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by Steven Ertelt | LifeNews.com | 2/10/12 12:55 PM
The Obama administration has revised its controversial mandate that had forced religious employers to pay for health insurance coverage that includes birth control and drugs like Plan B, the morning after pill, and ella that can cause abortions.
Responding to a firestorm of opposition from pro-life organizations, Catholics groups and even some Democrats, the Obama administration has revised the mandate in a way that pro-life advocates are saying is even worse.
The revised Obama mandate will make religious groups contract with insurers to offer birth control and the potentially abortion-causing drugs to women at no cost. The revised mandate will have religious employers refer women to their insurance company for coverage that still violates their moral and religious beliefs. Under this plan, every insurance company will be obligated to provide coverage at no cost.
Essentially, religious groups will still be mandated to offer plans that cover both birth control and the ella abortion drug
According to Obama administration officials on a conference call this morning, a woman’s insurance company “will be required to reach out directly and offer her contraceptive care free of charge. The religious institutions will not have to pay for it.”
The birth control and abortion-causing drugs will simply be “part of the bundle of services that all insurance companies are required to offer,” White House officials said.
“We are actually more comfortable having the insurance industry offer and market this to women than religious institutions,” the White House said on the conference call LifeNews listened to because they “understand how contraception works” and it “makes sense financially.”
The policy will have insurance companies create a policy not including birth control and early abortion drug coverage in the contract for religious employers who don’t want it but the company must also simultaneously offer that coverage to all employees without charging any additional premiums. The Obama administration believe this will save health insurance companies money by preventing pregnancies that may otherwise require the company to pay out additional money to beneficiaries.
The new rule will be published as soon as possible and go into effect August 1, 2012 — thus removing the one-year grace period religious employers had previously because it supposedly would not adversely affect them.
One top pro-life source on Capitol Hill told LifeNews.com the revised mandate is “a distinction without a difference.”
“The services the religious organization opposes won’t be listed in the contract, but the insurance companies will give it to the employees anyway,” the pro-life source informed LifeNews. “Insurance companies will justify providing the coverage that the religious charity opposes by swearing that birth control coverage doesn’t actually cost anything because it’s cheaper than pregnancy services, so it’s just a free perk. The administration will argue that people of faith should be fine with this arrangement, because they can tell their conscience that they aren’t really paying for the objectionable coverage and they didn’t really sign up for it anyway.”
Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan told LifeNews in response to the revised mandate that it violates the right to religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment to the 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,” he said. “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.”
“The liberal Obama administration thinks its political goals trump the religious faith of American citizens. That isn’t right, fair, or constitutional,” he said.
Al Kresta, who hosts a syndicated Catholic talk show, says the revised mandate is not something pro-life advocates can support.
“Our bishops have made clear that we cannot, we will not, comply. And this so-called accommodation sounds a hollow gesture. 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,” he said.
Even mainstream media outlets realize the “compromise” will not be taken as a good one by pro-life advocates.
“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,” ABC News indicates. “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.
Richard Doerflinger, the leading pro-life spokesman for the United States Council of Catholic Bishops, has already said something like this revised mandate is not acceptable because it would still have Catholic and other religious employers sending women for coverage for drugs that violate their moral beliefs.
“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.”
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.