Contraception Mandate Still Controversial
Special Report - August 28, 2012
The controversy surrounding the Obama Administration’s continued attempts to force even religious employers to pay for free access to objectionable services, such as abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception, continues to grow with the beginning of implementation this month. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) issued a slightly amended bulletin on August 15 in an attempt to address some of the concerns raised by various groups. At least two additional lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the mandate were also filed this month.
The DHHS bulletin is a slightly amended version of one issued in February. It seeks to clarify “three points: (1) that the safe harbor [exemption for religious employers] is also available to non-profit organizations with religious objections to some but not all contraceptive coverage, as clarified herein; (2) that group health plans that took some action to try to exclude or limit contraceptive coverage that was not successful as of February 10, 2012, are not for that reason precluded from eligibility for the safe harbor, as clarified herein; and (3) that the safe harbor may be invoked without prejudice by non-profit organizations that are uncertain whether they qualify for the religious employer exemption, as clarified herein.” The bulletin clarifies that a “temporary enforcement safe harbor” is “available to non-exempted, non-grandfathered group health plans established or maintained by non-profit organizations whose plans have consistently not covered all or the same subset of contraceptive services for religious reasons at any point from the original issuance date of this bulletin (i.e., February 10, 2012).”
However, the safe harbor represents little more than a delay, in that non-profit employers that do not qualify as a strictly religious entity as defined by DHHS, must include the controversial coverage by August 2013 (or the policy year that begins after that date). The mandate only includes an exemption for groups that meet its narrow definition of a “religious institution,” such as churches, “whose purpose is to instill religious values and that employ and serve only individuals of their same faith.” This has raised widespread concern that other religious organizations, such as universities, colleges, hospitals, and service charities, will not qualify for the exemption, and will then face the choice of providing coverage to which they object or pay a $100 fine per day per employee.
Two evangelical Christian Colleges, Grace College and Seminary in Indiana and Biola University in California, filed a lawsuit August 23 challenging the mandate. The colleges are represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which has already filed three other lawsuits against the mandate on behalf of two colleges and two businesses in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Colorado. “This mandate leaves religious employers with no real choice: you must either comply and abandon your religious freedom and conscience, or resist and be taxed for your faith,” said ADF senior counsel Gregory S. Baylor in a press release. “Every American should know that a government with the power to do this to anyone can do thisand worseto everyone.”
A total of at least 56 plaintiffs have filed at least 23 cases against the Administration regarding this controversial mandate. At least four of those include Catholic business owners in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Michigan, who say the mandate violates their consciences.
Bishops Urge Action On Mandate - July 31, 2012
Belmont Mandate Lawsuit Dismissed - July 23, 2012
More Oppose Contraceptive Mandate - June 19, 2012
43 Catholic Groups Challenge Mandate - May 23, 2012
HHS Rule Requires Abortion Mandate - March 20, 2012
Majority Oppose Contraceptive Mandate - March 16, 2012
Seven States Challenge Contraceptive Mandate - February 27, 2012
Insurance "Accommodation" Unsatisfactory - February 15, 2012
Religious Leaders Oppose Mandate - January 31, 2012
Feds Keep Contraceptive Mandate - January 23, 2012
Evangelical College Joins Contraceptive Challenge - December 29, 2011
College Challenges Contraceptive Mandate - November 14, 2011
Administration Requires Free Contraception- August 4, 2011
Becket Fund Defends Belmont Abbey - October 12, 2009
Federal Agency Mandates Abortion Coverage - August 17, 2009
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