Revised contraceptive mandate is no compromise

By Doug Carlson
Feb 15, 2012

Three weeks to the day after the Department of Health and Human Services mandated that all employers, with the exception of most churches, must provide contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization free of charge under their health insurance plans, the administration announced a so-called compromise in an attempt to extinguish a firestorm it created among the faith community and beyond.

In reality, the revision fails to quell concerns, changing virtually nothing. It is, as Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, put it in a Feb. 10 statement, a “distinction without a difference.”

To read Dr. Richard Land’s statement following the Obama administration’s Feb. 10 revised contraceptives mandate, please click here. To read the commentary by Drs. Land and Barrett Duke concerning the administration’s initial mandate announced Jan. 20, please click here.

Under the administration’s revised mandate, religiously-affiliated employers, such as schools, hospitals and soup kitchens, would not have to provide coverage for contraceptives or sterilization if they have moral objections. Instead, the insurance companies would foot the bill. This supposed “accommodation” is problematic in more ways than one.

For starters, the shift from employer to insurance company is an accounting gimmick, pure and simple. Most people understand that insurance companies do not have a free pot of money. At the end of the day, the employers, and in turn the employees, would still be the ones carrying the bill in higher premiums. It now becomes a matter of direct versus indirect funding. It simply triggers a chain of religious freedom violations, from insurer to employer to employee.

Which raises a second problem: Insurance companies, too, with moral objections to the mandate will be forced to violate their consciences. The revised mandate provides no exemption for them, mainly just churches that meet a narrowly defined set of criteria.

This leads to a third, also largely ignored, problem: What conscience protections are afforded to businesses that are secular in nature but happen to be run by people who are, for example, Christians who oppose abortion? Under the latest compromise, none. They, too, receive no exemption.

Fourth, the Feb. 10 “compromise” fails to consider religious insurers that are self-insured. As one example, GuideStone Financial Resources—the insurer of the Southern Baptist Convention, covering some 200,000 pastors, professors, missionaries and other agency workers—is self-insured. That means GuideStone does not rely on a third party to pay health insurance benefits; payments come directly from GuideStone accounts.

Recognizing these types of problems, 36 senators and 186 congressmen, led by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), are cosponsoring the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (S. 1467/H.R. 1179) to ensure that basic conscience protections are provided under the 2010 health care law. The bill is “a much-needed antidote to the infringement on religious freedom and conscience that will soon hit the American people under the administration’s contraceptives mandate,” wrote Land in a letter Tuesday to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Importantly, the Senate could vote this week on the measure as an amendment to a transportation bill (S. 1813).

The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act gets to the heart of the troubling manner in which the media and the administration largely have framed the mandate: a Catholic and a contraceptives issue. To be sure, the issue includes the two “C’s,” but it is much more. Fundamentally, it is “a clear violation of our nation’s commitment to liberty of conscience and a flagrant violation of our constitutional protection to freedom of religion,” as Land and Barrett Duke, the ERLC’s vice president for public policy and research, described it in a Feb. 7 statement.

What remains certain amid the fluid semantics of the HHS mandate is that religious freedom, enshrined in our First Amendment, is not up for compromise. Our “first freedom” is not up for bargain or sale.

To minimize the mandate as a matter simply affecting one religious body misses the much deeper, underlying concern at play. Religious liberty—the God-given right for individuals to make decisions based on their religiously informed consciences—is what’s really at stake. And to cede ground here is to seed and birth a leviathan government with an appetite whetted to strangle and devour our “first freedom” on many other fronts in the days ahead.

If you agree that organizations and individuals should be afforded conscience protections against such things as abortion under the 2010 health care law, please urge your senators and representatives to cosponsor the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (S. 1467/H.R. 1179). For more information, please click here to read Dr. Richard Land’s letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell expressing support for the bill. To read Dr. Land’s statement following the Obama administration’s Feb. 10 revised contraceptives mandate, please click here. To read the commentary by Drs. Land and Barrett Duke following the administration’s initial mandate announced Jan. 20, please click here.

Further Learning

Learn more about: Life, Birth Control,

Promotional graphic

You May Also Like

Women in combat move a ‘tragic mistake,’ Baptist leaders say

By Michael Foust - Jan 28, 2013

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s announcement that the military will remove its ban on women in combat drew criticism from several Southern Baptist leaders, who expressed concern over privacy and military effectiveness and also warned the move is part of a larger societal effort to blur differences between men and women.…

Read More

Request to halt Calif. gay marriages denied

By Erin Roach - Jul 1, 2013

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on Sunday (June 30) denied an emergency request by Proposition 8 supporters to halt the issuing of same-sex marriage licenses in California.

When the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay on a district court order last year, keeping same-sex marriage from moving forward, it said the stay would remain in place “until the final disposition by the Supreme Court.”…

Read More

Supreme Court upholds health care law, disappointing pro-lifers

By Tom Strode - Jun 28, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court has narrowly upheld the 2010 health-care law, dealing a disheartening setback to pro-life and religious liberty advocates who fervently oppose the controversial measure.

With Chief Justice John Roberts casting the deciding vote in a 5-4 opinion, the high court Thursday (June 28) announced its support for what critics often label “Obamacare.” Four associate justices — Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — said in a dissenting opinion they would have struck down the entire law.…

Read More

Women, sexuality and the ERLC Summit

By Chelsen Vicari - Apr 22, 2014 - (1)

Liberal Christians often champion themselves as facilitators of deep, authentic dialogue about the cultural issues facing America’s faithful. But when the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) gathered together yesterday for their first-ever leadership summit to genuinely discuss a myriad of sexual morality topics–including same-sex marriage and sexuality, the premier cultural conundrum facing the Church–unexpected kickback erupted on social media.…

Read More
LIFE DIGEST: Abortion-causing drug sold in vending machine Thursday, February 16