After significant Sturm und Drang resulting from a Friday announcement by President Barack Obama that he would revise his original mandate forcing religious employers to pay for insurance coverage including birth control and abortion-inducing drugs, the Obama administration has implemented the original mandate.
Writing at National Review, Ed Haislmaier and Jennifer A. Marshall indicated Obama officials put the original mandate in place late Friday despite a massive debate over the revisions Obama announced earlier in the day.
“Despite what President Obama said at his White House press conference, the actual regulations make permanent the “interim final regulations” issued August 3, 2011 — the ones that sparked the furor in the first place,” they note. “Prefaced by 17 pages of the kind of rhetorical squid ink that President Obama defensively deployed at his press conference, the words that have the force of law appear on pages 18 to 20. That’s where the actual amendments to the Code of Federal Regulations are made by three departments — Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services — that Congress previously granted joint oversight of employer health plans.”
The language of the mandate as published in the federal Register reads: “Accordingly, the amendment to the interim final rule with comment period amending 45 CFR 147.130(a)(1)(iv) which was published in the Federal Register at 76 FR 46621-46626 on August 3, 2011, is adopted as a final rule without change.”
The conservative writers continue: “Translation: The Obama administration Friday afternoon put into federal law the very regulation that drew objections from almost 200 Catholic bishops, some 50 religiously affiliated colleges and universities, 65 North American bishops of Orthodox churches, numerous other Jewish, Evangelical and Lutheran leaders, and even some liberals — and without changing so much as a comma.”
Not only did the Obama administration put the original mandate into law as opposed to the revisions, “From this point forward, any changes to this regulation have to go through the formal regulatory process all over again.”
Now, the Obama administration promises to put the revised mandate — which is no more acceptable to Catholics and pro-life groups than the original one — in place. The new published rules say the Obama administration plans to put the revised rule in place, but Haislmaier and Marshall say that’s merely a promise.
“Thus, instead of delaying final regulations until they could be revised to reflect the prospective changes President Obama outlined Friday, the administration went ahead and locked into regulation its original position, accompanied by a (non-binding) promise to revisit the issue,” they noted. [related]
The nation’s Catholic bishops noticed the administration published the new rule in a new document they produced today responding to the revised one.
“The rule that created the uproar has not changed at all, but was finalized as is,” they write. “Friday evening, after a day of touting meaningful changes in the mandate, HHS issued a regulation finalizing the rule first issued in August 2011, “without change.” So religious employers dedicated to serving people of other faiths are still not exempt as “religious employers.” Indeed, the rule describes them as “non-exempt.”
Meanwhile, the Republican presidential candidates had been taking verbal swings at Obama for imposing the original 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 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 original 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.”
The original mandate was 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.