“Application of the mandate to entities with sincerely held religious objections to it does not serve a compelling governmental interest.”
President Donald Trump’s administration has decided to roll back a portion of Obamacare that mandates a private company must include birth control coverage in health insurance plans.
From The Washington Examiner:
The new rules allow any employer to be exempt from the mandate “based on its sincerely held religious beliefs” or on “moral convictions.” Employers who decide not to provide coverage do not need to inform the federal government but would need to tell their employees about their decision.
The rule change was intended to provide “relief to those who have been under the thumb of the federal government and had their religious freedom violated” and end “attacks on religious liberty and protects religious freedom for everyone,” Roger Severino, director for the Office of Civil Rights at HHS, said in a phone call.
The new rule says, “Application of the mandate to entities with sincerely held religious objections to it does not serve a compelling governmental interest.”
Publicly traded companies may also “claim an exemption if they state religious objections.” But Health and Human Services explained that if the companies do this, then it “would still have to let a third party cover contraception.”
From Fox News:
“Of the 165 million women in the U.S., HHS estimates these rules affect at most 120,000, leaving more than 99.9 percent of women without any impact,” an HHS official told Fox News.
An official noted the administration anticipates the groups taking advantage of the change would be those involved in legal battles pertaining to the mandate.
“There are about 200 entities that have participated in lawsuits because of the contraceptive rule, and those entities will benefit from this rule,” a senior HHS official said.
A senior HHS official said there have been more than 50 lawsuits filed against the mandate, and the new rule would provide “relief.”
Little Sisters of the Poor have been one group that has received a lot of attention since the start of the mandate. The Supreme Court gave the nuns a victory in May 2016 after the justices unanimously vacated “the lower court cases and required them to reconsider the claims brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor and others that the regulations promulgated pursuant to Obamacare violate their religious exercise in light of the government’s admission that it could indeed provide contraceptive coverage without the Little Sisters’ collaboration.”
In March 2016, justices voiced their belief that Obamacare forcing companies to cover birth control or drugs that cause abortions “violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because it allowed the government to ‘hijack’ the insurance plans of the religious groups that are the petitioners in the case.”
The attorney for Little Sisters of the Poor praised the new rule. From LifeSite:
“HHS has issued a balanced rule that respects all sides– it keeps the contraceptive mandate in place for most employers and now provides a religious exemption,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket and lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor. “The Little Sisters still need to get final relief in court, which should be easy now that the government admits it broke the law.”
The new rules, which are nearly 300 pages in total, prevent the Little Sisters of the Poor and other conscientious objectors from litigation.
Father Frank Pavone, the National Director of Priests for Life, released a statement that expressed happiness that Trump is keeping his promises on religious freedom:
“Priests for Life has been informed by senior administration officials that Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be issuing guidance today that will grant Priests for Life and other faith-based employers the same exemption to the HHS contraception mandate that is given to churches. This is what we have sought all along, and is the outcome we were hoping for when we took our case, Zubik vs. Burwell, to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The attorney general also will be issuing guidance on the Johnson Amendment, specifying that it shall not be used against churches and pastors in a discriminatory way to silence them on political matters.
“This is a great day for religious liberty. The attorney general’s guidance reinforces President Trump’s commitment to religious freedom. The president has made promises in this regard, and today he is delivering on those promises.”
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