WASHINGTON, D.C., October 6, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – The Trump administration issued an order today ending the federal requirement that employers violate their consciences to participate in the provision of employees’ contraceptives and abortifacient drugs.
The Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) began this mandate, often called the HHS contraceptive mandate. The Little Sisters of the Poor, pro-life nuns who care for the elderly, along with Hobby Lobby and other religious entities, refused to comply. The Little Sisters of the Poor providing contraceptive and life-ending drugs and devices would explicitly contradict their mission of respecting the dignity of every human life.
“HHS has issued a balanced rule that respects all sides– it keeps the contraceptive mandate in place for most employers and now provides a religious exemption,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket and lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor. “The Little Sisters still need to get final relief in court, which should be easy now that the government admits it broke the law.”
The new rules, which are nearly 300 pages in total, prevent the Little Sisters of the Poor and other conscientious objectors from litigation.
"The United States has a long history of providing conscience protections in the regulation of health care for entities and individuals with objections based on religious beliefs or moral convictions," the new rules state. "These rules do not alter multiple other Federal programs that provide free or subsidized contraceptives for women at risk of unintended pregnancy."
The Supreme Court offered relief from the burdensome mandate to Hobby Lobby and other for-profit corporations in its 5-4 ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.
President Trump promised to end the coercive mandate during his campaign. He signed a religious liberty executive order in May 2017 that seemed to begin this process, although some social conservatives blasted it for being “woefully inadequate” and much weaker than an initial leaked version. Today's new rules fulfill this executive order.
“No American should be forced to choose between the dictates of the federal government and the tenants of their faith,” Trump said when he signed this order in the White House Rose Garden. He called the Little Sisters of the Poor up to the stage with him.
In June 2017, a draft of a new federal regulation addressing the contraceptive mandate was released. Pro-life groups praised that leaked draft.
The New York Times reported that Matt Bowman, a pro-life attorney who worked for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) before joining the Trump administration’s HHS, is the “principal author of the rules.”
ADF has been one of the mandate’s strongest critics.
According to The New York Times, the new regulation cites some of the many health risks of contraception as well as its availability likely promoting teen sexual promiscuity. The June leaked version of this new regulation mentioned that as well.
The rule released today allows employers with religious and moral objections to contraception to not participate in its provision. This would exempt groups like the March for Life, which have expressed moral opposition to cooperating.
“The new exemptions will be available to colleges and universities that provide health insurance to students as well as employees,” according to The New York Times.
"After eight years of the federal government's relentless assault on the First Amendment, the Trump administration has taken concrete steps today that will once again erect a bulwark of protection around American's First Freedom – religious freedom," said Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council.
"President Trump is demonstrating his commitment to undoing the anti-faith policies of the previous administration and restoring true religious freedom," said Perkins. "Last May, the president ordered the federal government to vigorously promote and protect religious liberty."
HHS is "moving to make that order a reality," he said.