Obama administration retreating on HHS contraception mandate?

posted at 10:01 am on February 1, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

So says CNN, which hears from two different sources that an opt-out will be created for “religiously affiliated organizations.”  While that may be good news for hospitals, charities, and schools linked to churches, it may not address the objections of private business owners:

Religiously affiliated organizations will be able to opt out of providing their employees with insurance coverage for contraceptives under updates to an Obama administration mandate that the Department of Health and Human Services is expected to unveil on Friday, according to two sources.

In March, after an uproar among religious institutions that didn’t want to pay for contraceptives, the Obama administration offered several policy suggestions that would require the administrator of the insurance policy, not the religious institution or the insurer, to pay for contraception coverage and invited comment on those proposals.

The administration is expected to detail how it will handle two of the more controversial situations, said a source familiar with Friday’s announcement.

“Religiously affiliated organizations will be given the option of exempting themselves from the requirement of providing their employees with contraceptive access or service that they are morally opposed to,” said the source.

Surprised?  Don’t be.  The Obama administration is under court order to produce a new version of the HHS mandate, thanks to a federal court that essentially forced their attorneys to admit that HHS wouldn’t enforce the version that the White House has pushed for the last ten months.  That’s the so-called “accommodation” that asked everyone to pretend that funds used to provide contraception had no relation to the premiums paid by the employer. That wasn’t going to fly, and everyone knew it, including the White House months ago.

Today, the Obama administration will make that part of the retreat official.  What’s puzzling is why they waited a year to recognize that the courts would not allow the executive branch to limit the definition of “religion … or free exercise thereof” explicitly recognized in the First Amendment.  They could have saved themselves a lot of trouble and some significant damage with Catholics especially had they simply included all religious-affiliated organizations in the exemption from the beginning.  The number of employees impacted will be relatively small anyway, which makes it a very weird hill on which to choose to fight.  The rewritten rule will have the belated benefit of getting the Catholic bishops off of Barack Obama’s back, at least for the most part.

Or … perhaps not:

Another issue expected to be dealt with Friday in the policy announcement is how a religious organization is defined.

If it’s not a broad and inclusive definition, expect the court at the above link to be less than satisfied.

However, that still leaves private businesses such as Hobby Lobby on the hook for compliance — at least for now.  So far, federal courts have vacillated on whether religious beliefs of private owners are allowed to be expressed in business policies in this manner.  Some have lost, some have won, and some (like Hobby Lobby) have been told to wait until the regulations come into full force.  Their fight will continue in the courts, unless the announcement today is even broader than first thought.


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Access denied! War on Women!

forest on February 1, 2013 at 10:03 AM

War on Wymenz!!!

trs on February 1, 2013 at 10:04 AM

In other Secretarial news;

BREAKING: Suicide Bomber Kills Guard at US Embassy in Turkey

/paging Secretary Genghis Kerry

Terp Mole on February 1, 2013 at 10:06 AM

If it’s not a broad and inclusive definition, expect the court at the above link to be less than satisfied.

Don’t expect anything of the sort. This law was written with the express purpose of being as broad and vague as possible, that way it can be “interpreted” however it needs to be in order to be implemented.

Gatsu on February 1, 2013 at 10:06 AM

What’s puzzling is why they waited a year to recognize that the courts would not allow the executive branch to limit the definition of “religion … or free exercise thereof” explicitly recognized in the First Amendment.

Are you serious??? This was nothing but an election-year throwdown to divide religious people from non-religious people, and create an issue to scare single female voters. You might not have seen the ads Obama’s campaign ran on this, but they did run at least one ad that explicity mentioned Romney and Republicans favoring “allowing your emplioyer to decide whether you can have birth control.” This ad was shown heavily in Virginia and other swing states.

The mandate served its purpose. Now that Obama is safely reelected and understands he’s going to get whacked on this by the courts anyway, there’s little to lose in quietly retreating.

rockmom on February 1, 2013 at 10:08 AM

What a shame for sluts like Sandra Fluke. She may have graduated Georgetown Law school and is now making $160K/year but what of those who are still students? Will they and not the Catholic Church be forced to pay for their whoring around? DOES OBAMA KNOW ABOUT THIS!

Happy Nomad on February 1, 2013 at 10:09 AM

What’s puzzling is why they waited a year to recognize that the courts would not allow the executive branch to limit the definition of “religion … or free exercise thereof” explicitly recognized in the First Amendment.

That’s typical Obama: He will stop at nothing to get what he demands until he’s forced to. Then he’ll try finding a way around it.

Liam on February 1, 2013 at 10:10 AM

Sandra Fluck and Julia are pissed…

Electrongod on February 1, 2013 at 10:11 AM

How can there be an exemption from Utopia, I thought people were supposed to be clamoring for the greatest idea since the wheel…why would they wish to be exempt?

Bishop on February 1, 2013 at 10:13 AM

I guess it all depends on which religion is complaining right..?

d1carter on February 1, 2013 at 10:13 AM

It’s never about the stated issue with Comrade Obama.

Obamacare was never really about improving health care for the poor/uninsured and certainly not about cutting costs — why not just expand Medicaid. It was about taking direct control of more of the economy.

Gun control has nothing to do with crime, and everything to do with breaking a Constitutional protection.

Forcing churches to provide birth control is nothing to do with reproductive rights, and everything to do with putting churches under government control.

We need to stop talking about Obama trying to ‘destroy the Republican Party.’ Neither he nor anyone else cares. He wants to destroy the Constitution.

doufree on February 1, 2013 at 10:13 AM

…which makes it a very weird hill on which to choose to fight.

theres that phrasiology again. Notice how one side seems to defend every initiative they persue? hmmmm

DanMan on February 1, 2013 at 10:14 AM

Is Julia single?

Rusty Allen on February 1, 2013 at 10:16 AM

What a shame for sluts like Sandra Fluke. She may have graduated Georgetown Law school and is now making $160K/year but what of those who are still students? Will they and not the Catholic Church be forced to pay for their whoring around? DOES OBAMA KNOW ABOUT THIS!

Happy Nomad on February 1, 2013 at 10:09 AM

Someone actually hired Sandra Fluke for a job?? She doesn’t seem qualified to make lattes at Starbucks.

Illinidiva on February 1, 2013 at 10:17 AM

Umm.. And Ed – I can tell you exactly why they didn’tbow to reality earlier. It’s called an election. This was a shameless part of the war on womenz.

Illinidiva on February 1, 2013 at 10:18 AM

Is this what “Evolving” looks like?

/puke

PermanentWaves on February 1, 2013 at 10:19 AM

“which makes it a very weird hill on which to choose to fight.”

You still don’t understand Obama. I’m afraid you never will. Truly pathetic.

rrpjr on February 1, 2013 at 10:21 AM

When is the federal government (any branch) going to admit that the clusterf*ck known as Obamacare is a huge disaster that needs to be repealed ASAP?

It’s not just all the unconstitutional mandates being handed down from the high-handed HHS. We also have the electronic records requirement creating all sorts of new and hugely expensive fraud in the system (and this requirement was supposed to be one of the great “money saving” features of Obamacare). Then there is the problem of all the newly-legal dreamy “immigrants” who will be eligible for all those juicy taxpayer subsidies, ratcheting up the cost of Obamacare to taxpayers by billions of dollars a year. And even without a giant new amnesty for all illegals, Obamacare is skyrocketing health insurance premiums for ordinary Americans. Yesterday there was an article reporting that by 2016, the cheapest family plan under Obamacare will cost $20,000 a year.

AZCoyote on February 1, 2013 at 10:22 AM

Liberals will be upset with their phony messiah if he backpedals….

I’ll enjoy that

workingclass artist on February 1, 2013 at 10:23 AM

This law was written with the express purpose of being as broad and vague as possible, that way it can be “interpreted” however it needs to be in order to be implemented.

Perhaps, but if HHS drafts an arbitrarily restrictive definition of “religiously affiliated” then one can always make an equal protection argument.

tommyboy on February 1, 2013 at 10:25 AM

Liberals will be upset with their phony messiah if he backpedals….
I’ll enjoy that
workingclass artist on February 1, 2013 at 10:23 AM

Now that he doesn’t need them anymore I think a lot of Barky’s useful idiots (ie. “the base”) are in for disappointment. They are already squealing over the $20K minimum cost for his free health insurance – especially the unions.

tommyboy on February 1, 2013 at 10:27 AM

***Alert ***

LIVE:

Video: NASA marks 10th anniversary of Columbia disaster

http://www.breakingnews.com/

canopfor on February 1, 2013 at 10:30 AM

does “retreating” equate to “pulling out”????

er…./

ted c on February 1, 2013 at 10:32 AM

they did run at least one ad that explicity mentioned Romney and Republicans favoring “allowing your emplioyer to decide whether you can have birth control.” This ad was shown heavily in Virginia and other swing states.

rockmom on February 1, 2013 at 10:08 AM

They ran that ad here in AZ too. They also ran one that claimed Romney wanted to outlaw abortion. Romney’s campaign never bothered to refute either of those lies. I kept waiting for the response ads, but they never appeared. That’s when I knew Romney would lose.

AZCoyote on February 1, 2013 at 10:34 AM

Is Julia single?

Rusty Allen on February 1, 2013 at 10:16 AM

Of course Julia is single! How could you doubt it? We sure don’t want her having a hubby that might talk some sense into her. Besides, with the Government as your daddy, women don’t need husbands any more!

katablog.com on February 1, 2013 at 10:35 AM

I don’t believe it.
If exemptions for religious organizations is allowed, it could be argued that individuals should have the same option. Whats the difference? Is there some number of individuals that must be met before moral values are considered?

Mimzey on February 1, 2013 at 10:37 AM

Another issue expected to be dealt with Friday in the policy announcement is how a religious organization is defined.

This should be fun. This administration can’t even define what an “assault weapon” is, or isn’t.

GarandFan on February 1, 2013 at 10:37 AM

The mandate served its purpose. Now that Obama is safely reelected and understands he’s going to get whacked on this by the courts anyway, there’s little to lose in quietly retreating.

rockmom on February 1, 2013 at 10:08 AM

Exactly. It’s served it’s purpose, and now the peasants can have their cake.

Don’t forget, this was part of a strategy that included certain members of the MSM and stretched all the way back to the Republican primary debates in 2011. Thank you George Stephanopolous, who NEVER coordinates his questions with the administration.

JeffWeimer on February 1, 2013 at 10:37 AM

Wasn’t the EPA slapped for there mandate on biofuels? How did their retreat work out? IIRC they nearly doubled the mandate for 2013 even though no where near enough of those biofuels are being made. This administration doesn’t care what the courts or the legislative branch says or does.

chemman on February 1, 2013 at 10:48 AM

I guess it all depends on which religion is complaining right..?

d1carter on February 1, 2013 at 10:13 AM

Colorado Christian University, a Protestant university, filed suit in December, 2011, so it wasn’t just Catholics.

I haven’t heard of any cases involving Jews, Muslims, etc, but they would also have the same rights.

Resist We Much on February 1, 2013 at 10:53 AM

/paging Secretary Genghis Kerry

Terp Mole on February 1, 2013 at 10:06 AM

This one’s on Hillary as Kerry hasn’t been sworn in yet. Secretary Lurch has to mop up the blood though.

blammm on February 1, 2013 at 11:06 AM

Now that people are seeing what an Obamacare policy is going to cost maybe the HHS is trying to find ways to make it look like they are lowering premiums and cover their azzes.A family of 4 with a mortage,car notes,school stuff for kids,utilities,gas,and food is looking at $20,000 for a basic policy.The IRS set the tax,(fine) at $2800.00 on this amount.They will be collecting alot of taxes.

docflash on February 1, 2013 at 11:09 AM

Umm.. And Ed – I can tell you exactly why they didn’t bow to reality earlier. It’s called an election. This was a shameless part of the war on womenz.

Illinidiva on February 1, 2013 at 10:18 AM

Obama doesn’t bow to reality. Only to foreign despots.

either orr on February 1, 2013 at 11:11 AM

doc – no the IRS cannot collect a dime. They can withhold refunds. So, increase your withholding through the year and reduce the IRS free interest loan program instead.

Starve the beast!!

Zomcon JEM on February 1, 2013 at 11:43 AM

A family of 4 with a mortage,car notes,school stuff for kids,utilities,gas,and food is looking at $20,000 for a basic policy.The IRS set the tax,(fine) at $2800.00 on this amount.They will be collecting alot of taxes.

wasn’t that the point? Anything say these “taxes” won’t go into the general fund?

katablog.com on February 1, 2013 at 12:07 PM

you know if we didn’t have the federal government money in our universites healthcare and everything else then they would have no power whatsoever over us. A small government means freedom a big government means oppressions.

Cut spending.

unseen on February 1, 2013 at 12:16 PM

Narcissistic Law Students Hardest Hit.

bmmg39 on February 1, 2013 at 12:20 PM

Narcissistic Law Students Hardest Hit.

bmmg39 on February 1, 2013 at 12:20 PM

And liberal feminists who want the Gov out of their bodies… except when it comes to paying for the “reproductive services” to counteract the poor decisions they make with their bodies.

ptcamn on February 1, 2013 at 12:37 PM

does “retreating” equate to “pulling out”????

er…./

ted c on February 1, 2013 at 10:32 AM

…its promoting tax evasion!

KOOLAID2 on February 1, 2013 at 1:46 PM

In March, after an uproar among religious institutions that didn’t want to pay for contraceptives, the Obama administration offered several policy suggestions that would require the administrator of the insurance policy, not the religious institution or the insurer, to pay for contraception coverage and invited comment on those proposals.

Way to go. Perpetuate the lie that this is about contraception. It is not. It is about abortion.

cptacek on February 1, 2013 at 2:04 PM