WASHINGTON — Faith-based organizations across the country continue to express objection to the abortion pill mandate in Obamacare after the Obama administration rolled out a new rule on Friday that shifts the burden of paying for abortion-inducing contraceptives onto insurance companies.
As previously reported, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision in June that the federal government cannot force closely-held companies to obey regulations which violate the owners’ religious beliefs. The ruling was a victory for the Christian owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, who objected to Obama’s abortion pill mandate on the basis of their religious beliefs. Hobby Lobby has been providing birth control coverage to employees for years, but took issue with four contraceptives that it considered to be abortifacients.
Other faith-based organizations, educational institutions and charities had likewise filed suit against the mandate, asserting that it violated their sincerely-held religious beliefs. Courts across the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court, suggested that the administration find another way to provide coverage without forcing religious institutions and businesses to pay for the drugs against their will.
On Friday, the Obama administration rolled out its new rules for non-profit entities, which were announced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The regulations now roll the requirement of paying for the contraceptives onto insurance companies nationwide.
“Under the interim final regulations, an eligible organization may notify the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in writing of its religious objection to contraception coverage,” it outlines. “HHS will then notify the insurer for an insured health plan, or the Department of Labor will notify the TPA for a self-insured plan, that the organization objects to providing contraception coverage and that the insurer or TPA is responsible for providing enrollees in the health plan separate no-cost payments for contraceptive services for as long as they remain enrolled in the health plan.”
The administration is currently accepting comments for a proposal to expand the accommodation to for-profit businesses. It is believed that if the proposal is approved, the mandate will again be shifted onto the insurance companies used by the businesses.
Arina Grossu, Director for the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, expressed opposition to the new rules on Friday, stating that they do nothing to rectify the objections outlined by faith-based entities.
“What remains an insulting accounting gimmick does not protect the rights of Americans with sincere conscientious objections,” she stated. “It is simply another clerical layer to an already existing accounting gimmick that does nothing to protect religious freedom because the employer still remains the legal gateway by which these drugs and services will be provided to their employees.”
“The government uses their contract as the basis to force their insurers to provide their employees with free contraception and drugs that can kill human embryos, against their sincere conscientious beliefs,” she continued. “[T]he government’s actions here still force family businesses to be complicit in what they view as morally wrong.”
The Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) agreed.
“The government should not force religious organizations, family businesses, or individuals to be complicit in providing abortion pills to their employees or students,” said Senior Legal Counsel Gregory S. Baylor. “We will consult with our clients to determine how the government’s actions affect their sincere objections to the mandate.”
“We will be studying the new rule with our clients,” added Mark Rienzi, senior legal counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented Hobby Lobby in court, “but if [the] announcement is just a different way for the government to hijack the health plans of religious ministries, it is unlikely to end the litigation.”