Mar 24

Or put bluntly, the government mandate to violate your conscience.

It’s as simple as that. No matter how much spin has been spun, and there has been much, it comes down to this.

Do Americans enjoy religious-liberty protections when they are at church, or do Americans enjoy religious-liberty protections when they are Americans?

That’s it. The Supreme Court hears oral arguments this week on that question.

Hobby Lobby is owned by a trust controlled by the Green family, observant Christians who make a point of carrying their faith into the marketplace, stocking Christian products and closing their stores on Sundays. They refuse to comply with parts of the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, specifically the provision of products that they regard as actual or potential abortifacients, including intrauterine devices and the so-called morning-after pill, both of which can function to prevent an embryo from implanting in the uterus and thus surviving. Whether these products are properly regarded as abortifacients is a matter of some controversy, but the relevant question is not a technical one about the mechanisms by which these drugs and devices prevent pregnancy. Federal law protects religious liberty with no proviso that matters of conscience must be argued to the satisfaction of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists before legal protections kick in.

Now here’s the money paragraph, the important explanation of the whole thing that helps understand what’s at stake in the claims to protection against government encroachment of religious freedom and conscience rights. Those claims are grounded in the Constitution and RFRA, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

While the issue is at heart a constitutional one, Hobby Lobby is not in this instance appealing to the First Amendment but rather to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was passed by a unanimous House, a near-unanimous Senate, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, and certified as constitutional as applied to the federal government in a 2006 Supreme Court decision. The act sets a high standard that the federal government must meet when it burdens the free exercise of religion and was enacted in response to court decisions that had narrowed First Amendment protections. It is intended to reinstate the “Sherbert test,” which holds that in a case in which the involved parties hold a sincere religious belief and the federal government places a substantial burden on the exercise of that belief, then the federal government must both prove a “compelling state interest” in burdening religious exercise and — perhaps most important in this case — demonstrate that it has sought to secure that compelling interest in the least restrictive fashion.

That’s a two-pronged test the government cannot possibly pass in imposing the HHS mandate.

While it is hardly obvious that there is a compelling state interest in subsidizing access to contraception, which is widely available and inexpensive (a woman who required an emergency dose of Plan B once a quarter would still spend more annually on toothpaste), it is entirely implausible that the least restrictive way of achieving that subsidy is a nationwide legal mandate for coverage of those products at no out-of-pocket expense by every employer in the country offering health insurance — and the federal government will penalize them if they don’t offer it.

So…

Whatever the federal government might have done differently, the express purpose of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is to prevent it from doing what it has done in the Affordable Care Act: ride roughshod over the free exercise of religion whenever doing so proves politically convenient.

The case is about more than the Green family and Hobby Lobby. There are in fact 94 related cases involving 300 plaintiffs representing nearly half the states, from Southern Baptists such as the Greens to Catholic nonprofits and Amish cabinetmakers. The objections to the ACA mandate are neither narrow nor sectarian.

Split decisions from the appellate courts all but guaranteed a Supreme Court hearing of the issue, which will begin tomorrow. The decision will be only incidentally about what kind of health insurance we have — it will be about what kind of country we have.

So here we go.

Whatever the federal government might have done differently, the express purpose of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is to prevent it from doing what it has done in the Affordable Care Act: ride roughshod over the free exercise of religion whenever doing so proves politically convenient.

The case is about more than the Green family and Hobby Lobby. There are in fact 94 related cases involving 300 plaintiffs representing nearly half the states, from Southern Baptists such as the Greens to Catholic nonprofits and Amish cabinetmakers. The objections to the ACA mandate are neither narrow nor sectarian.

Split decisions from the appellate courts all but guaranteed a Supreme Court hearing of the issue, which will begin tomorrow. The decision will be only incidentally about what kind of health insurance we have — it will be about what kind of country we have.

This is about that, and more.

The United States is one of the most religiously diverse nations on earth. People of a vast array of traditions of faith live here in a harmony that would have been unthinkable in most of the world for most of human history.

One of the ways America has fostered and protected this diversity is by nurturing a robust understanding of religious liberty that includes granting certain exemptions to people who need them in order to be true to their religious faith. Religious exemptions protect people in situations where legislative or executive acts might otherwise unnecessarily force them to violate their consciences…

The United States is one of the most religiously diverse nations on earth. People of a vast array of traditions of faith live here in a harmony that would have been unthinkable in most of the world for most of human history.

One of the ways America has fostered and protected this diversity is by nurturing a robust understanding of religious liberty that includes granting certain exemptions to people who need them in order to be true to their religious faith. Religious exemptions protect people in situations where legislative or executive acts might otherwise unnecessarily force them to violate their consciences.

In a free, representative republic, it’s hard to imagine why or how government acts would possibly force citizens to violate their consciences. Surely, that cannot stand.

The reason that government is likely to lose in the Hobby Lobby case, however, is that there are so many ways for the government to distribute these drugs—on its own exchanges, through the Title X family-planning program and by cooperating with willing distributors—that do not require the forced participation of conscientious objectors. That presumably is why an effort is now being made to cut back on the robust conception of religious freedom that once united Americans of all faiths and even unbelievers.

The Establishment Clause argument should also fail. That provision exists to prevent the establishment of a national religion or the granting of superior standing to a religion that happens to have the support of most citizens. It would be perverse for a court to use it to punish the laudable practice—dating all the way back to George Washington’s decision to excuse Quakers from his army—of accommodating the free exercise of religion by protecting people whose religious beliefs or practices are not shared by the majority from being compelled even in the absence of a compelling reason to violate their consciences.

The two-pronged test of proving a compelling government interest in pursuing an edict that requires citizens to violate their religious beliefs, and then proving that the means of doing so constitute the least restrictive means possible to do so, is a test the government cannot pass with the HHS mandate, without the help of an activist court.

Oral arguments begin. The court ruling will come later. Stay tuned.

Tagged with:
Jan 09

As they say in politics, the optics are bad in this one.

A legal expert on my radio show this week said their firm, extensively involved in lawsuits against the administration’s HHS mandate, said they were frankly surprised that the administration continued to push forward on the unprecedented mandate after the 2012 election at all, much less pushing it vigorously and committing teams of lawyers to defending it in courts across the country in 91 different lawsuits representing institutions, corporations, small business owners and individuals. But they have.

It was always destined to go to the Supreme Court, and will in March, since the high court decided to hear two key cases involving what some call the ‘contraceptive mandate’ and others the ‘contraception delivery scheme mandate’. It’s stayed off the public radar for the most part, largely due to media ignoring it and Americans being inundated with so many other cases of big government overreach, in other areas.

That hasn’t stopped the vigorous movement to hold off, reverse, overturn, or declare unconstitutional the Obamacare HHS mandate. It’s all here.

Including the New Year’s Eve ruling by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor, who were hesitant to even go to court, their lawyers tell me. They’d rather be doing everything they’ve done for 175 years to take care of the sick, elderly, dying, and just caring for people. They didn’t want this fight. But they won’t give up on it the way they never give up on the sick and needy.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The Little Sisters of the Poor run a nonprofit Colorado nursing home and hospice and therefore ought to be exempt under what the White House calls its “accommodation” for religiously affiliated institutions like parochial schools, hospitals and charities.

The problem is that to qualify under the “accommodation,” religious organizations must sign a legal contract with their insurer certifying that the religious organizations refuse to subsidize contraceptive services. “This certification is an instrument under which the plan is operated,” the contract notes, then informs the insurer of its “obligations” under the rules.

Those include a command that the insurer “shall provide” contraception to all enrollees, supposedly independently and for free. The political point of the accommodation was to pretend that the costs of contraception or abortifacients are nominally carried by a third-party corporation, but the insurers are really only the middle men. The Little Sisters thus argue that signing the certification contract directs others to provide birth control in their place and makes them complicit.

Boiled down, the Justice Department’s legal response on Friday was: Shut up and sign the form.

Yes, ‘it’s just a piece of paper,’ they contended.

Within hours, dozens of news stories appeared online that put the sisters at the center of a contentious national debate on what constitutes strong-arming a religious congregation to provide contraceptives and other abortion-inducing drugs to its employees.

The sticking point for both sides is a waiver/authorization form that the Little Sisters must fill out to take advantage of a so-called accommodation for non-profit ministries. The form, however, has a dual purpose—it signals opposition to the mandate, but also authorizes a third-party to provide the services it finds morally objectionable.

“The Little Sisters and other applicants cannot execute the form because they cannot deputize a third party to sin on their behalf,” stated the Becket Fund, which represents the Little Sisters, in a brief responding to the Obama administration. The group added that the administration is “simply blind to the religious exercise at issue.”

The Obama administration minimalized the importance of the form, enticing the Little Sisters to “secure for themselves the relief they seek” …“with the stroke of their own pen.”

Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the nuns, said in a statement Friday that the administration was “trying to bully nuns into violating their religious beliefs.”

If the sisters don’t sign the waiver/authorization form, or if the courts don’t uphold the injunction, they could be subject to devastating IRS penalties that could add up to millions of dollars a year.

As Fr. Dwight Longenecker notes, we’ve seen this scenario before.

Where have we heard this before? Henry VIII and the Act of Supremacy. In November 1534 the English Parliament decreed that King Henry VIII was the “only supreme head on earth of the Church of England.” Everyone who held public office had to take the oath of supremacy, and most did. After all, it was “only a few words…only a pen stroke if you like…only a piece of paper.” At first the authorities even made it easier for people with tender consciences. A clause was added to the claim that the king was the head of the church: “insofar as the law of God allows.” Many of the clergy took the oath while they kept their fingers crossed with the compromise clause.

Once they got most to comply the compromise clause was removed. Those who had compromised now found that they had sworn the oath in the original form and they were held to it. When Henry’s illegitimate wicked daughter Elizabeth came to the throne the Oath of Supremacy was extended to schoolteachers, local authorities, university students–virtually anyone in any position of authority. To refuse to take the oath was treason, and the oath was demanded by the officers of Elizabeth’s police state.

The issue here is of the tactics used to suppress opposition. An oppressive government will insist that those with religious objections conform. They will say, “It is only a piece of paper. It is a mere pen stroke. What harm can there be in taking this way out we have offered you?” However, if it is a mere pen stroke or only a piece of paper, then why does the government insist on conformity of the Little Sisters of the Poor? If it is only a piece of paper or a pen stroke, why bother? Because it is most assuredly not a mere piece of paper or a pen stroke. It is the violation of the sister’s conscience by the government authorities. Why does the federal government insist on this detail? Because they know that if one group is allowed to have an exemption on religious grounds, then all groups may claim a similar exemption because of religious beliefs.

If this religious belief is honored, then every other religious belief on every other issue must also be honored. What is at stake in this argument, therefore, is not the comparatively minor issue of whether some Catholic sisters should authorize a third party to pay for contraceptive services, but whether any group, individual or business has the right to opt out of a government program which imposes on their lives and their beliefs. This government, like Henry VIII’s and Elizabeth I’s and all other tyrants, says “No. The will of the state takes precedence over religious opinions. You will conform.”

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, newly elected head of the US bishops conference, the body which found unusual unanimity in standing against this violation of religious freedom and basic conscience rights, explains.

Pope Francis inspires Catholics and non-Catholics alike with his focus on the gospel call to serve “the least of these.”

Our faith calls us to put first the needs of our brothers and sisters who suffer in poverty, and Catholics are justly proud of our network of schools, hospitals and social service ministries that work every day to help the poor and vulnerable.

Yet the ability of these ministries to live out the fullness of our faith is in jeopardy.

The mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services forces countless Catholic schools, hospitals, and social service organizations to participate in providing employees with abortifacient drugs and devices, sterilization, and contraception in violation of Catholic teaching. The mandate went into effect on Jan. 1; ministries now are faced with the choice of violating our deeply held beliefs or paying crippling fines.

If these ministries don’t comply, the financial penalties may mean that some may have to close their doors. As that happens, the poor and those who serve them will be hurt the most. Forcing our ministries to divert funds from serving their neighbors to paying government fines will have real consequences for real people.

Archbishop Kurtz, a wise, kind, gentle and devoted shepherd, is trying to strike the right balance while serving needs justly.

We have spent significant time and effort seeking sincere dialogue with the Obama administration in hopes of preventing this impasse, and we are long-standing advocates of accessible, life-affirming health care. Yet our concerns continue to go unheard. The administration has crafted an “accommodation” that continues to compel our ministries to participate in providing drugs and services that violate our deeply held religious beliefs.

With the implementation date now upon us, we have made one more effort at dialogue, again asking President Obama to exempt nonprofit institutions caring for those in need from the harsh penalties imposed by the mandate.

The administration has shown flexibility in implementing other provisions of the Affordable Care Act, issuing numerous delays and exemptions for many employers and individuals.

We’re only asking that it offer that same consideration to those who want to live by their religious beliefs without facing government penalties for doing so…

On behalf of those served by our schools, hospitals and social service ministries, we will continue to resist the burdens imposed by the HHS mandate.

We hope and pray that the administration and Congress will protect us from those burdens, and that the courts will uphold our freedom to serve those who depend on us.

Some members of Congress are trying, relentlessly, to protect conscience rights and religious freedom. They need support and encouragement. Though everything is not political, everything is made political. In that world, the term ‘optics’ is often applied to actions that will be reported on and judged by the public.

The Little Sisters of the Poor in court seeking protection from administration lawyers is not good optics. To say the least.

Tagged with:
Feb 11

The basic mandate that employers with religious objections to the HHS contraceptive coverage still have to comply or pay punitive fines still stands. The latest fig leaf changes little, but it took a few days to wade through the dense and convoluted legalese the government issued to essentially say ‘we’re not willing to budge, more than an inch.’

There is nothing new about the administration deciding who gets exemptions and who doesn’t, and that’s the main point.

After nearly a year, the Obama administration released, on February 1, its latest version of a “compromise” with the employers who object, on religious grounds, to the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that their health plans cover no-cost access to sterilization services and contraceptives, including those that can act as abortifacients, destroying the early-stage embryo.

As many observers have already remarked, there is nothing substantively new in the administration’s proposal, which only formalizes and fills in details of a proposal it first floated last March, and continues to be based on the same dubious science.

Now facing more than forty lawsuits initiated by colleges, charities, and other religious nonprofits, as well as by for-profit companies whose owners have religiously informed moral objections, the Obama administration may hope that its latest gambit will persuade some credulous judges to toss some of the litigants’ cases.

But in truth, it has only revealed its own blinkered and tyrannical understanding of religious freedom, which it would sacrifice to a goal of “gender equality” that is at best only tenuously related to its free-contraception-for-all policy. And, if the judges attend closely to its arguments, it may even have severely weakened its case.

Well that’s interesting.

Matt Franck makes a good presentation there at Public Discourse on what this alleged compromise actually does. And he wraps it up with a challenge to the reader to do this thought exercise:

Given its stated hostility to any serious understanding of our first freedom, the right not just to worship but to live one’s faith in all one’s daily work, on what understanding of our remaining constitutional freedoms can the administration assure us that any of these other liberties still stands on a firm foundation?

Good question.

Also at Public Discourse was this well-reasoned and extraordinarily well presented analysis.

With last Friday’s rules, the government is claiming that after a year of a mostly losing record of religious freedom lawsuits, it has struck the perfect balance between two urgent goals: getting contraception into the hands of as many American women and girls as possible, and protecting Americans’ religious freedom.

The truth of the matter is quite different.

There are myriad problems inherent in the new rules. They still fail to protect the legally guaranteed religious freedom of religious institutions, for-profit employers, insurers, non-religious non-profit organizations, and individuals. Religious liberty is protected not only by the First Amendment of our Constitution, but also by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

They fail to understand the full nature of the free exercise of religion—that religion, whether practiced individually or by a group, requires being able to integrate one’s actions with one’s religious beliefs, especially when these don’t attack but advance the common good—here, the health and well-being of women and girls.

They trample on parents’ constitutionally-protected right to direct the upbringing of their daughters. And they reveal, still, an irrational zeal for a narrow category of drugs and devices, thus evincing a narrow and harmful understanding of women’s freedom as coincident with sexual expression.

Moreover, while the government tries to make us think that the new rules are hospitable to religious freedom, we shouldn’t overlook its continued failure to admit the bankruptcy of the mandate’s grounding “medical” claim: that unintended pregnancy is a kind of health crisis properly resolved with free contraception and early abortions.

Thank you, Helen Alvare, for such a sound argument.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the US bishops conference, said this latest attempt for cover is still unacceptable.

The Administration’s proposal maintains its inaccurate distinction among religious ministries. It appears to offer second-class status to our first-class institutions in Catholic health care, Catholic education, and Catholic charities. HHS offers what it calls an “accommodation,” rather than accepting the fact that these ministries are integral to our Church and worthy of the same exemption as our Catholic churches. And finally, it seems to take away something that we had previously—the ability of an exempt employer (such as a diocese) to extend its coverage to the employees of a ministry outside the exemption.

(The bishops’ document) United for Religious Freedom explained that the religious ministries not deemed “religious employers” would suffer the severe consequence of “be[ing] forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions.”After Friday, it appears that the government would require all employees in our “accommodated” ministries to have the illicit coverage—they may not opt out, nor even opt out for their children—under a separate policy.In part because of gaps in the proposed regulations, it is still unclear how directly these separate policies would be funded by objecting ministries, and what precise role those ministries would have in arranging for these separate policies.Thus, there remains the possibility that ministries may yet be forced to fund and facilitate such morally illicit activities…

 the bishops explained that the “HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all:individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values.”This includes employers sponsoring and subsidizing the coverage, insurers writing it, and beneficiaries paying individual premiums for it.Friday’s action confirms that HHS has no intention to provide any exemption or accommodation at all to this “third class.”In obedience to our Judeo-Christian heritage, we have consistently taught our people to live their lives during the week to reflect the same beliefs that they proclaim on the Sabbath.We cannot now abandon them to be forced to violate their morally well-informed consciences.

Because the stakes are so high, we will not cease from our effort to assure that healthcare for all does not mean freedom for few.Throughout the past year, we have been assured by the Administration that we will not have to refer, pay for, or negotiate for the mandated coverage.We remain eager for the Administration to fulfill that pledge and to find acceptable solutions—we will affirm any genuine progress that is made, and we will redouble our efforts to overcome obstacles or setbacks.Thus, we welcome and will take seriously the Administration’s invitation to submit our concerns through formal comments, and we will do so in the hope that an acceptable solution can be found that respects the consciences of all.At the same time, we will continue to stand united with brother bishops, religious institutions, and individual citizens who seek redress in the courts for as long as this is necessary.

For now, this remains necessary.

The cases proceed through the courts, and the latest HHS proposal is likely a response to a DC Circuit Court judge who required the government to report back on what ‘accommodations’ it was making that it had promised would be forthcoming. This does not suffice, say Becket Fund attorneys representing the most cases against the federal mandate.

Today’s announcement of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the HHS mandate leaves the religious liberty of millions of Americans unprotected.

“Today’s proposed rule does nothing to protect the religious freedom of millions of Americans. For instance, it does nothing to protect the rights of family businesses like Hobby Lobby,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.  “The administration obviously realizes that the HHS mandate puts constitutional rights at risk.  There would have been an easy way to resolve this—expanding the exemption—but the proposed rule expressly rejects that option.”

Becket Fund Executive Director Kristina Arriaga sent out this press release:

We’re all still reeling from the Administration’s announcement on the HHS Mandate last Friday, which, as it turns out, is 80 pages of nothing new.
 
The Administration’s proposal is murky on the details – in fact, it’s not at all clear how this would work, if it could work at all; but it’s clear that it still fails to protect our nation’s 237-year guarantee of religious liberty for millions of Americans.
 
As I mentioned in my email to you last Friday when the Obama Administration released this proposal “respecting the concerns of some religious organizations,” – their words, my emphasis – the millions of American entrepreneurs who want to live their lives and run their businesses with their faith intact are not covered even a stitch by this proposal.
 
They are still forced to choose between their conscience and their livelihood.  These entrepreneurs are winning big in court – 11 wins for businesspeople of faith to just 3 for the government –  yet the Administration still refuses to accept that religious liberty is even at issue in these cases.
 
So, as far as the Becket Fund is concerned, the fight against the HHS Mandate is far from over…

The government seems to have been so intent on defining religious liberty as narrowly as possible that they’ve drafted a convoluted 80-page proposal riddled with half-baked ideas and vague accounting schemes.

And, finally, says Helen Alvare

…these proposed regulations show the government’s standing obsession with this narrow piece of the Affordable Care Act. From August 2011 to today, the White House and HHS have expended enormous amounts of time, written hundreds of pages of rules and amended rules and “safe harbor” provisions, occupied press conference time, re-election campaign ads, and delivered speeches—all to promote the notion that free contraception and early abortifacients are the near sum of women’s freedom.

It’s as clear, and offensive, as that.

Tagged with:
Jun 10

Early in the film ‘For Greater Glory’ an elderly pastor, warned that Mexican federales were storming toward his church and he faced imminent danger if he did not hide in a nearby home, said he was a priest and was already home, that he belonged in the church. ”Who are you if you don’t stand up for what you believe?” That line was symbolic of the entire film and real life Cristeros War it revealed, and emblematic of the present time.

The Knights of Columbus played a significant role in the Cristiada, and they do today in the US, in defending religious liberty.

“For me, it’s more than something that happened 80 years ago,” [Producer Pablo] Barroso said. “This is something that really is the foundation not only of Mexico, but I think also of the whole continent. I don’t know what would have happened if these brave people had not stood up for their beliefs.”

That’s the theme that makes this film coming out at this time so…providential.

Although the film is about specific historical events, the filmmakers believe that its message about religious freedom is universal.

“We live in a time where religious freedom is as tenuous as it’s ever been,” said [Director Dean] Wright. “Whether it’s in the United States, the Middle East or Asia, people are standing up and saying, ‘You can’t do that. I have the right to say what I want, to believe what I want and to practice that faith.’”

After seeing an advanced screening of the movie, Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson said, “For Greater Glory is a powerful film that provides a compelling account of a forgotten era of our continent’s history. In celebrating the centrality of religious freedom and man’s need for God, it tells a story of enduring relevance, and is ‘must-see’ viewing for all who care about faith and liberty today.”

This message is repeated over and over by each of the film’s prominent actors, including Cuban-born Andy Garcia.

“The first stimulus for me as an actor to be a part of this movie was the notion of the quest for absolute freedom,” said Garcia. “Coming from a country where religious freedom was also curtailed and abolished, I was very sensitive to that reality and those struggles.”

Same for Mauricio Kuri, who played the role of young martyr ‘Joselito’ Sanchez del Rio.

Looking back on the whole experience, Kuri sees Bl. Jose’s true strength as being rooted in his courage to stand up for what he believes in.
 
“I think I would do that,”Kuri said, “because to defend for what you believe is the most cool thing” you could ever do…

Kuri encourages Catholics everywhere to stand up for religious freedom like the faithful Catholics of Mexico did during the Cristero War.

They are, in astonishing numbers, at the Stand Up For Religious Freedom rallies that went from huge on March 23rd to larger and more passionate last Friday, June 8. From Maine to Miami and Alaska to Honolulu, Americans turned out in public squares to boldly affirm their belief in the constitutional right to religious liberty.

The second wave of religious freedom rallies took place on Friday, filling courthouse squares, federal buildings, and university centers from New York to Los Angeles with the Founding Fathers’ views of liberty and conscience.

Tens of thousands participated in the more than 150 events organized by the Pro-Life Action League and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society.

Actually, leaders of those two groups built a coalition of 65 religious and civil rights organizations, dedicated and determined to defend individuals and institutions from the federal HHS mandate that requires them to violate their consciences.

Interesting. Late in the film ‘For Greater Glory’, the Mexican president who launched the ruthless crackdown on religion and people of faith called for a meeting with the famous general who headed the Cristeros in defending religious rights. President Calles presented General Gorostieta with what he called a ‘compromise’, to which Gorostieta responded ‘there is no compromise of liberty.’ Freedom is absolute, he declared, and comes not from the state but from God.

Tagged with:
Mar 18

Late last Friday when many Americans and certainly church leaders and were preparing for St. Patrick’s Day ceremonies and the fourth Sunday of Lent, the White House dropped a surprise announcement. As if no one would notice.

It said, essentially, the president has doubled-down on his already controversial HHS mandate. Instead of broadening the so-called exemption for religious institutions and individuals with moral objections, he broadened the demand for compliance with the mandate.

In a move that is likely to reignite the ire of religious leaders, late Friday afternoon the Obama administration announced a proposal that would require universities, including religious universities, to provide contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs to their students, as well as their employees, without a co-pay. This appears to significantly widen the originally-announced HHS mandate, which had only applied to employees.

…It outlines three different options to ensure that the health plans for employees and students of religious organizations cover birth control, including abortifacient drugs, and sterilizations, without co-pay.

…Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said she found it unusual the announcement came as part of a Friday news dump on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day.

Not for this administration. Especially on this issue.

The New York Times calls it a ‘clarification.’ But the opening lines of this piece clarifies nothing, it only repeats what we already knew, but gives the administration another opportunity to claim it’s making an ‘accommodation,’ which it’s not.

“It’s a Washington accounting gimmick,” Representative Jeff Fortenberry, Republican of Nebraska, said Friday in an interview. “The administration is twisting itself in all directions to expand the ‘accommodation’ for faith-based institutions. Why is it the government’s role to decide who gets an accommodation? The White House is creating an unnecessary political firestorm.”

Mr. Fortenberry has introduced a bill to let certain employers and insurers opt out of the mandate for contraceptive coverage. More than 220 House members have signed on as co-sponsors.

The new proposal virtually guarantees that birth control will remain an issue in the battle for the White House and Congress.

Not exactly. To really clarify, as long as the HHS mandate forces individuals and institutions to violate their consciences and religious liberty rights, government overreach will remain an issue in this election year.

Tagged with:
Mar 15

Since the administration keeps insisting it made an “exemption” or “accommodation” for religious objection to the Obama contraceptive mandate, let’s take a closer look at what exactly that is.

In the words of Adma Uddin, a Becket Fund for Religious Liberty attorney who specializes in domestic and international religious liberty cases. In her testimony before a House Judiciary Committee, which walked legislators clearly through a well-reasoned argument. A snip:

Many religious individuals and organizations that have conscientious objections to abortion object to the use of Plan B and ella because they believe, and scientific evidence supports their belief, that these drugs constitute abortifacents. That is, Plan B and ella can prevent a human embryo, which these religious groups understand to include a fertilized egg before it implants in the uterus, from implanting in the wall of the uterus thereby causing teh death of the embryo.

It was precisely these sorts of concerns that were repeatedly articulated by religious groups in the more than 200,000 public comments submitted in response to the amended interim rule. HHS created an exceedingly narrow religious exemption-one that is narrower than any other religious exemption in federal law.[6]

Now let’s take a look at what’s footnoted here. It’s remarkably important, and underreported.

[6] Until now, federal policy has generally protected the conscience rights of religious institutions and individuals in the health care sector. For example, for 25 years, Congress has protected religious institutions from discrimination (based on their adherence to natural family planning) in foreign aid grant applications. For 12 years Congress has both exempted religious health plans from the contraception mandate in the Federal Employees’ Health Benefit Program and protected individuals covered under other health plans from discrimination based on their refusal to dispense contraception due to religious belief.

This needs more attention. As does her whole testimony, frankly. But stay with this footnote, because it refers to the oft-repeated argument that 28 states already have such a law, which is not true. Uddin clarifies:

The HHS mandate is not only unprecedented in federal law, but also broader in scope and narrower in its exemption than all of the 28 State’s comparable laws. Almost half the States do not have a state contraception mandate at all, so there is no need for an exemption. Of the States that have some sort of state contraception mandate (all less sweeping than the federal one here), 19 provide an exemption. Of those 19 States without an exemption, only three (California, New York, and Oregon) define the exemption nearly as narrowly as the federal one, although the federal exemption is still worse because of the regulation’s discretionary language that the government “may” grant an exemption. Moreover, religious organizations in States with a mandate—even those where there is no express exemption—may opt out by simply dropping prescription drug coverage or offering self-insured plans, which are governed by federal ERISA law rather than state law. The federal mandate permits none of these alternatives, and therefore is less protective of religious liberty than any of the States’ policies.

(emphasis added)

Furthermore

…on January 20, 2012, the Administration announced it would not expand the exemption to protect religious schools, colleges, hospitals, and charitable service organizations, but it would give them one extra year to comply with the Mandate.

 A year to figure out how they’re going to violate their consciences.

Uddin makes some very key points here.

If an employer with moral objections to the HHS Mandate is not covered by the Administration’s compromise solution, the employers final alternative is to stop providing health care benefits altogether. But this too places religious employers in an unacceptable double bind: either they must pay for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs, or they must stop providing their employees with health care and pay a stiff civil penalty. The first option forces religious employers to violate their moral convictions. The second option forces them to pay steep fines for exercising their religion…

Untenable (as all Supreme Court justices called it when the Obama administration tried earlier to usurp authority from churches in the unanimous Hosanna Tabor ruling).

Here’s another important point Uddin made which few others have (actually, none I’ve seen):

These lawsuits challenge the government Mandate as a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The religious freedom claims turn on the fact that the burden placed on these organizations is not justified, as is required by law, by a compelling government interest that is narrowly tailored to serve that interest.

Emphasis added. Because though that’s a legal fine point, it’s a very important one.

About the spin (my word, not Uddin’s)…

Some have framed the controversy surrounding the Mandate as a women’s rights issue. At the outset, the point must be made that our clients are acting because of what is being asked for (an act that violates their deeply held beliefs), rather than who is doing the asking…

Moreover, including a robust exemption protecting the deeply held religious beliefs of those who oppose contraception and abortion would not harm women or women’s health. Access to these contraceptives is widespread: Nine out of ten employer-based insurance plans in the United States already cover contraception. The government admits these services are widely available in “community health centers, public clinics, and hospitals with income-based support.”11

Read the footnote on that. It cites HHS.

In fact, the federal government already spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year funding free or nearly free family planning services under its Title X program. Therefore, the issue is not really about access to contraception but rather about who pays for it.

Finally, one of the issues that is consistently overlooked when the issue is framed as “women’s rights versus religious freedom” is that women, too, seek the freedom to live in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs…As a female member of religious minority, I hold this right to religious freedom particularly dear, as, for example, a Muslim woman’s right to dress as she pleases is restricted by many governments across the world.

In conclusion:

As it turns out, this conflict is entirely unnecessary. A robust exemption from the HHS Mandate would be a workable way for the federal government to advance both its interest in women’s health and its commitment to respecting the legitimate autonomy and convictions of religious institutions.

In particular, expanding the existing “religious employer” exemption into a “religious conviction” exemption would eliminate the conflict entirely. Specifically, the exemption should be expanded to include all individuals and organizations—whether nonprofit or for-profit—that have a sincere religious conviction prohibiting them from purchasing or providing access to the mandated goods and services. In addition, any limitations over how, by whom, and for whom these individuals and organizations carry out their missions should be eliminated.

Strong testimony. One wonders who was listening on that committee and in the halls and quarters of Congress. We cerainly are.

Tagged with:
Feb 08

Enough was already enough with this administration trampling conscience rights and religious liberties protected in the Constitution. Than he clamped down on speech rights of Army chaplains, for crying out loud.

And this man wrote a book about audacity.

Obama silenced chaplains last weekend.

In Catholic churches across the country, parishioners were read letters from the pulpit this weekend from bishops in their diocese about the mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services giving Catholics a year before they’ll be required to start violating their consciences on insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs. But not in the Army.

A statement released this afternoon — which happens to be the 67th anniversary of the sinking of the USS Dorchester, on which four chaplains lost their lives – from the Archdiocese for Military Services explains:

On Thursday, January 26, Archbishop Broglio emailed a pastoral letter to Catholic military chaplains with instructions that it be read from the pulpit at Sunday Masses the following weekend in all military chapels. The letter calls on Catholics to resist the policy initiative, recently affirmed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, for federally mandated health insurance covering sterilization, abortifacients and contraception, because it represents a violation of the freedom of religion recognized by the U.S. Constitution.

The Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains subsequently sent an email to senior chaplains advising them that the Archbishop’s letter was not coordinated with that office and asked that it not be read from the pulpit.  The Chief’s office directed that the letter was to be mentioned in the Mass announcements and distributed in printed form in the back of the chapel.

Archbishop Broglio and the Archdiocese stand firm in the belief, based on legal precedent, that such a directive from the Army constituted a violation of his Constitutionally-protected right of free speech and the free exercise of religion, as well as those same rights of all military chaplains and their congregants.
<!–[endif]–>

Following a discussion between Archbishop Broglio and the Secretary of the Army, The Honorable John McHugh, it was agreed that it was a mistake to stop the reading of the Archbishop’s letter.  Additionally, the line: “We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law” was removed by Archbishop Broglio at the suggestion of Secretary McHugh over the concern that it could potentially be misunderstood as a call to civil disobedience.

The AMS did not receive any objections to the reading of Archbishop Broglio’s statement from the other branches of service.

So not only were chaplains told not to read the letter, but an Obama administration official edited a pastoral letter . . . with church buy-in?

Didn’t people flee across an ocean-sized pond to be free of this kind of thing?

The news got around a bit, though not widely, that the military was telling chaplains what they could and couldn’t say about the administration.

All the bishops in the country sent out a letter to be read in their parishes promising that the Church “cannot-and will not-comply with this unjust law.”

Even Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who is in charge of Catholic military chaplains sent out the same letter. 

But after he did, the Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains sent out another communication forbidding Catholic priests to read the letter, in part because it seemed to encourage civil disobedience, and could be read as seditious against the Commander-in-Chief.

More than one Catholic chaplain who spoke to us off the record confirmed that many chaplains disobeyed this instruction and read the letter anyway. Others sought further instructions from their Archbishop.

Now after much behind-the-scenes bureaucratic wrangling, a new version of the letter will be read, one that was edited of the language about “unjust laws.”

A new statement issued this afternoon from Archbishop Broglio’s office acknowledged the interference this way:

“Archbishop Broglio and the Archdiocese stand firm in the belief, based on legal precedent, that such a directive from the Army constituted a violation of his Constitutionally-protected right of free speech and the free exercise of religion, as well as those same rights of all military chaplains and their congregants.

“Following a discussion between Archbishop Broglio and the Secretary of the Army, The Honorable John McHugh, it was agreed that it was a mistake to stop the reading of the Archbishop’s letter.  Additionally, the line: “We cannot-we will not-comply with this unjust law” was removed by Archbishop Broglio at the suggestion of Secretary McHugh over the concern that it could potentially be misunderstood as a call to civil disobedience.

It’s an issue that Catholic chaplains are taking very seriously in private. We obtained a confidential letter sent to the chaplains that  prepares priests to contact the Military Archdiocesan lawyer in case of more interference or any punishment.

“The Archdiocese believes that any attempt to keep a chaplain from freely teaching and preaching the Catholic faith, for which you were endorsed, is a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution.”

This story reached a higher profile in the news on Tuesday.

The Obama administration has been accused of telling Catholic military chaplains what they can and cannot say from their pulpits after the Army ordered Catholic chaplains not to read a letter to parishioners from their archbishop.

The Secretary of the Army feared the letter could be viewed as a call for civil disobedience.

The letter called on Catholics to resist the policy the Obama Administration’s policy that would force institutions affiliated with religious groups to provide coverage for birth control, sterilization and “abortifacients.” The Catholic Church believes the mandate represents an unconstitutional violation of freedom of religion.

This is blowing up on the Obama adminsitration. It’s ‘a bridge too far.’

“Archbishop Broglio and the Archdiocese stand firm in the belief, based on legal precedent, that such a directive from the Army constituted a violation of his Constitutionally-protected right of free speech and the free exercise of religion, as well as those same rights of all military chaplains and their congregants,” read a statement provided to Fox News from the Archdiocese of the Military Services.

According to the AMS, Archbishop Broglio had a telephone conversation with Secretary of the Army John McHugh.

The issue raises a question among critics: did administration official tell the Catholic Church what it could and could not say in the pulpit?

It follows suit, after telling the Catholic Church what it could no longer do in practice according to its moral beliefs.

There were late reports Tuesday that the administration was starting to think about walking this back, after the blowup. That has yet to be determined. But this is going to loom large in the elections. Obama is losing the friends he had in the Church, and he can’t afford that.

The president of the Catholic Health Association, a trade group representing Catholic hospitals that defied church bishops to provide critical support for Obama’s health care law and is now fighting the birth control requirement, said she thinks the administration is starting to feel the pressure.

“I do know many people who care about this administration and this president and the good works that Catholic organizations have done are raising this issue,” said Sister Carol Keehan. “I do know the administration is concerned. This was never done with the intent of creating a huge problem for the Catholic Church, but it certainly ended up doing that.”

Stay tuned.

Tagged with:
Jan 30

The Obama administration did what no one or nothing else has seemed able to do in recent history in one sweeping stroke…galvanize Catholics who were otherwise evenly divided for and against his policies.

This story is growing in both heat and light.

First, on January 19th, Pope Benedict warned the church in the US that ‘radical secularism’ was posing new threats to religious liberty in this country. 

At the heart of every culture, whether perceived or not, is a consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good, and thus about the conditions for human flourishing. In America, that consensus, as enshrined in your nation’s founding documents, was grounded in a worldview shaped not only by faith but a commitment to certain ethical principles deriving from nature and nature’s God. Today that consensus has eroded significantly in the face of powerful new cultural currents which are not only directly opposed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but increasingly hostile to Christianity as such…

The Church’s defense of a moral reasoning based on the natural law is grounded on her conviction that this law is not a threat to our freedom, but rather a “language” which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world…

The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.

 However, the State chose to do just that, and announced it the next day.

Never before has an American president so openly and wantonly disregarded the religious civil liberties of so many.

[On Friday, January 20th], the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would make final the rule mandating that insurance policies provide for contraceptive services, including sterilization, and drugs with an abortifacient mechanism of action.

With this rule, hundreds of religious colleges and hospitals, for example, will now be required –in fact, coerced — into providing insurance coverage for practices they believe to be morally wrong and violative of their religious beliefs. These institutions, which have educated citizens and cared for the infirm for hundreds of years, will now have to cave into the federal government or close their doors.

This much I’ve reported on before. But go a bit further, as I did on radio the other day with two experts fro ACLJ.

After the HHS handed down its interim rule in August, 2011, numerous organizations, including the ACLJ, submitted comments to HHS arguing that the proposed rule would violate federal law and subvert the First Amendment. As the ACLJ wrote in its September 29, 2011 letter to HHS on behalf of Dominican Sisters of the Congregation of St. Cecilia:

“In their 151-year history, the Nashville Dominicans have, with the help of God, survived a Civil War on their doorstep, deadly epidemics, devastating floods, economic depression and tumultuous social upheaval. Today, however, they face a new, more insidious threat — their own government . . . Should HHS persist in implementing the Interim Rule and its contraceptive mandate without major modifications, the Congregation will be forced to curtail its mission. What war and disease could not do to the Congregation, the government of the United States will do. It will shut them down.”

Yes, this is as big as it sounds. Hard to comprehend, really. The US bishops’ communications director posted this:

Health and Human Services’ recent attacks on freedom of religion show it is deaf to religious sensibilities. Even the Administration’s resounding defeat on January 11—when the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected the Administration’s reading of the First Amendment as “extreme,” “untenable,” and having “no merit”—couldn’t unplug its ears.

The Court held in Hosanna Tabor v. EEOC that the government could not meddle in the internal affairs of religious organizations, in this case, a Lutheran church and school. Yet nine days later, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said it would force all but a few religious organizations to violate their own teachings in providing health care benefits to their own people…

The First Amendment unambiguously says that government “shall make no law” prohibiting the free exercise of religion. It doesn’t say that some laws trampling free exercise are fine. It says no law…

Must Catholic hospitals, to be true to their identity, now turn away people of other faiths from their emergency rooms and fire non-Catholic employees? Currently, Catholic hospitals serve one out of six people who seek hospital care in our country. Must Catholic Charities hire and serve only Catholics in its food pantries and other social service agencies? Until today, you didn’t need a baptismal certificate for soup.

This egregious violation of religious freedom marks the first time in our history that the federal government is forcing religious people and groups to ante up for services that violate their consciences. Some claim this is all about access to contraceptives—but everyone knows how and where to get them, and get them cheaply. And the mandate also forces coverage of sterilization and abortion-causing drugs. This is about forcing the church to pay for all these things through insurance coverage, to sponsor these “benefits” that it considers immoral. This is, in other words, about freedom of religion, which is a foundation stone of U.S. democracy.

To be clear…

The government allows other religions to live out their beliefs. The Amish have a conscientious objection to health insurance, and so the law exempts them from buying it. The government acknowledges their right to live out their religious convictions in U.S. society. Why are beliefs of Catholics and others dismissed?

To make clear something that didn’t get much press coverage…

Some months ago HHS refused to award an anti-trafficking grant to the U.S. Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services (MRS). It did so despite MRS’s scoring higher on an objective scale (according to the government’s independent advisors evaluating grant applications) than two of the three organizations that were awarded grants. (And two of those scored so low that they were deemed unqualified.) I suggested then that HHS had an ABC rule, “Anybody But Catholics.” Now I wonder if ABC isn’t also the answer to who gets freedom of religion.

That is abundantly clear, and it’s pulling Catholics together unlike anything else has, to assert fundamental rights common to all citizens, left or right, liberal or conservative, and especially the people they serve.

This federal mandate is “an unconscionable threat,” and Dr. Donald Condit frames it in clear and unambiguous terms.

In May 2009, President Obama delivered the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame where he proclaimed, to naïve applause: “Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics … ”

What a difference a few semesters make…

Last week, the National Association of Evangelicals said it was “deeply disappointed” by the administration’s ruling. “Freedom of conscience is a sacred gift from God, not a grant from the state,” said Galen Carey, NAE Vice President for Government Relations. “No government has the right to compel its citizens to violate their conscience.  The HHS rules trample on our most cherished freedoms and set a dangerous precedent.”

On the Huffington Post, Romanian Orthodox priest Fr. Peter-Michael Preble, an early supporter of President Obama, said the HHS ruling was a “direct attack” on religious freedom in America and the beginning of more attacks on the faith of Americans. He’s also changed his mind about the president. “Well I now feel I was duped and his brand of change is not what America needs at all,” Preble wrote.

The Catholic Medical Association also responded: “This latest attack by the Obama administration on religious freedom and free speech rights should be of grave concern to all Americans because it is destructive of individual rights and of the common good. It should be challenged and resisted by all legitimate means.”

Here are some suggestions.

Tagged with:
Aug 03

Let’s count the ways…

So why is the federal deparment charged with the health and human services of its citizens suddenly requiring a massive implementation of an ideologically based scheme to cover birth control, sterilization and morning-after pills at great cost to insurers and taxpayers, and at a time when the federal government is in a budget crisis already?

To say this makes no sense is to state the obvious.

Go back for a moment to that AP report on the HHS announcement in the post below. The one that refers to this as a “broad expansion of coverage for women’s preventive care under President Barack Obama’s health care law.” Let’s parse this, according to the story as it originally appeared, because it’s gone through so many revisions and renditions, it no longer says the same thing at that same link.

Here’s what the AP said Monday:

Indeed, a government study last summer found that birth control use is virtually universal in the United States, according to a government study issued last summer. More than 90 million prescriptions for contraceptives were dispensed in 2009…Generic versions of the pill are available for as little as $9 a month. Still, about half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Many are among women using some form of contraception, and forgetting to take the pill is a major reason.

So. It’s not a matter of availability. And there’s no need for the government to provide this form of active population control under the guise of ‘women’s health preventive services’ or some variation therof. Why does the government see a need to provide what’s already available cheaply or freely, and allegedly being used by the vast majority of women? Which, important to note, is not preventing pregnancies in a large percentage of cases.

That point came up in a debate on radio this week between bioethics nurse Nancy Valko and a Planned Parenthood director. She went on to cite statistics from the Guttmacher Report online (a research arm of Planned Parenthood).

Fifty-four percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant. Among those women, 76% of pill users and 49% of condom users report having used their method inconsistently.

Forty-six percent of women who have abortions had not used a contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant…according to this report, cost was not a factor in not using contraceptives.

Valko went on to say “fertility is not a disease and powerful hormones are not vitamins, and many women are not aware of the sometimes life-threatening complications. She cited two cases of healthy young women hospitalized in the past year for life-threatening blood clots in their lungs. “Doctors attributed this to the pill,” she said. She went on to note the irony that women are choosing hormone-free food but don’t think about taking powerful hormones to “treat” fertility.

Furthermore

The Health and Human Services Department commissioned the report from the Institute (of Medicine), which advises the federal government and shut out pro-life groups in meetings leading up to the recommendations.

“These historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, an abortion advocate, said…

Science? What science?

Here’s some science, which another nurse concerned with women’s issues made available, since most media won’t. And Dr. Angela Lanfranchi, of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, has plenty of science Sebelius should be aware of.

This is not health care. It’s blind ideology.

And it’s a threat to healthcare providers with religious believes and moral convictions that oppose that ideology, convictions that have long been protected by law. This new mandate requires a new law, and two congressmen co-authored one that deserves attention. The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act started in the House and has now been introduced in the Senate. This is a good time to remind elected representatives what the people do not want, and cannot afford. In more ways than one.

Tagged with:
Aug 01

The Department of Health and Human Services, which is taking on an Orwellian context come to think of it, has just added a new twist to healthcare law.

In the form of more mandates.

Following recommendations by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the Obama administration announced this morning that insurance plans will be required to cover contraceptives, which include abortion-inducing drugs such as Plan B and Ella, as well as elective sterilizations.

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a news release included the drugs as part of an essential “preventive care” package. “Historic new guidelines that will ensure women receive preventive health services at no additional cost were announced today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,” she said.

The HHS release notes that “contraception methods and contraceptive counseling” are to be covered, while CNN notes that the preventive mandate will include sterilizations.

The mandate comes after a massive, months-long push by abortion giant Planned Parenthood to establish free birth control for American women, a campaign strongly opposed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Pregnancy is not a disease, they said, and this is not “preventive health”, which Congressman Jeff Fortenberry said on my radio show Friday evening just after the House voted on the debt deal. He’s co-author of the Rights of Conscience Act, even more under threat Monday than it was on Friday.

The spin has been interesting. Early on Monday, the Associated Press carried the story at this link with the headline “Insurers must cover birth control with no copays.” I printed it at the time to use in my show prep materials, so I have the original version. It opened with this:

Health insurance plans must cover birth control as preventive care for women, with no copays, the Obama administration said Monday in a decision with far-reaching implications for health care as well as social mores.

The requirement is part of a broad expansion of coverage for women’s preventive care under President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Etc., etc.

Then that same link took you to a story that morphed into this, headlined “Coverage with no copay extended to health care”. Here’s how it opened:

A half-century after the advent of the pill, the Obama administration on Monday ushered in a change in women’s health care potentially as transformative: coverage of birth control as prevention, with no copays.

Services ranging from breast pumps for new mothers to counseling on domestic violence were also included in the broad expansion of women’s preventive care under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

Since birth control is the most common drug prescribed to women, health plans should make sure it’s readily available, said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Not doing it would be like not covering flu shots,” she said.

Yes, she really said that. It’s tortured logic (apply critical thinking skills to that one). Or it’s  Orwellian. Whichever is worse.

Tagged with:
preload preload preload