Tag archives: HHS

Federal Judge: Revised “Accommodation” for Religious Organizations Still not Good Enough

by Travis Weber

October 29, 2014

For the first time since the Obama Administration “tweaked” its HHS mandate “accommodation” this past August, a federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction blocking the government from enforcing the mandate on certain religious organizations. This is welcome news.

After the Hobby Lobby opinion came down, and after the Supreme Court issued its interim order in Wheaton College v. Burwell, the Administration revised it’s “accommodation” to permit religious objectors to HHS of their objection directly in addition to filling out the EBSA Form 700, if they chose. As we have argued before, however, this alternative step still leaves those with sincere religious objections in the position of having facilitated and played a part in matters which they believe are morally evil. The “revised accommodation” still forces these religious objectors to violate their conscience. Whether one government form is placed between them and the moral evil, they are still forced to take action which sets the objectionable activity in motion.

For this reason, we are heartened to see that Judge James Moody from the Middle District of Florida has blocked the administration from forcing its Interim Final Regulations on Ave Maria University, which had filed suit to avoid being forced to violate deeply held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines. Judge Moody noted that the same consideration on which the 11th Circuit relied in granting relief for EWTN in Eternal Word Television Network, Inc. v. Sec’y, U.S. Dep’t of Health & Human Services, 756 F.3d 1339 (11th Cir. 2014) earlier this year was at play here – imminent harm to a religious organization which would be forced to violate its principles of conscience once the organization’s insurance plan year kicked in and the HHS mandate applied. Judge Moody thus granted relief for Ave Maria University. The school’s freedom of religion is protected – at least for now.

The Casualties of the Healthcare Law

by Family Research Council

August 30, 2012

As we close out this historic month of August, 2012, I cant help but comment on a very sad day that marked the start of a new moment in American history. The infamous contraceptive mandate began its implementation stage on August 1, 2012, and on this day the landscape of the separation of Church and State as we have known it in the United States was drastically altered. On that day groups were forced to violate religious dictates and consciences on such matters as insurance coverage of contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.

Those who have been following this debate will well remember that one year ago, the department of Health and Human Services used its regulatory power to mandate that the full range of Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptives be included in all health insurance plans, minus a very small group of religious employers, namely places of worship.

A massive public outcry ensued this decision, resulting in the Obama Administration announcing a purported accommodation last February (one that is yet to be worked through in any level of detail) as well as a one year safe haven for certain religious employers while they worked through the logistics of violating their consciences.

Organizations that do not fulfill the safe haven criteria include businesses, and groups that must not have provided any kind of contraception coverage before the February 10th regulation was issued. A number of lawsuits have been filed in response, including many asking for immediate injunctions against the mandate set to begin on Wednesday.

So who are the first casualties of the healthcare law? One such group is Weingartz Supply based out of Ann Arbor,Michigan. The organization provides supplies for lawn-mowing and snow removal. Until now the business, owned by a Catholic has not included contraception coverage, but now will be required to do so. Representing Weingartz and a Catholic business organization, Legatus, the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan filed a suit asking for an injunction from the mandate, but a hearing has not yet been set despite a May filing.

Similarly, a family-owned heating and cooling business in Colorado, Hercules, sought and received a temporary injunction the Friday before the mandate was to be implemented. But the injunction is specific to their family business, other groups are not covered.

Other casualties of the healthcare law include insurers and participants in the individual market who must to comply with the HHS Mandate as well as schools that have already removed health insurance coverage because of the HHS Mandate. To date this includes Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio as well as Ave Maria University in Florida. Note the irony, given that the goal of the healthcare law was to have more people covered, not less.

By far the vast majority of religious groups impacted by this mandate will feel the pinch once the safe harbor period (and the election) is over.

As we reflect upon this defining moment in history where HHS has in essence used regulatory power to redefine Church and State relations, I can still find comfort in the balance of power existing in our U.S. democratic system. The constitutionality of this regulation will ultimately be decided by the courts, where approximately 50 suits related to the HHS mandate currently wait to be heard.

Secretary Sebelius on Religious Freedom Protections

by Family Research Council

April 26, 2012

This morning in a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Workforce Committee, HHS Secretary Sebelius was questioned by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on the topic of religious liberty. Specifically, Rep. Gowdy questioned Secretary Sebelius’ statement in her testimony indicating the careful consideration she undertook to “balance” religious liberty protections with preventive services in making the decision about the contraceptive mandate (which includes drugs that can cause abortions).

Rep. Gowdy asked the Secretary about the specifics of her “balance”. In doing so he explained three tests for legal balance, depending on the content and issues being weighed. He explained that because religious liberty is a fundamental right any decision that might violate it would require the strictest scrutiny.

Under oath, the nation’s HHS head stated that in making this decision and taking into consideration religious liberty issues, she relied on the expertise of HHS General Counsel. When questioned further about the counsel she received, the Secretary reported that guidance was provided entirely in discussion, and no legal memo was written on the topic. When asked further about her knowledge of the most significant cases related to relgious liberty that have been decided by the Supreme Court, the Secretary responded that she was unaware/unfamiliar with these cases. It is a telling moment.

The full video is a must-see and just over five minutes:

Secretary Sebelius to NARAL: Contraceptive Mandate a Victory

by Family Research Council

October 6, 2011

According to the Associated Press, Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius spoke at a National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) Pro-Choice America luncheon in Chicago yesterday. During her remarks, she received much applause when she said that “Republicans want to roll back women’s health gains 50 years.”

Interestingly, the AP reports that the Secretary received an even louder round of applause from the gathered abortion proponents when she discussed the recent interim final rule on women’s preventive service, the “contraceptive mandate.” The mandate is the first roll-out of the health care law passed in March, 2010, and forces employers to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives in health plans with no co-pay. However, some drugs and devices that are labeled as contraceptives can cause an abortion to a developing baby. For more information see FRC’s comments here and q and a here.

In her words, “women have suffered discrimination by insurance companies that have considered… birth control a lifestyle choice.” She did not, however, comment on the tens of thousands of negative comments filed last week asking for the government to rescind this unprecedented violation of religious freedom from government coercion.

President Obama was also bragging and joking about the contraceptive mandate this week during a Democratic fundraiser in St. Louis. He, too, was silent on the influx of negative comments related to this mandate. It is sad to see an Administration so proudly hailing a mandate that will violate the consciences of millions of Americans, as well as rob countless developing babies of their inherent right to life.

Update On Obamacare and Womens Preventive Services

by Family Research Council

March 14, 2011

Since November, 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), contracted through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has hosted three expert committee meetings in Washington, D.C., to discuss and make decisions regarding the Mikulski Amendment mandate on specific womens preventive services to be included with no cost-sharing in Obamacare. The final meeting was this past Wednesday, March 9th.

Meeting attendees have included the committee a largely pro-abortion group who for the most part actively work in the field of reproductive health, a senior staffer from U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulskis (D-MD) office, HHS representatives, invited panelists, and other interested groups. Attendance was approximately 50-75 people, depending on the session.

Invited presenters included the following pro-abortion groups and/or representatives: the Guttmacher Institute; John Santelli, the National Womens Law Center, National Womens Health Network, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Sara Rosenbaum, who recently represented the pro-abortion side in the committee hearings on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act and the Protect Life Act. No pro-life advocates were invited to present at any workshop, despite asking for formal presentation time. By far the topic that received the greatest amount of attention was contraception coverage; inclusion of contraception for no co-pay was suggested by most invited speakers.

Each meeting allowed opportunity for public comment. Family Research Council, which I had the privilege of representing, joined with other pro-life, pro-family groups at each of the three sessions to request that embryocidal contraceptives, including Plan B which can cause an abortion prior to implantation, and the more recently approved drug, ella, which can cause an abortion after implantation, not be included in the recommended list for no co-pay. We pled that the conscience rights of insurance issuers, participants and providers be respected in matters related to life. For a more in-depth look at FRC comments, see here.

The committee recommendation process will be complete, with recommendations provided to HHS, at the latest by August, 2011.

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