The Obama administration announced on Friday a new proposal that will extend a mandate, already in place in ObamaCare, to require universities, including religious universities, to provide contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs to their students, as well as their employees, free of charge.
The White House issued a 32-page regulatory proposal on Friday that was couched in conciliatory tones as it offered alleged alternatives for providing contraceptives to women, free of charge, who are employees of religious organizations. The plan claims to contain options for carrying out the mandate without forcing insurers to bear the entire cost for contraception, or expecting religious institutions to share the cost for birth control products with insurance companies. For religious groups who sponsor self-insured plans, the administration suggests a third-party administrator of the group health plan, or another independent entity, to assume the responsibility of fulfilling the contraception mandate.
Regarding the extension of university students’ free coverage of contraception services, Planned Parenthood President, Cecile Richards said, “Covering birth control with no co-pays means college students will not have to choose between paying for tuition and books, or paying for basic health care like birth control.”
In response to the announcement, Sandra Fluke, the 30 year-old feminist activist who participated in a mock hearing headed by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, saidthat she welcomed the new rule, though she was disappointed that the policy provides for a one-year delay for religiously-affiliated schools prior to enacting mandatory free contraception coverage. Ms. Fluke admitted that she chose to attend Georgetown University, a university affiliated with the Catholic Church, in order to work to overturn its faith-based policy on contraception.
The White House has chosen to declare a 90-day period of public comment following the announcement of its new proposal. Subsequent to this 90-day comment period, the administration will issue another “rulemaking,” followed by yet another comment period, and then, ultimately, the final rule. Administration officials said that the final rules for “self-insured employers” would be issued after the November election.
An official who briefed the media, and who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said, “Our general principle is that we want to maintain the posture that a religious organization that objects to paying for contraception, won’t.”
But, “maintaining the posture” sounds like an Obama administration euphemism for “having the appearance for political purposes.”
Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), questioned the timing of the announcement- on late Friday evening before St. Patrick’s Day- and said the bishops will need to have time to study the proposal.
Sister Carol Keehan, head of the Catholic Health Association, who provided significant support for President Obama’s signature health care law, also indicated that she would review the plan.
However, an administration official stated that while the White House does not expect the bishops to endorse the plan, it is hopeful that religiously-affiliated hospitals and institutions will find the accommodation agreeable. It appears, from this statement, that the White House may be hoping to create a greater divide between the conservative Catholic leadership and the Catholic left, the latter of whom have realigned themselves with the Obama administration following the so-called “accommodation” to the original edict.
The fact that White House officials are anticipating that the Catholic bishops will not endorse the new proposal speaks volumes. This extension of the mandate will further fan the political firestorm surrounding the First Amendment issue of religious liberty. The White House continues its fervent and distorted investment in contraception as “preventive care” against the “disease” of pregnancy while it insists that all citizens pay for it. The ObamaCare doctrine of mandated worship at the altar of contraception and abortion is a theology all its own.