WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - Trump is poised to axe the controversial Obamacare HHS Contraceptive Mandate, a rule that has forced employers to provide contraceptives and abortifacients to their workers.
Based on the leaked document, The Wall Street Journal on Thursday reported, "Federal health officials are expected to finalize a regulation that would allow employers with religious or moral objections ... to omit coverage."
The new policy will allow not only religiously affiliated hospitals, schools and businesses to opt out of providing contraceptives, but also any employer with religious or moral objections to the contraceptive mandate within the Affordable Care Act.
The new policy from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will also end the Obama-era accommodation devised in 2015, which used healthcare plans of faith-based companies, who had opted-out of the mandate, to continue providing contraception coverage for workers of such companies. That 2015 revision of the HHS mandate was crafted under Obama as a response to Hobby Lobby's Supreme Court victory in 2014, freeing the faith-based company from providing insurance coverage for contraceptives to their employees.
Broadening the ability to opt-out of the so-called HHS contraception mandate will be welcomed by secular companies like Real Alternatives, a pro-life organization, who morally objected to providing abortifacient drugs and contraceptives to their employees. Earlier this month the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled that this and other secular groups cannot opt-out of Obamacare's contraceptive mandate based on sincerely-held moral values.
This decision lead one of the justices of the three-judge panel, Judge Kent A. Jordan, a George W. Bush appointee, to defend the pro-life plaintiff, saying sarcastically, "According to the government, the mandate has nothing to do with deep questions about the beginning of life or the boundaries of moral culpability or about faith and one's obligations to God."
Ending the 2015 Obama accommodation that uses the healthcare plans of faith-based companies to provide contraceptives when such companies opt-out of the mandate will be welcomed by religious orders such as the Little Sisters of the Poor. This policy was at the heart of their Supreme Court battle in 2016. The battle was continuing into 2017 with the DOJ asking for an extension in April to review the case before proceeding. The new HHS regulation is expected to nullify those proceedings.
The new policy will be welcomed by Cdl. Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Earlier this month, Cdl. DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston opined:
After meeting with President Trump in the Oval Office on May 4, I sat in the Rose Garden and listened as the president promised the Little Sisters of the Poor that their long ordeal with the government's contraceptive mandate would soon be over. Yet, here we are nearly three months later, and the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate still stands.
This policy comes in the wake of an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in May, which promised to respectfully accommodate religious freedom. When signing the order, President Trump had the Little Sisters of the Poor come forward to the podium. Addressing them he noted, "I want you to know that your long ordeal will soon be over. It's been a long, hard ordeal." He then promised, "We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore. And we will never, ever stand for religious discrimination. Never, ever."
This new regulation by the Trump administration is what's called an interim final rule, which means it will go into effect as soon as the final version is published.