HHS ‘compromise’: “80 pages of nothing new”

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.

Who speaks for women?

Now that’s become a very interesting question.

This election, candidates and campaigns are as focused as ever on demographics. But this year, the ‘Woman Vote’ has either hit a new stride, or been thrust into a endurance marathon. The competition over who speaks for women hasn’t been this strong since the original feminists emerged. That competition has re-emerged because their voices and message have been subjugated since Roe.

Every year since Roe, the March for Life rally on the Mall of Washington has continued to draw larger numbers of pro-life advocates, well over 200,000 participants from around the nation and the world, braving some of the worse winter weather and other hardships  and winding up joyful and energetic in the harshest conditions to stand up for the right to life.  And they’re increasingly young participants.

So in this election year madness with the HHS mandate calling contraception, morning after pills and sterilization procedures ‘women’s preventive health’, and enforcing it on virtually all employers’ health care plans  no matter whether it violates their conscience or morally informed beliefs about the dignity of all human beings…or not…the issue is prominent in politics and public debate.

The ‘Women Vote’ has become a key battleground for candidates, as if it were monolithic. Stabs have been made to shore up support for the HHS mandate, or at least the appearance of it, and they have fallen way short of anything significant.

The other day, there was a ‘We Are Women’ rally, which drew a scattering but got shored up by hyperbolic media. Take this report, for example:

Women across the country participated in “We Are Women” rallies on Saturday to protest state legislation limiting access to contraception and abortion. Hundreds of advocates gathered in Kansas, Colorado, Virginia, Florida, Arkansas, Idaho, and Oklahoma to demand that lawmakers abandon efforts to undermine women’s health.

“Today’s rally was part of a national movement that has had enough of the war on women,” Kansas rally organizer Kari Ann Rinker said.

This is sheer sophistry, an exercise in wordplay. There is virtually unlimited access to abortion and contraception in this country. The aggression over moving the bar has been on the side of abortion and contraception activists to make it now a luxury paid for by employers and everyone else in spite of birth control pills posing dangers that undermine women’s health. Oh, the irony.

What isn’t being talked about is that the new mandate also pre-disposes women to serious long term and permanent health problems. In conjunction with the defense of both religious liberty and the spiritual well-being of women, we must also refute the absurd and deceptive statement that “women are healthier on birth control.”

Providing free hormonal birth control to women under the guise of ‘preventative services’ and ‘women’s health’ is a lie and women of all faiths deserve to know the truth.

Hormonal birth control methods can enter the body in various ways. These ways include ‘The Pill’ (by mouth), the Mirena IUD (Intrauterine Device), the implant (placed under the skin), ‘the Patch’ (absorbed through the skin), and the Vaginal Nuvaring. There are many other estrogen -progestin name brands that can be added to this list. Any way you name it, these hormone drugs dispense poison into a woman’s body.

Perhaps HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius should inform her President of the following before he makes additional statements to the press like “it is cheaper to prevent than to treat.” Consider this:

— Since 1975 there has been a 400% increase in “in situ” breast cancer among pre-menopausal women under 50 years old. This mirrors the increased use of birth control over these same years. (“In situ” is a medical term which means “at the location”.

— A Mayo Clinic study confirms that any young girl or woman who is on hormonal birth control for 4 years prior to their first full term pregnancy increases their breast cancer risk by 52%.

— Women who use hormonal birth control for more than 5 years are four times more likely to develop cervical cancer.

— The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a research arm of the World Health Organization, classifies all forms of hormonal contraception as a Group 1 carcinogen. This group of cancer causing agents also includes cigarettes and asbestos. Why is it that the FDA can require cigarette manufacturers to place warning labels and real life photos of corpses on cigarette packages to warn consumers of the health dangers yet they, in turn, take an equally harmful substance (hormonal birth control) and force companies to give it away free to young girls without parental consent and woman of all ages?

— For high school boys and men to take steroid drugs, it is a crime. Whereas girls and women taking steroid drugs (i.e. hormonal birth control) are now treated as if they are taking a sacred, life preserving vitamin that women cannot live without.

That nails it.

This is not information that should be kept from the public. Women deserve to be told the truth. They are not being warned that birth control methods are causing breast, liver, and cervical cancer. They are not being told about the “silent killer” effect which is causing them to unknowingly abort their babies. They are instead being told that they are healthier on birth control because it decreases ovarian and uterine cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, out of 100 women with cancer, 31 have breast cancer, 6 have uterine cancer, and 3 have ovarian cancer. This is not a healthy tradeoff of risks that is worth taking.

If, indeed,” it is cheaper to prevent than to treat” then it is time for the White House, Kathleen Sebeilius, and all health agencies within the government to sound the warning trumpet to warn women on hormonal birth control about these devastating medical consequences.

Clearly, birth control does not help women at risk, it places women at risk.

So this small ‘We Are Women’ rally draws a small group of demonstrators and gets hyped as ‘thousands, nationwide’ while the ‘March for Life’ rally gets virtually igorned each January.

But media attention is irrelevant for the validation of some strong women’s initiatives growing and spreading now since the HHS mandate was announced. Like ‘Women Speak for Themselves.’ Who are being validated by new signers every day.

WSFT began with an open letter to the White House, Congress and Secretary Sebelius in February 2012, demanding respect both for religious freedom and for an understanding of woman’s freedom and equality that goes beyond “free contraception.”  It now has over 31 thousand signatories from every state.

“It defies reason that a few groups could speak for all women on issues of life, family, sex and religion,” said WSFT founder, Helen Alvare.

“The 31,000 plus women who have signed onto our open letter will no longer sit silently by while a few political figures and their allies insist that religious freedom has to bow to the theory, the ideology really, that the centerpiece of women’s freedom is sexual expression without commitment,” continued Alvare.

Catherine, a woman in her twenties living in New York City and a signatory, wrote to WSFT: “Out of respect for themselves and others, many women choose to live a life of sexual integrity…Many of my girlfriends and I have found this approach to our sexuality to be freeing, empowering, and constitutive of a deep sense of happiness.”

“I’m a pro-choice woman who respects the rights of other women to hold different views,” wrote another WSFT member Carol, from Vermont. “More specifically I expect the government, in compliance with the Constitution, to protect every person from being coerced into acting in a manner contrary to his or her conscience. The HHS mandates are a fundamental violation of our rights to free speech and religion.”

Hundreds more women wrote to WSFT to express their strong opposition to the message of the Saturday rally.

Here’s their message:

“An honest ‘We Are Women’ rally would acknowledge the diverse views held by women. It would acknowledge the science about the decline in women’s well-being associated with the world view this rally represents,” Alvare says. “No one speaks for all women on these issues. Let women speak for themselves.”

The bogus ‘war on women’

Some people are getting a lot of traction out of this. In spite of its contrivance as an election year strategy. 

Which became a trendy meme parroted in media. Take the Economist, for example, which is lamentable since it’s usually so much more sensible. Lexington ran this column.

It is also a mistake to assume that women’s preferences are driven only by hot-button issues such as abortion and contraception, which Mr Santorum has driven so unhelpfully up the news agenda. Polls show that women lean towards the Democrats for many other reasons. They are, for instance, likelier to believe in activist government and stronger regulation. On abortion, it turns out, men and women have similar attitudes. Just over half of both sexes think it should be legal in all or most cases, and about 43% think it should be illegal in all or most cases.

There’s so much wrong with that paragraph, better to just let it stand on its own.

Yet it is hard to believe that the Republicans’ problem with women has not been aggravated by Mr Santorum’s obsession with who is doing what to whom in the bedroom, or by Mr Romney’s promise to defund Planned Parenthood, the organisation on which millions of poor women depend for family planning (including abortion), or by the antics of Republican state legislatures. In recent months newspapers have carried startling reports about Republican-governed states pushing women who seek early abortions to have a probe inserted into their vaginas, in order to provide an image of the unborn child, in the hope that the picture will change their minds.

So let’s see… One shot aims to ridicule, simplify and demonize Sen. Santorum. So would the equal and opposite be true by saying that Mr. Obama has an obsession with contraception and abortion? Rhetorical question… Another shot, this one at Mr. Romney, overlooks the decades long serious efforts in Congress to stop throwing hefty sums of taxpayer funds at the highly profitable abortion giant Planned Parenthood, portrayed here as the salvation of millions of poor women looking for benevolent family planning, whatever that term has come to mean, in addition to the ultimate extreme of abortion, which means no family and no planning.

Then there’s the rest of that paragraph, those “startling reports about Republican-governed states pushing women who seek early abortions to have a probe inserted into their vaginas,  in order to provide an image of the unborn child, in the hope that the picture will change their minds.” Besides the obvious partisan political nature of the shot, there’s the crassness and dishonesty of the rest of it. A few points…One: Exactly how does the abortionist go about the business of eliminating that “unborn child” without a far more violating instrument into the woman? Two: Some state laws, like one proposed in Illinois for instance, aim to offer women the option to see an ultrasound, which she may choose or decline, which may be done non-invasively. And Three: The reason is to provide women fully informed consent, so they, you know, can make a choice. Who benefits if they can’t change their minds? Who’s trying to avoid giving women a choice to make up their minds?

And what is this “politics of women” business? What does it mean? Who does it speak for? Are feminists okay with Lexington’s derogatory remarks here? Kudos for getting two things right, “the snake pit of politics” that targeted Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin for sexist media coverage. Right on, there. But perhaps Lexington isn’t familiar with Susan B. Anthony women in politics.

As long as media beat this drum, there are fortunately other voices to meet the challenge, willing to parse truth from nonsense.

New Hampshire Republican senator Kelly Ayotte, who endorsed Romney and campaigned with him before the Granite State’s GOP primary, stresses in an interview that Romney’s message will ultimately prove appealing to women.

The issues that matter most to women voters are also the issues that play to Romney’s strength, Ayotte notes. Above all, she says, women are concerned about the unemployment rate: They want to make sure they and their families have good jobs. Like everyone else, women want a strong economy. The other top two issues Ayotte lists for women: gas prices and the debt…

Ayotte pushes back against the Democratic notion that the GOP is waging a “war on women,” as supposedly evident in the party’s position on various issues, such as opposition to the requirement that employers at religious institutions provide insurance coverage for birth control, including sterilization and abortion-inducing pills.
 
“They make a mistake when they think women are a monolithic group,” Ayotte says. “Women have diverse opinions on these issues.” She points to a USA Today/Gallup poll of battleground states in which women ranked government policies on birth control as the sixth most important issue to them this election, behind health care, gas prices, unemployment, the national debt/deficit, and international affairs. Democrats want to push the “war on women” storyline because they think it will work well for them, Ayotte says. “But at the end of the day, women have very different opinions, and they’re going to vote on a broad array of issues.”
 
Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway agrees that Democrats’ strong push on their liberal social policies could backfire. “It presupposes that women care, discuss, and vote only according to those issues,” she says, referring to contraception and abortion. That premise, she adds, “insults women.”

Yes it does. Colleen Carroll Campbell puts it this way:

In honor of Women’s History Month, I’d like to make a request of America’s political and media elites on behalf of America’s women: Stop lumping us together.

To be more specific: Stop telling us “what women want” in the next president, which political stands are sure-fire winners (or losers) of “the women’s vote” and what constitutes “the women’s view” in debates over everything from the morality of abortion to the limits of government and the best path to national prosperity.

While you’re at it, please stop quoting a handful of self-appointed “women’s advocates” as if they were proxies for all 156 million Americans who carry two X chromosomes. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards no more represents my views than Sarah Palin represents hers. And I think I can speak for all women in saying that no single woman or women’s group speaks for us all.

And while we’re at it, please stop lumping us into identity politics altogether. Just who does that benefit?

Women’s health and the HHS

How oddly sci-fi that perceived connection has become.

There’s both science and fiction in the rendering of HHS policy by the Obama administration and its complicit media allies.

The’ ‘where are the women?‘ cry that resounded when a House oversight committee heard testimony from the first panel, which happened to cover religious leaders of various professions, was one dramatic moment. Fortunately, it’s been answered.

Then there’s the fact that the Obama adminstration and HHS Secretary Sebelius mandated the particular contraceptive drugs and sterilization procedures they did in the first place. Let’s take a look at that.

This column by Jenn Giroux is loaded with facts and resources, refuting pop culture notions that evolved into widely accepted truth without anyone ever proving or being asked to prove that they’re true.

The Birth Control Mandate has forced the issue of contraception to move from being the elephant in the room to center stage. Perhaps in time we will see that it was a hidden blessing for our country. For years pro-life organizations refused to discuss or take on this topic despite the fact that free access to birth control increases the number of surgical abortions[1][2]. Most people repeat over and over that birth control decreases the number of abortions. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, today for every child born in the US, there are an estimated 2 children killed in the womb from both surgical and chemical, abortifacient drug abortions [3]. What isn’t being talked about is that the new mandate also pre-disposes women to serious long term and permanent health problems. In conjunction with the defense of both religious liberty and the spiritual well-being of women, we must also refute the absurd and deceptive statement that “women are healthier on birth control.”

Providing free hormonal birth control to women under the guise of ‘preventative services’ and ‘women’s health’ is a lie and women of all faiths deserve to know the truth.

So read on, gentle reader. She lays out a strong and substantiated case.

Perhaps HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius should inform her President of the following before he makes additional statements to the press like “it is cheaper to prevent than to treat.” Consider this:

— Since 1975 there has been a 400% increase in “in situ” breast cancer among pre-menopausal women under 50 years old. This mirrors the increased use of birth control over these same years. (“In situ” is a medical term which means “at the location” [4].

— A Mayo Clinic study confirms that any young girl or woman who is on hormonal birth control for 4 years prior to their first full term pregnancy increases their breast cancer risk by 52%. [5]

— Women who use hormonal birth control for more than 5 years are four times more likely to develop cervical cancer. [6]

— The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a research arm of the World Health Organization, classifies all forms of hormonal contraception as a Group 1 carcinogen. This group of cancer causing agents also includes cigarettes and asbestos. [7] Why is it that the FDA can require cigarette manufacturers to place warning labels and real life photos of corpses on cigarette packages to warn consumers of the health dangers yet they, in turn, take an equally harmful substance (hormonal birth control) and force companies to give it away free to young girls without parental consent and woman of all ages?

— For high school boys and men to take steroid drugs, it is a crime. Whereas girls and women taking steroid drugs (i.e. hormonal birth control) are now treated as if they are taking a sacred, life preserving vitamin that women cannot live without. [8]

— In October 2010 the NY Times carried an article about Hormone Replacement Therapy drugs. It quoted the America Medical Association (AMA) as warning women that these post-menopausal drugs which were originally marketed as keeping a women “young and sexy” were discovered instead to be more likely to cause advanced and deadly breast cancer.[9] It stopped short of making one other startling revelation: The only difference between hormone replacement therapy drugs which cause deadly breast cancer and the hormonal birth control drugs (now mandated by the Obama administration) is that the birth control drugs are six times the dosage — and are the very same drug!

Pause.

See those footnote numbers? They all correlate to good, sound documentation.

This is not information that should be kept from the public. Women deserve to be told the truth. They are not being warned that birth control methods are causing breast, liver, and cervical cancer. They are not being told about the “silent killer” effect which is causing them to unknowingly abort their babies. They are instead being told that they are healthier on birth control because it decreases ovarian and uterine cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, out of 100 women with cancer, 31 have breast cancer, 6 have uterine cancer, and 3 have ovarian cancer. This is not a healthy tradeoff of risks that is worth taking. [12]

If, indeed,” it is cheaper to prevent than to treat” then it is time for the White House, Kathleen Sebeilius, and all health agencies within the government to sound the warning trumpet to warn women on hormonal birth control about these devastating medical consequences.

Clearly, birth control does not help women at risk, it places women at risk.

And while we’re setting the record straight, let’s check in on the latest E.J. Dionne column that takes cover from the bogus ‘compromise’ or ‘accommodation’ President Obama purported to offer religious institutions and people with conscientious objections to his contraceptive mandate…but actually didn’t.

Can we all get one fact straight? As the president was announcing an “accommodation” in a press conference with Kathleen Sebelius on February 10 concerning the HHS contraceptive mandate, a rule was filed in the Federal Register that was unchanged (the word “unchanged” even appears four times in the final rule as filed) from the regulation the same Cabinet secretary had announced on January 20, that had been originally presented on August 1. That August rule had the narrowest of religious exemptions. And that rule was subsequently filed in the Federal Register.

Today E. J. Dionne makes reference to a compromise, suggesting that there is a bargaining table that Catholic bishops have walked away from. But there is no compromise.

As Cardinal Timothy Dolan put it, “We now have more questions than answers, more confusion than clarity.”

Confusion, of course, is exactly what the White House is counting on as a winning strategy: Characterize the debate as being simply about behind-the-times Catholics picking a fight on contraception. Insist that significant religious-liberty concerns are nothing but the Tea Party somehow having taken control of the Catholic bishops’ conference (which not so long ago Democrats would have considered a vital ally on just about anything but abortion).

True. Good point.

Accuse the Catholic bishops of being “violently anti-woman” and “demanding that the government step in and use the force and power and police power of the state to prevent women from taking birth control because the bishops have failed,” as chief Obama administration ally National Organization for Women president Terry O’Neill has.

Allies of the White House are doing an injustice to the truth by pretending that anything was fixed on February 10, that Friday the president announced an “accommodation.” It was nothing but a wink to allies — and allies, including Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards, were instrumental in blessing it. To even call it a compromise, never mind accept it, is to be the cheapest of dates.

I understand that Americans want to trust their president. I understand that religious Americans might want to be unconfrontational. But, folks, our liberty in America as we know it is under attack by this administration. Defend the defenders of religious liberty here. And let’s argue with facts, not wishful thinking about good intentions.

I always say “assume good intentions” in treating contested issues and testy debates. But that’s being charitable in this case, pushing the boundaries of reason.

Obama’s response to church concerns ‘unacceptable’

Misinformation abounds in the media about President Obama’s alleged “accommodation” for religious liberty in his administration’s hardline HHS mandate.

Let’s have some clarity. Three responses, for now.

First, Liberty Counsel, a group in solidarity with Catholics because everyone’s fundamental conscience rights are at stake in this. 

Obama’s “new directive” only underscores the problem that he has the power to issue a directive, without any legislative oversight, that directly conflicts with freedom of religion and the right of conscience.

He stated, “If a woman’s employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company, not the hospital, not the charity, will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge, without co-pays and without hassles. The result will be that religious organizations won’t have to pay for these services and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly.” (Emphasis added)

Obama’s speech reveals his fundamental misunderstanding of the First Amendment. Forcing an insurance company to pay for contraceptives and abortifacients is only an accounting gimmick, which he acknowledges would still require religious organizations to fund contraceptives and abortifacients indirectly. Someone has to pay for this funding, and that burden will fall upon all employers, including religious organizations. Moreover, religious institutions that are self-insured, such as Liberty University, the world’s largest Christian school, are still required to pay directly for these items.

Laundering a Catholic or Christian organization’s money through the insurance company to pay for abortifacients does not suddenly correct the moral sin inflicted by Obama. ObamaCare is a direct attack on the moral and religious beliefs of our nation.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty representing three organizations in lawsuits against the Obama administration.

Facing a political firestorm, President Obama today announced his intent to make changes to a controversial rule that would require religious institutions, in violation of their conscience, to pay for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs. But this “compromise” is an exercise in obfuscation, not a good faith effort to solve the problem. Thousands of churches, religious organizations, businesses, individuals, and others will still be forced to violate their religious beliefs.

For example, the fake compromise will not help the Becket Fund’s clients Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, Colorado Christian University, and Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), a Catholic media organization. They will still be forced to pay for insurance that provides contraceptive coverage. The White House’s claim that “the insurance companies will pay for it” is silly. For-profit insurance companies aren’t going to donate contraceptives and abortion drugs to employees; the employer will pay for it one way or the other. More fundamentally, the Becket Fund’s clients still face the same chilling dilemma they did yesterday: choosing between helping their employees buy immoral abortion drugs or paying huge fines.

“This is a false ‘compromise’ designed to protect the President’s re-election chances, not to protect the right of conscience,” says Hannah Smith, Senior Legal Counsel for The Becket Fund. “No one should be fooled by what amounts to an accounting gimmick. Religious employers will still have to violate their religious convictions or pay heavy annual fines to the IRS.”

According to a White House “fact sheet,” some religious employers will no longer be required to provide insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs; coverage for those services will instead be provided for free directly by insurance companies. This does not protect anyone’s conscience. First, the problem is helping employees get abortion drugs, not the cost of providing those drugs. Since providing insurance benefits would still help employees get insurance, religious employers still have to choose between providing health benefits that help employees get abortion drugs, and paying annual fines. Second, thousands of religious organizations self insure, meaning that they will be forced to pay directly for these services in violation of their religious beliefs. Third, it is unclear which religious organizations are permitted to claim the new exemption, and whether it will extend to for-profit organizations, individuals, or non-denominational organizations.

“It is especially telling that the details of this fake ‘compromise’ will likely not be announced until after the election,” said Smith. “Religious freedom is not a political football to be kicked around in an election-year.

And yet it is. Which is unacceptable to thinking people.

This so-called “accommodation” changes nothing of moral substance and fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy.  It is certainly no compromise.  The reason for the original bipartisan uproar was the administration’s insistence that religious employers, be they institutions or individuals, provide insurance that covered services they regard as gravely immoral and unjust.  Under the new rule, the government still coerces religious institutions and individuals to purchase insurance policies that include the very same services.

It is no answer to respond that the religious employers are not “paying” for this aspect of the insurance coverage.  For one thing, it is unrealistic to suggest that insurance companies will not pass the costs of these additional services on to the purchasers.  More importantly, abortion-drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives are a necessary feature of the policy purchased by the religious institution or believing individual.  They will only be made available to those who are insured under such policy, by virtue of the terms of the policy.

It is morally obtuse for the administration to suggest (as it does) that this is a meaningful accommodation of religious liberty because the insurance company will be the one to inform the employee that she is entitled to the embryo-destroying “five day after pill” pursuant to the insurance contract purchased by the religious employer.  It does not matter who explains the terms of the policy purchased by the religiously affiliated or observant employer.  What matters is what services the policy covers.

To call it “morally obtuse” is intellectually honest and academically polite.

The simple fact is that the Obama administration is compelling religious people and institutions who are employers to purchase a health insurance contract that provides abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization.  This is a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand.  It is an insult to the intelligence of Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other people of faith and conscience to imagine that they will accept an assault on their religious liberty if only it is covered up by a cheap accounting trick.

That transparency Obama promised when he ran for president is actually being delivered, whether he likes it or not.

Who in Congress wants you to pay for abortion?

This headline caught my attention: “Pelosi rips ‘No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.‘”

Excuse me? What?

On a conference call with reporters and bloggers this afternoon, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) characterized the GOP’s recent legislative effort to restrict access to abortion and contraception as “the most comprehensive and radical assault on women’s health in our life time,” promising to wage a campaign against the effort.

Go through that sentence slowly.