Obama's Last Word: HHS Mandate Is Final

On Friday, the Obama administration released its final word on the HHS Mandate, the ObamaCare regulation that requires all employers to provide free contraceptives, sterilization procedures, and abortion-inducing drugs to employees through healthcare insurance plans.

CNSNews.com reports that the final regulation “provides no accommodations at all for individual Catholics and other Christians who morally object to the mandate.”

In addition, the Obama administration’s last word on the matter makes no accommodations for private for-profit employers who morally object to the mandate. The regulation means that individuals will be forced to obtain coverage for sterilizations, contraceptives, and abortifacients, whether or not they want that coverage and even if it requires them to act against their religious or personal beliefs.

In response to the announcement, the Cardinal Newman Society released the following statement:

The Obama administration today issued the final rule implementing its mandate that most religious groups must provide insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception (including drugs that cause abortion). This includes many Catholic schools and nearly all Catholic colleges.

Our legal advisors believe that the rule gives no ground on the mandate, ignoring the pleas and demands of thousands of Catholic educators, bishops, priests, healthcare leaders, charity leaders and allies with a variety of religious beliefs.

As expected, the rule appears to implement the Administration’s promised false “accommodation,” which does not respect the religious freedom of religious employers, but simply pretends that coverage of sterilization, contraception and abortion will be paid by the insurance companies’ other clients instead of the religious organization. The mandate goes into effect for objecting religious organizations on January 1, 2014—when Catholics celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, whose own immaculate conception foreshadowed her miraculous conception and motherhood of God. What a terrible, terrible irony!

After years of false promises to heed the complaints and resolve the dozens of lawsuits—many of them filed by faithful Catholic colleges, including the very first suit—the Administration has finally chosen to stand firmly opposed to religious freedom and the dignity of human life. That direction has been apparent since President Obama’s notorious commencement address at the University of Notre Dame four years ago, when he basked in the honor of a major Catholic university even while standing firmly for the Culture of Death.

According to the rule, only churches themselves are exempt from the requirements, while church-run institutions and organizations that serve others, such as hospitals and schools, are not.

Religious institutions have until January 1, 2014 to comply with the regulations. The Department of Health and Human Services claims that insurers will not face additional costs for covering contraceptives, since it is the Obama administration’s belief that birth control will cut down on costs associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Insurers and pharmacists, however, have challenged that claim.

After a flood of complaints about the mandate from churches and religious groups, the Obama administration issued an “accommodation” which states that insurance issuers will be required to directly “provide payments for contraceptive services” purchased by women working for religious employers who oppose such products.

In addition, self-insured religious employers will work with a third party administrator, who, in the view of the Obama administration, will essentially act to provide “moral cover” to the religious employer by providing or arranging for free contraception and abortion drugs for employees.

The HHS mandate is the subject of 60 separate lawsuits by more than 200 plaintiffs across the nation, including dioceses of the Catholic Church, who have challenged it based on its denial of religious liberty as provided under the Constitution.

Perhaps ironically, on Friday a federal court in Oklahoma ordered the Obama administration not to enforce the HHS abortion drug mandate against Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a Christian-owned business. The ruling comes just one day after a 168-page opinion from the en banc 10th Circuit which recognized that business owners have religious liberty rights.

According to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby Stores, the decision on Friday marks the first time a federal court has ordered the government not to enforce the HHS abortion-drug mandate. The decision by the 10th circuit was the first definitive federal appellate ruling against the Obama administration’s mandate.

In a statement, Kyle Duncan, General Counsel with the Becket Fund, said, “Hobby Lobby and the Green family faced the terrible choice of violating their faith or paying the massive fines starting this Monday morning. We are delighted that the 10th Circuit and the district court have spared them from this unjust burden on their religious freedom.”


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