The Administration has announced yet another set of new rules for the HHS abortion/contraception mandate, affecting religious non-profits (the so-called “accommodation” class) and closely-held for-profit corporations (e.g, Hobby Lobby).
Remember that under the most recent version of the oft-amended rules, religious non-profits that wanted to take advantage of the accommodation had to file a document (“Form 700″) with their insurer. This document stated their objections to the coverage, and was the trigger for the insurance company to offer the benefits to the employees. The objection was that Form 700 was tantamount to signing a permission slip for immorality, and being required to fill it out was therefore a violation of religious and free speech rights.
In these new rules, the Administration adopted the approach previously granted by the Supreme Court to the Little Sisters of the Poor and Wheaton College. Now, to qualify for the accommodation, the religious non-profits can file a statement of objection with the government. The government will then contact the insurance company and make arrangements for the coverage to be offered to the employees.
It’s not clear whether this will be sufficient to protect the rights of the religious non-profits like the Little Sisters, Catholic Charities, and Christian colleges. Their insurance plans will still be required to cover abortion-causing drugs and other offensive services (e.g., sterilization). There is also still the issue of self-insured entities, which will be directly paying for immoral things. There’s also a concern about whether the insurance companies will be passing on the costs to the employers so that they will still be paying for the offensive services. We also have no way of knowing how the courts will view this new development — will the non-profits start losing cases now that the Administration has come this far? We’ll have to wait for USCCB and other attorneys to analyze the new rules in detail.
It appears also that closely-held for-profit businesses with religious objections (e.g., Hobby Lobby), will also be able to take advantage of the same procedure as the religious non-profits, and thus qualify for the accommodation. This was in response to the Supreme Court’s decision on the Hobby Lobby/Conestoga case. The rules aren’t specific on which corporations will be given this protection, so it remains to be seen how broadly their religious liberty rights will be respected.
This is yet another step in the Administration’s on-going campaign to normalize contraception and abortion as being essential to women’s health, and a standard part of health insurance policies. It is also yet another example of their deafness to the objections of religious entities and people, who do not wish to be forced to violate their beliefs.
The real solution to this problem is for the Administration to permit anyone with conscientious objections to be exempted entirely from the abortion/contraception mandate. That doesn’t seem possible, given their deep commitment to a Culture of Death ideology, under which fertility is a curse, new life is the enemy, and religious believers are in the way.