In the wake of an uproar over the Obama administration’s new mandate that all employers offer health insurance covering contraception — including religious organizations — the White House offered an “accommodation” to religious groups whose belief systems conflict with the government rule. But according to some initially opposed to the mandate, the adjustment to the rules is not enough.
Louisiana Republican Rep. Steve Scalise, who led a bipartisan letter with 154 co-signers calling on the Obama administration to reverse the mandate, explained that the adjustment is merely a repackaging of the original rule and called upon the White House, again, to reverse course.
“It is extremely disappointing that President Obama continues to attack religious freedom by refusing to reverse the HHS ruling,” Scalise said.
“This latest mandate by President Obama is no compromise at all, and will continue to infringe on the religious freedom of individuals by forcing coverage of abortion-inducing drugs regardless of their own religious beliefs,” he added. “I am calling on the Obama Administration to completely reverse this mandate, not repackage it under a different name, because hard working American taxpayers will not stand by and let President Obama attack our religious freedoms and trample on the Bill of Rights by forcing the costs of abortion-inducing drugs to be passed on to all employers regardless of their faith.”
Under the new rules, religious organizations will not have to directly provide contraceptive services, but instead give the responsibility for free birth control directly to the insurance companies.
Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan said that Obama’s mandate still violates the U.S. Constitution.
“This Obamacare rule still tramples on Americans’ First Amendment right to freedom of religion. It’s a fig leaf, not a compromise. Whether they are affiliated with a church or not, employers will still be forced to pay an insurance company for coverage that includes abortion-inducing drugs,” said Jordan. “This is not just a problem for church-affiliated hospitals and charities. Under these rules, a small business owner with religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs and contraception must either violate his religious beliefs or violate the law.”
Richard Doerflinger, a top official at the United States Council of Catholic Bishops, told the Weekly Standard prior to the announcement that such a compromise “would be worse.”
“Just a few days ago the White House was saying that this is just about coverage, that no one has to be involved in getting people to the actual services they object to. It would be no improvement to say: ‘Sure, you don’t have to include the coverage, you just have to send all your lay employees and women religious to the local Planned Parenthood clinic,’ he wrote in an email. The Administration’s press release of January 20 hinted at such a requirement. That would not be a compromise. In some ways it would be worse.”
Al Kresta host of a syndicated Catholic radio show explained that Catholics still cannot support the mandate, even with the adjustment.
“Our bishops have made clear that we cannot, we will not, comply. And this so-called accommodation sounds a hollow gesture,” he said. “We call on the Catholic faithful and all who value freedom of conscience to continue the battle for true conscience protection for religious organization and individuals. Make no mistake, we are in a fight for the future of religious freedom in this country.”
Americans United for Life President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest added that the new pronouncement is a step backward.
“Once again, the Obama Administration is taking a step in the wrong direction. This new pronouncement turns Roe v. Wade on its head. In Roe, the courts said that abortion was a privacy right,” she said. “In this health care dictate, the Obama administration announces plans to invade the privacy of women by requiring insurance companies to inquire about their private choices and offer free drugs. And the administration announces that insurance companies will take on this burden at no cost to anyone. And it is incredibly naive to believe that this will not cost either women or their employers. Insurance companies will surely take the projected expenses of these efforts into account when pricing coverage.”
In 2008 Obama won the Catholic vote by a 54–46 margin.