During last year’s presidential campaign, Donald Trump made it clear that one of the most conspicuous differences between Hillary Clinton and himself involved their positions on the HHS contraception mandate that the Obama administration had consistently used as a pretext for trampling on the religious liberty of employers and charitable organizations. In a letter to the Catholic Leadership Conference, written a month before the election, Trump described this divergence of views as follows:
Hillary Clinton supports forcing The Little Sisters of the Poor who have taken care of the elderly poor since 1839, pay for contraceptives in their health care plan (even though they have never wanted them, never used them and never will), and having the government fine them heavily if they continue to refuse to abide by this onerous mandate.… That is a hostility to religious liberty you will never see in a Trump Administration.
Today, Trump made good on that pledge when his administration issued a new rule that will exempt organizations whose owners or shareholders harbor religious or moral objections to paying for certain types of birth control via health plans. It goes without saying, of course, that this new rule is being grotesquely misrepresented by Obamacare apologists in the legacy “news” media. The Washington Post, for example, reported the regulatory change under the following misleading headline: “Trump administration narrows Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.”
The authors of the Post article know perfectly well that the health care “reform” law contains no contraception mandate. Indeed, the word “contraception” appears nowhere in its text. The mandate was concocted by former HHS secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, and her bureaucratic minions in a breathtakingly broad interpretation of the law’s preventive care provision. It was such an egregious assault on religious liberty that it spawned dozens of lawsuits including two that went as far as the Supreme Court, which ruled against the Obama administration in both Hobby Lobby v. Burwell and Zubik v. Burwell.
Nonetheless, the Obama administration chose to interpret those rulings in an absurdly narrow fashion, and continued to use the contraception mandate to bully countless organizations. Among the most egregious cases of harassment involved the Little Sisters of the Poor mentioned in Trump’s letter to the Catholic Leadership Conference. The rule issued today should put that outrage to an end. The HHS website lists the following “Key Facts” about the new Trump administration rule:
The regulations exempt entities only from providing an otherwise mandated item to which they object on the basis of their religious beliefs or moral conviction.
The regulation leaves in place preventive services coverage guidelines where no religious or moral objection exists — meaning that out of millions of employers in the U.S., these exemptions may impact only about 200 entities, the number that filed lawsuits based on religious or moral objections.
— These rules will not affect over 99.9% of the 165 million women in the United States.
Current law itself already exempts over 25 million people from the preventive-care mandate because they are insured through an entity that has a health insurance plan that existed prior to the Obamacare statute.
The regulations leave in place government programs that provide free or subsidized contraceptive coverage to low income women, such as through community health centers.
These regulations do not ban any drugs or devices.
The mandate as defined by the previous administration suffered defeats in court after court, including the Supreme Court, which ruled that the government cannot punish business owners for their faith.
Judging from the wild characterizations of the new rule by people like Cecile Richards of the nation’s leading abortion mill, Planned Parenthood, the public can expect a tsunami of propaganda that will no doubt make the above-quoted headline from the Washington Post seem honest by comparison. But when the ghouls at Planned Parenthood object to a Trump policy, it should be interpreted as an indication that the President has done something right. In this case, that is no illusion.
Today, President Trump fulfilled one of his most important campaign pledges, and achieved a major victory for religious liberty.