at the roughly 200 entities that have been involved in 50 or so lawsuits over birth control coverage.
Two rules are involved in the arrangement:
First, entitles that have "sincerely held religious beliefs" against providing contraceptives would no longer be required to do so. The second rule extends the same provision to organizations and small businesses that have objections "on the basis of moral conviction which is not based in any particular religious belief."
The latest announcement builds upon an executive order in May claiming "to protect and vigorously promote religious liberty" by providing "regulatory relief" for organizations that object on religious grounds to Obamacare coverage requirements for certain health services, including contraception.
This is about conscience, not contraception, which remains readily and inexpensively available. But the outage from the left was immediate and in future months this move will inevitably be portrayed as a threat to women who want contraception. Hot Air responds succinctly to this bogus charge:
This is flat-out nonsense. Birth control is generally quite inexpensive; the Pill’s average cost is between $20 and $50 a month without insurance coverage. For low-income women, the government provides subsidized birth control through Title X family planning, for which Congress provided over $286 million in 2017 — the same level of funding as the three previous years under the HHS contraception mandate. No one’s trading the house payment or the electric service for the Pill.
More to the point, the HHS contraception mandate was a political solution in vain search of an actual problem. There was no access issue to birth control before 2012. The CDC’s 28-year longitudinal study (1980-2008) on unwanted pregnancies list a number of reasons given by women, but a lack of access to birth control doesn’t even get a mention. Before the HHS contraception mandate, most insurers covered it, some with co-pays and some without. Those employers who objected to that coverage didn’t provide it, and women had the choice to seek employment elsewhere or to pay for it themselves — and no one had any trouble finding it.
When religious organizations opposed the contraception mandate, the Obama administration proposed a "solution" that seemed as if it was trying to bring the organizations to heel by getting some kind of moral concession from them: the Little Sisters of the Poor, for example, were informed that the only way they could get out of paying for contraception coverage was to formally request that somebody else provide it. What, the nuns wondered, is the moral difference between providing something and formally requesting somebody else to provide it?
Our government should never force us to violate or religious or moral views. This move gives more leeway to those who have moral objections to contraception or abortafacients.
But this is far from over. Supporters of the HHS mandate are gearing up for a fight.