WASHINGTON – In a press release Friday, the United States Department of Health and Human Services announced that the Trump administration will be amending executive department rules in order to allow for moral and religion based exceptions to the contraceptive mandate.
“The regulations are good news for the Little Sisters of the Poor, who serve in Minnesota, and, indeed, all Americans,” said Minnesota Catholic Conference Executive Director Jason Adkins. “A government mandate that coerces people to make an impossible choice between obeying their consciences and obeying the call to serve the poor is harmful not only to Catholics but to the common good. Religious freedom is a fundamental right for all, so when it is threatened for some, it is threatened for all.”
The mandate, instituted under former President Barack Obama’s signature piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act, required employers to provide their employees with health care plans that included contraceptive coverage. This was done without regard to any religious objections business owners may have with regard to the use of contraceptives.
Now the Department of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with the Departments of Labor and Treasury, has instituted two new rules designed to accommodate such persons’ rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
“The regulations exempt entities only from providing an otherwise mandated item to which they object on the basis of their religious beliefs or moral conviction,” reads the press release. “The regulation leaves in place preventive services coverage guidelines where no religious or moral objection exists.”
Health and Human Services estimates that this sort of exception might apply to as little as 200 entities, roughly the number of companies and other organizations which filed a lawsuit based on religious or moral principle against the Obama administration over the contraceptive mandate. Therefore the Trump administration believes that any changes in health care for employees of those organizations would affect less than one-tenth of one percent of women in America.
This exception would cover all forms of birth control. Importantly for pro-life advocates, that includes emergency contraceptives which act as abortifacients. Sterilization procedures would also be a valid subject to exercise an exception under these rules.
“The Trump Administration’s decision to provide a broad religious and moral exemption to the HHS mandate is no innovation, but instead a return to common sense, long-standing federal practice, and a more peaceful coexistence between church and state,” Adkins said. “It corrects an anomalous failure by federal regulators that should never have occurred and should never be repeated.”