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Obama admin. easing contraception mandate in health law
But some pro-life groups still unhappy
Under the new rule, religious organizations with group health plans must self-certify that they object to the mandate. The insurer would then provide enrollees with no-cost contraceptive coverage through a separate individual health insurance policy, according to HHS.
For organizations that “self-insure” and claimed the original rule was unworkable for them, a third-party administrator “would work with an insurer to arrange no-cost contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies.”
Pro-choice groups immediately hailed the news of the revised mandate, but the nation’s Catholic bishops took a far more guarded view and one pro-life priests’ group said the compromise was still unacceptable.
“This policy makes it clear that your boss does not get to decide whether you can have birth control,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America said in a statement, while the progressive Catholics United said the new language was one both sides should be able to rally around.
But the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops would only say that it was still studying what the HHS was proposing and would comment later.
And Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, which filed one of the lawsuits challenging the original mandate, said his group’s objections “to contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs aren’t based just on dogmas and Bibles, but on adverse health consequences and the fact that human beings, no matter how small, should not be killed.”
“We see only one acceptable change regarding the mandate: rescind it completely,” Fr. Pavone said.
Federal health officials are also attempting to clarify the definition of a “religious employer,” beyond just houses of worship, that are exempt from the mandate by aligning it with a standard definition used in the Internal Revenue Service’s tax codes. Among those challenging the mandate were Catholic University of America, Notre Dame, the Eternal Word Television Network and Houston Baptist University.
HHS officials gave no indication that they would be providing an accommodation to corporate owners who opposed the mandate, nor would they comment on pending lawsuits.
U.S. circuit courts have been divided on whether the mandate violates a corporate owner’s religious freedoms, signaling the issue may be headed for the Supreme Court. So far, nine out of 15 federal courts have given companies a temporary reprieve from the mandate’s penalties.
Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., an Oklahoma City-based arts-and-crafts franchise with more than 500 stores in 41 states, made headlines this month when it found a way to duck the mandate’s penalties by delaying its insurance year by several months.
Religious nonprofits find themselves somewhere in between their corporate counterparts and actual churches.
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About the Author
Tom Howell Jr. covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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