The White House has offered something it calls a compromise on the so-called contraception mandate — and by “compromise” the Obama administration apparently means offering a symbolically tweaked plan to go forward with trampling Americans’ religious liberties while pretending to accommodate them. In truth, nothing of substance has changed from the administration’s January 20 announcement that religious employers will be forced to provide services they find morally objectionable.
Here’s what the Obama plan would mean in practical terms: If a “non-exempt religious employer” — that is, a religiously affiliated employer, such as a Catholic social-service agency, that is not exempt from the mandate as a house of worship — chooses to offer health insurance to its workers, that insurance must always include among its benefits free contraception, sterilization, and access to abortion-inducing drugs. Which is to say that if they offer health insurance at all, many religious employers would be complicit in funding products and services that are in direct violation of the fundamental norms of their faiths. The substance of the “compromise” is the fact that the requirement to provide these services free of charge would be relocated, moving out of the employers’ insurance contract and into a federal regulation governing what insurers must include in the policies they sell to non-exempt religious employers. In effect, religious employers will be told that they can buy whatever policies they want, but insurers will be able to sell them only policies that cover contraception, sterilization, abortifacients, and the like. This “compromise” leaves religious employers in precisely the same position they were in before: with no way to offer insurance that does not include coverage they find morally objectionable.
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