If you missed last week’s Friday afternoon document dump, the Department of Health and Human Services updated its controversial contraception mandate, in part due to a demand in federal court. The new rules supposedly expand the religious exemption to include non-profit organizations that have an affiliation with a church or ecclesial community, but the new rules don’t acknowledge personal freedom of religious expression in any other context, nor do they free the non-profits from all connection to the mandate. Charles Krauthammer explains why this is a “farce”:
However, HHS still can’t quite let these organizations off the hook entirely. For those that purchase insurance, the self-certification has to be presented to the insurer, which then has to offer no-cost contraceptive care to the employees directly. For self-insured organizations – and there are quite a few in the religious-organization sector – the self-certification is presented to the third-party administrator, who then has to find contraception insurance for the employees.
In both cases, everyone has to pretend that (a) the employer isn’t facilitating this in some manner in contravention to their religious principles, and (b) contraception is entirely free. …
This new “modification” only applies to the scale of the insult to religious liberty and practice, rather than retreating from it entirely. HHS continues to impose yet another cost on businesses and insurers at a time when job creation remains stagnant and the economy is contracting. At the same time, the Obama administration continues to operate on two levels of condescension: presuming to tell business owners what their religious beliefs should be and treating women in the workplace as children who can’t take care of their own birth control needs without a patronizing freebie from their bosses.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has been one of the most prominent opponents of the HHS contraception mandate’s infringement on religious liberty, has said they will study the new rules. I don’t expect them to be terribly impressed with the changes, in large part because it still means that people of faith cannot live their faith fully under this government edict. It’s a farce, all right, and a completely unnecessary one.