February 20 2013

HHS Wars: Nothing Has Changed

Connie Marshner

The so-called HHS “accommodation” earlier this month on the HHS mandate is just that: so-called.  It was 80 pages of text to say: nothing has changed.

Nothing for the better, that is.  The bureaucratic finagling may well have given a kick in the solar plexus to private business.

First, the obvious:  Religious nonprofits still have to choose between their principles and their prosperity.  And for-profit corporations owned by individuals with conscientious objections to abortion are in the same predicament they were before February 2.

Religious groups still have to pay for “health care” they oppose on moral grounds – but they now are supposed to do it through an involuntary third party.  It’s a bizarre enough system that George Orwell might have designed it in a novel. 

It works like this:  An employer purchases a group health plan, and certifies to its insurance carrier that it objects to abortion pills for religious reasons. 

The insurance carrier then automatically enrolls all beneficiaries in a separate health insurance policy that covers those objected-to services.  And – get this -- the insurance carrier provides this supplemental policy free of charge!

So the employer’s purchase of health insurance triggers the free coverage of what the employer has a conscientious objection against.  

You read that right: the insurance carrier provides the supplemental policy free of charge

Which raises a point of logic: if the expense is so minimal that government can require insurance companies to give it away for free, why is purchasing it so great a burden as to trump the First Amendment?

But forget logic (HHS already has).  Just take a look at what this means for the relationship between government and private business.

Government is mandating that private business provide free products.  Obama and his followers in the media can claim that religious charitable organizations are no longer required to provide products they consider immoral, thanks to this shell game.

But what precedent is the shell game setting?  Suppose next year, HHS wants to mandate coverage of surgical abortions.  Will it require hospitals to provide them for free?  Why not?  With this so-called “accommodation”, hasn’t the legal precedent been set to allow the government to compel private companies to do for free anything it wants them to do?

Whose freedom has been advanced by that maneuver?

What’s with this terminology anyhow?  An “accommodation” is a concession government might make under certain circumstances.  Last time I checked, the First Amendment – you know, free exercise of religion – is not a concession that government has the power to give or withold. 

Whatever happened to “We hold these truths to be self-evident”?  Free exercise of religion is not a right that government can withhold, since it’s not a right government gives in the first place.  

Meanwhile, at the 40,000 foot view, lawsuits against the abortion-pill mandate continue apace, with new ones filed in the last couple of weeks.  Thus far, of 14 cases that have gotten to a judge, 11 have come down on the side of religious freedom. 

The circuits are split, however: 7th and 8th circuits have granted injunctions to business owners, 6th and 10th have denied them.  Frequently, this is a bellwether for a Supreme Court case. 

So what is the solution?   Freedom of Conscience legislation will be introduced shortly in Congress, and the many are urging that it be attached to a “must-pass” piece of legislation.  Stay tuned on that.


 

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