The White House is expected to announce, later today, an “adjustment” — but not a “compromise” of the controversial mandate it instituted to force religious employers to cover birth control and abortion-causing drugs for their employees.
Reports indicate Obama himself may announce the change, though it may not be acceptable to pro-life groups and Catholic organizations that have been so heavily lobbying against it.
“The move, based on state models, will almost certainly not satisfy bishops and other religious leaders since it will preserve the goal of women employees having their birth control fully covered by health insurance,” according to ABC News. “White House officials have discussed the state law in Hawaii, where religious groups are allowed to opt out of coverage that includes birth control, as long as employees are given information whether such coverage can be obtained. But this accommodation would not go that far.”
“But what the White House will likely announce later today is that the relationship between the religious employer and the insurance company will not need to have any component involving contraception. The insurance company will reach out on its own to the women employees. This is better for both sides, the source says, since the religious organizations do not have to deal with medical care to which they object, and women employees will not have to be dependent upon an organization hostile to that care in order to obtain it,” ABC indicated.
USA today indicates a White House official “bristled at the suggestion that the new plan was a compromise.”
“We’re sticking to principle in terms of guaranteeing free contraceptive coverage for women,” said the official.
The compromise under consideration by Obama officials reportedly involves applying Hawaii’s contraception mandate at the federal level — a mandate where employees at religious institutions that do not offer birth control and drugs like Plan B or ella can receive it through side benefits not offered by their employer. Employees pay an additional fee but often end up getting the coverage at no cost.
But Richard Doerflinger, the leading pro-life spokesman for the United States Council of Catholic Bishops, has already said the Hawaii model is even worse than the current policy the Obama administration put in place.
Doerflinger tells the Weekly Standard the Hawaii model “may be worse” because it would still have Catholic and other religious employers sending women for coverage for drugs that violate their moral beliefs.
He writes: “It’s difficult to know what people may mean by the “Hawaii compromise.” But a central feature of the Hawaii law is that every religious organization that is eligible for the exemption has to instruct all employees in how they can access all methods of contraception and sterilization locally “in an expeditious manner.”
“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.” The Administration’s press release of January 20 hinted at such a requirement,” Doerflinger continued. “That would not be a compromise. In some ways it would be worse.”
According to the Wall St. Journal details of the compromise haven’t been released but “one person familiar with it said it will make sure religious institutions don’t have to pay for contraceptives coverage for employees but that insurance companies do. The new mandate will come from the Department of Health and Human Services.”
Doerflinger talked with the National Catholic Register as well and added, “I’ve reviewed the Hawaii law, and it’s not much of a compromise. The Hawaii contraceptive mandate has many of the same features as the new federal mandate.”
He told the Catholic paper, the Hawaii bill “covers all FDA-approved ‘contraceptives’ (including drugs that can cause an abortion); and the religious exemption is very narrow (though it does not include the requirement that the religious organization serve only people of its own faith to be eligible). It adds an extra feature — the requirement that any religious organization that is exempt must still tell all enrollees how they may directly access contraceptive services and supplies in an expeditious manner.”
The announcement of a change in policy came after Vice President Joe Biden said late Thursday a change was coming.
“I am determined to see that this gets worked out, and I believe we can work it out,” the vice president said. “But the frustration…is real. …As a practicing Catholic, I am of the view that this can be worked out and should be worked out. I know the president feels the same way.”
Meanwhile, the Republican presidential candidates have been taking verbal swings at Obama for imposing the mandate on religious employers, which is not popular in the latest public opinion poll and which even some Democrats oppose.
Congressman Steve Scalise has led a bipartisan letter with 154 co-signers calling on the Obama Administration to reverse its unconstitutional mandate forcing religious organizations to include drugs that can cause abortion and birth control in the health care plans of their employees.
Bishops across the country have spoken out against the mandate and are considering a lawsuit against it — with bishops in more than 164 locations across the United States issuing public statements against it or having letters opposing it printed in diocesan newspaper or read from the pulpit.
“We cannot — we will not comply with this unjust law,” said the letter from Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix. “People of faith cannot be made second-class citizens.”
Responding to the announcement, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated: “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”
“To force Americans to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable. . . It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom,” he added.
The mandate is so egregious that even the normally reliably liberal and pro-abortion USA Today condemned it in an editorial titled, “Contraception mandate violates religious freedom.”
The administration initially approved a recommendation from the Institute of Medicine suggesting that it force insurance companies to pay for birth control and drugs that can cause abortions under the Obamacare government-run health care program.
The IOM recommendation, opposed by pro-life groups, called for the Obama administration to require insurance programs to include birth control — such as the morning after pill or the ella drug that causes an abortion days after conception — in the section of drugs and services insurance plans must cover under “preventative care.” The companies will likely pass the added costs on to consumers, requiring them to pay for birth control and, in some instances, drug-induced abortions of unborn children in their earliest days.
The HHS accepted the IOM guidelines that “require new health insurance plans to cover women’s preventive services” and those services include “FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling” — which include birth control drugs like Plan B and ella that can cause abortions. The Health and Human Services Department commissioned the report from the Institute, which advises the federal government and shut out pro-life groups in meetings leading up to the recommendations.