October 06, 2017
Congress wants to take another crack at repealing Obamacare, but the president isn't going to sit on his hands until it does. After months of watching the Senate fumble its replacement plan, Donald Trump is taking some matters into own hands. And conservatives will be relieved to know that the unconstitutional HHS mandate is one of them. In a huge victory for religious liberty, the Department of Health and Human Services dealt a death blow to Barack Obama's order that forced faith-based groups to offer free contraceptives -- even if it violated their conscience.
After the Supreme Court scrapped Obama's mandate for companies like Hobby Lobby, the 44th president tried to hide the same rule under a fancy accounting gimmick. A group of nuns became the poster women for Obama's "accommodation," which HHS concocted to spare religious groups from the choice of violating their faith or the law. Or so it said. In practice, the religious groups would still have to pay for the "health care" they oppose -- just through a third-party. People on both sides of the political spectrum blasted Obama's phony compromise, failing to understand why HHS would demand that even the Little Sisters of the Poor should have to pay for birth control. The message was simple: abandon your conscience, or resist and be fined for your faith.
Thanks to President Trump, churches and religious groups no longer have to make that choice. Today, HHS issued two regulations that beat back this idea that the government can strong-arm Americans into surrendering their beliefs. The first exempts employers and educational institutions from covering pills or procedures they believe destroys a human life. The second exempts some small businesses and pro-life organizations if they have similar objections. No one -- not nuns, not store owners, or everyday Americans -- should be faced with the choice of violating their beliefs or paying ridiculous penalties to exercise them. The courts realized that, siding with more than 200 plaintiffs on the HHS mandate 90 percent of the time! Like us, they understand that if the federal government can threaten people and organizations with fines for their beliefs, what can't it do?
Of course, liberals are hysterical about Trump's decision, claiming that millions of women are somehow going to lose their birth control because a handful of religious groups won't pay for it. At most, experts think Trump's new regulations will affect about 190,000 employees, a far cry from the Left's sky-is-falling estimates. And if anything, these regulations protect employees from losing their insurance altogether. Let's not forget that under the HHS mandate, some pro-life employers were faced with no choice but dropping employee health care.
As if keeping that promise weren't enough, the White House also put a stop to the Obama guidance that forced millions of Americans to secretly pay for elective abortion on the health care exchange. After hiding the abortion fees for years, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a bulletin that any policyholder who pays for an Obamacare plan will be notified if it includes a separate abortion fee. For the last several years, the law buried these abortion surcharges. This new CMS guideline creates transparency for millions of Americans who may not know they're paying for abortion coverage in their Obamacare plans.
The same First Amendment that gives Little Sisters of the Poor the right to object to liberal health care coverage is the same First Amendment that gives Jack Phillips the right to walk away from a same-sex wedding cake job. Our deepest gratitude to the White House for restoring what Obama stole: the freedom to believe.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.