The Trump administration is poised to fulfill a long-awaited promise to many Americans by reversing Obamacare’s mandate that requires most employers to provide free contraception to their workers through health insurance plans, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports.
According to the report:
Federal health officials are expected to finalize a regulation that would allow employers with religious or moral objections to birth control to omit coverage for contraception from their workers’ plans, according to two people familiar with its contents. The regulation closely mirrors an earlier, leaked draft, they said.
Such a rule would protect a larger group of employers from the contraception mandate than the “closely held” private companies – such as Hobby Lobby – which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled could be exempt due to religious objections.
The mandate was inserted into Obamacare by the former Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary Kathleen Sebelius – an abortion activist – and bureaucrats in her department. Following objections by many religious employers to the requirements of the mandate, the Obama administration devised “accommodations” that only gave the appearance the religious groups would not be either footing the bill for, or passively approving of, the federal government’s mandate of the offensive contraceptive drugs and sterilization procedures.
Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards has touted that, with Obamacare and the HHS mandate, 55 million women in the United States are receiving free birth control.
“We applaud the Trump administration for rolling back the contraception mandate,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America. “No person or group should be forced to pay for something that goes against their religious or moral beliefs by bureaucrats in Washington, especially drugs that have been proven to harm women and potentially end the life of an early human being.”
The anticipated rule “would go a very long way to restoring religious freedom and conscience rights,” said Hillary Byrnes, assistant general counsel at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, according to the WSJ.
“We’ve been dealing with this mandate for over six years now,” she added. “A lot of people thought the administration would do something pretty quickly, yet here we are in August.”
Abortion proponents, however, say they plan to sue the Trump administration once the rule is announced, with the claim that the rule would allow the religious beliefs of employers to be unfairly imposed on their workers.
“We are preparing various different legal theories to fight the rule very quickly,” said Mara Gandal-Powers, senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center. “We think we have a really strong claim.”
In February, a prior draft copy of a rule from HHS was leaked to leftwing media the Nation, which described it as “creat[ing] wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity.”
Following reported objections by progressive groups, a second draft of the rule was then released in May.
Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said an expected rule to reverse the HHS mandate was “very welcome news” after having “spent the last five years in federal courts” defending his organization against it.
“For far too long, government has been trying to confine faith to the four walls of houses of worship,” Pavone said. “I’m confident that President Trump’s order will reinforce the Constitution’s guarantee that our religious beliefs are to be protected, not attacked.”
During his presidential campaign, Trump had promised faith leaders and employers relief from the Obamacare mandate.
In a letter to the Catholic Leadership Conference last October, Trump told Catholic leaders prior to the November election that Hillary Clinton’s support for the HHS mandate “is a hostility to religious liberty you will never see in a Trump Administration.”
On life, I am, and will remain, pro-life. I will defend your religious liberties and the right to fully and freely practice your religion, as individuals, business owners and academic institutions. I will make absolutely certain religious orders like The Little Sisters of Poor are not bullied by the federal government because of their religious beliefs.
In May of 2016, the Supreme Court unanimously decided to send back the case of the Little Sisters to the lower courts, in effect ordering the government not to fine the Sisters either for noncompliance with the HHS mandate and for not notifying the government that the mandate is in conflict with their beliefs.
In early May of this year, Trump invited the Little Sisters on stage with him at his first National Day of Prayer event at the White House.
“I want you to know that your long ordeal will soon be over,” Trump promised the Sisters.
The Obama administration demonstrated marked inconsistency with regard to exemptions from the HHS mandate. While it fiercely fought against an exemption for religious charities such as the Little Sisters, Obama’s deputies nevertheless exempted health insurance plans for big corporations – such as Chevron, Exxon, Visa, and Pepsi Bottling – from the mandate.
Similarly, New York City, and other large cities were given exemptions from the HHS mandate, as was the U.S. military.