The Obama administration's announcement on the “preventive services mandate” fails to adequately address the rule’s massive violation of religious conscience.
In August 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule requiring virtually all entities providing group health insurance to include “FDA-approved contraceptives” in their plans. That includes drugs and devices that can cause abortion, including ella and Plan B. The mandate had an extraordinarily small religious exemption that left religious hospitals, colleges, and social service agencies subject to the rule. Of course, many religious organizations believe that abortion is a moral evil, and the Roman Catholic Church has similar views about contraception.
After a tremendous and bipartisan backlash, the White House announced on Feb. 10 a modification to the mandate. Instead of forcing employers to list contraceptives and abortifacients as benefits, the modified rule will force the employer’s insurer to provide those morally problematic items to employees without cost to the employee. This is simply an accounting gimmick rather than a substantive amelioration of the moral problem. The bottom line remains the same: employees will be given abortifacients and contraceptives as a direct consequence of their employer’s purchase of a group health plan. The employee is not negotiating a truly independent insurance contract with the insurer. And the insurance company will certainly consider the cost of the contraceptives and abortifacients it provides to employees “without cost” when setting the premium it charges the employer. The employer will end up paying for contraceptives and abortifacients, in violation of its conscience.
The administration’s announcement also fails to consider the plight of employers that self-insure. It contemplates that “insurance companies” rather than employers will pay for morally problematic drugs and devices. What if the employer is, in a functional sense, the insurer as well? Will the new rule force pro-life employer-insurers to pay for abortifacients? Will the new rule force Roman Catholic employer-insurers to pay for birth control, in clear violation of Catholic doctrine? The answer seems to be yes. After all, who else is going to pay? The whole point of the mandate is to force a third party to pay for contraceptives and abortifacients so that the users of these drugs and devices don’t have to.
And this alleged “compromise” does not even purport to do anything for employers that conscientiously object to contraceptives and abortifacients but that are deemed by the government to be “non-religious” organizations. Many for-profit “secular” employers are understandably unwilling to underwrite the destruction of human life caused by abortifacients like ella. Today’s announcement does nothing for such employers.
This post originally appeared here.