HHS Issues Final Birth Control Mandate Rules

birth controlCommentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

The Obama Administration chose a Friday afternoon in the summer – the day when damaging news is least likely to gain public scrutiny – to reveal its final rules for the controversial birth control mandate which once again fail to protect the faithful from being forced to provide objectionable healthcare services to their employees.

Catholic World News is reporting on the final rules which were supposedly tweaked in response to a barrage of law suits from religious organizations opposed to being forced to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives and abortifacients to their employees.

“Women across the country should have access to preventive services, including contraception,” said Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell. “… At the same time, we recognize the deeply held views on these issues, and we are committed to securing women’s access to important preventive services at no additional cost under the Affordable Care Act, while respecting religious beliefs.”

Unfortunately, she didn’t back up her comments with a real fix. Instead, the Administration issued final rules that offer nothing more than the same old accounting gimmicks to religious institutions.

For instance, under the new rules, instead of requiring an objecting religious employer to opt out by sending a notice to the insurance carrier, they are now required to send a notice to the HHS instead. This does nothing to quell the objections of religious employers because by forcing them to make this notification, they are essentially asking them to arrange for the objectionable coverage.

Even more disturbing is a new stipulation added to the final rules which limits the ability of privately-owned corporations to opt out by only allowing only those held by no more than five owners and not traded on public exchanges to qualify. This is in direct defiance to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the case involving Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties who were given relief from having to pay crippling fines for refusing to provide coverage for abortifacients to their employees.

It seems incredible that the Administration would persist in this drive to provide contraception, abortifacient and sterilization services to women in light of its overwhelming losses in almost every case brought against this aspect of the controversial Affordable Care Act.

“Ignoring a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and dozens of court injunctions, the Obama administration is pressing forward with a mandate that forces family businesses and non-profits to either violate their deeply held moral beliefs or pay crippling fines of up to $100 per day, per employee,” says Jamie Dangers, Legislative Assistant at the Family Research Council. “After last year’s Supreme Court ruling, millions of Americans expressed relief that the HHS mandate would no longer threaten their jobs, livelihood and healthcare simply for following their moral beliefs. Today, the administration is telling Americans: comply or be severely punished.”

Kathy Schiffer, a blogger at Patheos, also questions why the Obama Administration is so determined to help women afford birth control pills that cost anywhere from $15 to $50 a month. If they want to help people afford critical medical services, why not help them with physically and financially debilitating illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes whose drugs can cost hundreds of dollars per month?

“Isn’t protection against life-threatening diseases more important than the promise of uninhibited sex with no risk of conception? Apparently not, since there has been no government initiative to assist patients with heart disease or diabetes to pay for their life-saving medications.”

It’s obvious that this oppressive rule is driven by ideology, not concern for providing affordable health care to Americans.

“Crushing federal mandates of this kind don’t belong in a free country,” concluded Dangers. “The Constitution does not give the government the right to impose a law on Americans forcing them to violate their beliefs in order to hold a job, own a business, or purchase health insurance. It’s time that the Obama administration recognize reality and withdraw this mandate which will have crippling consequences for businesses and families.”

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