Administration offers another contraceptive 'fix'
The Obama administration has issued new rules governing objections to contraceptive coverage by for profit companies on religious grounds.
In a word: complicated.
The new policies are intended to fill gaps left by two Supreme Court moves: The landmark Hobby Lobby decision saying contraceptive coverage violated the religious liberty of a for-profit corporation, and a preliminary order in Wheaton College v. Burwell. With today’s regulations, employees of for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby will be able to access an “accommodation” where the insurer directly provides the cost-free coverage with no financial involvement by the employer. That accommodation was originally limited to religiously-affiliated nonprofits like Little Sisters of the Poor; houses of worship are fully exempt.
For nonprofits like Wheaton College that object to even that accommodation – which involves them signing a form to their insurer – the Obama administration has created a new accommodation to the accommodation. (Yes, it gets complicated.)
“The rules, which are in response to recent court decisions, balance our commitment to helping ensure women have continued access to coverage for preventive services important to their health, with the Administration’s goal of respecting religious beliefs,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said.
For the non-profits that object to the form – arguing that signing it triggers the very birth control coverage they oppose – the new rule allows those employers to write to HHS directly, instead of filling out the form. The Supreme Court first suggested the letter-writing option, and so far the litigants have accepted it. But there was some dispute among legal scholars before about whether the letter would result in actual coverage for the women who worked at those companies. The new rule clarifies that it does.
HHS is also seeking comment on exactly how to structure its accommodation for for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby, which is only one of 193 corporations that have sued for an exemption from covering contraception.
So what are the chances that Hobby Lobby and others will accept this new "accommodation"? Not good, says one law professor:
Indeed, Marty Lederman, a professor at Georgetown Law School who has written extensively about the contraceptive cases, wrote in July of the letter option, “I think it is likely that most of those organizations will not be satisfied: They will argue that such a ‘fix,’ too, violates their rights under RFRA, because their act of opting out will continue to establish the legal authority for the government to require another party to provide coverage.”
In other words, the legal fights against the Obama administration over contraceptive coverage aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Obama and liberals don't get it. The litigants don't want the government to give them an "out" to assuage their consciences. Faith doesn't work like that. For devout Christians opposed to contraception, it's a black and white issue - no room for compromise.
But liberals, who are used to compromising on moral issues, find such reasoning unfathomable. So Obama is likely to continue to fine tune the rules, hoping he will hit upon a compromise with conscience that the Christians will buy.
He's going to have a long wait.