Speaking last week at the White House about the Affordable Care Act, Barack Obama said that he looks forward to Joe Biden’s “next chapter in our story of progress.” In other words, Biden will make Obamacare even worse. A glimpse of that next chapter can be seen in the Biden administration’s unfolding war on religious hospitals. Xavier Becerra, Biden’s Health and Human Services Secretary, seeks to force them to perform transgender surgeries, among other immoral procedures.
A transgender pride flag now flies above HHS, the “first federal agency to do so,” the department announced in a recent press release. Becerra used the International Transgender Day of Visibility to warn hospitals that they must provide “gender-affirming care.” In its press release, HHS said that Becerra is in the process of issuing “guidance making clear that denials of health care based on gender identity are illegal, as is restricting doctors and health care providers from providing care because of a patient’s gender identity.”
Last August, a federal court in Texas blocked the Biden administration from imposing a mandate of transgender treatment upon religious hospitals in the case of Franciscan Alliance, Inc. v. Becerra.
“The injunction issued by Judge Reed C. O’Connor in 2021 permanently prohibits Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, HHS, and anyone acting in concert with it from interpreting Obamacare’s anti-discrimination protections and issuing regulations to require providers involved in the dispute to perform or provide insurance coverage for gender-transition procedures or abortion care,” reports Bloomberg Law.
Becerra is calling on the court to lift the injunction. He has been working with transgender activists and abortion groups to make Obamacare more coercive against the religious. Catholic News Service reports that religious health care providers expect “sometime in April” that Becerra will announce a revision to Obamacare, one that forces on religious hospitals the “full gamut of reproductive health care, from surgical abortion and, possibly, mail-order chemical abortion to services related to sexual orientation and gender identity.”
“The forthcoming (HHS) regulation presents an existential threat to Catholic health care because the penalties to noncompliance will likely include private enforcement, class-action lawsuits, ‘qui tam’ actions, which is where an individual can file a lawsuit as if he or she were the United States itself,” lawyer Martin Nussbaum told Catholic News Service. “The penalties may also include loss of Medicare and Medicaid funding and even imprisonment for noncomplying health care executives.”
This is nothing less than a declaration of war on religious institutions.
The logic of Obamacare made a deepening assault on religious freedom inevitable. Implicit in the legislation is that all health care providers and insurers must fulfill liberalism’s warped version of rights wherever they coincide with medical treatment. Hence, Obama refused to exempt the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious groups that serve the public from his contraceptive mandate. “Darn tooting. They have to cover things like mammograms and contraception as preventive care, no more out-of-pocket costs,” he said when asked if his contraceptive mandate applied to all insurers.
In what Obama calls the new “chapter” of Obamacare under Biden, the contraceptive mandate was bound to produce other coercive ones. After all, if the federal government can force the Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for their employees’ contraceptives, why can’t it force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions and mutilations on their patients?
For reasons of optics, the Democrats can’t admit forthrightly that their agenda necessarily requires violating religious freedom. So they instead cast their coercion of the religious as “non-discrimination,” as if facilitating abortion, transgenderism, and the like is a universal obligation. To protect religious freedom, Republicans must push back against this corrupt philosophy of rights, which is so clearly at odds with the God-given conception of rights built into the Constitution.
Becerra’s HHS has said it “will not condone the blanket use of religious exemptions against any person or blank checks to allow discrimination against any persons, including LGBTQ+ persons in taxpayer-funded programs.” This is nothing less than a declaration of war on religious institutions, and we have already seen the consequences of its concrete application: the denial of federal funds to religious adoption and foster care agencies, the investigation of Christian colleges, and the refusal to defend the conscience rights of health care workers.
Biden’s unfolding war on religious hospitals is an extension of this “anti-discrimination” charade. Because religious hospitals, particularly Catholic ones, serve so many Americans, Becerra and company have long wanted to dictate their policies. Now under the guise of updating Obamacare, they see an opportunity to do so. Let’s hope the courts will continue to block them.
In retrospect, it is clear why Obama expended so much political capital on the passage of Obamacare. That led to many political defeats for the Democrats, but it pushed America toward the fundamental transformation Obama craved — a federal government that can increasingly control freedom through the control of health care. In his remarks last week, he likened Obamacare to a “starter home” that Biden will expand. The more apt metaphor for it is that of a prison.
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