On Friday afternoon, the Obama administration released an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to announce it was proceeding as planned with its new federal mandate that abortion pills, sterilization procedures, and contraception must be provided without co-pays under virtually all health care plans.
The mandate will force almost all employer-provided health care plans, including those purchased by employers and employees who object on moral or religious grounds to paying for these services, to pay for abortifacients, contraception, and sterilizations by August 2012.
The mandate will force religious institutions--such as charities, universities, and hospitals--to provide these services by August 2013. As Cardinal Timothy Dolan said when the Obama administration announced the rule in January, "In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences."
The so-called "accommodation" announced by President Obama in February--that insurers of religious institutions, not the institutions themselves, would foot the bill--was a gimmick that changed nothing of moral substance. As Grace-Marie Turner writes, Friday's announcement shows that the "administration clearly is not backing down from its original plan":
- Virtually all private health plans nationwide still will be required to provide their employees with access to sterilization, contraception, and drugs that cause abortion.
- All women will have to have access to the mandated services at no charge, even if they work for a religious organization such as a Catholic hospital, university or charity whose teachings are violated by the directive.
- Private employers who are not religious organizations are given short shrift and clearly have no hope of being able to exercise their own right of conscience if they do not want to pay for the morally-offensive services.
The Obama administration also struggles to explain how its "accommodation" will apply to self-insured institutions--in which the employer and the insurer are the same entity. The administration proposes that "a third-party administrator of the group health plan or some other independent entity assume this responsibility."
In an admission that the original idea had failed, Friday’s notice lists several ways that health plans could get money to pay for the mandate without dipping directly into premiums: through rebates the plans get from prescription drug companies, service fees, savings from disease management programs, or private non-profit contributions.
The bottom line is that most Americans who object to paying for abortion pills will be forced by the federal government to violate their consciences this August. And Americans who work at religiously-affiliated institutions will be forced by the federal government to violate their consciences next August--unless the mandate, or Obamacare itself, is repealed.