We have received encouraging news from Washington, D.C. The so-called “HHS mandate” – the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule requiring all employers to furnish possible abortion-causing drugs in company health plans – is undergoing a major religious freedom makeover.
The old rule – created by President Obama’s HHS as part of Obamacare – forced organizations like Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor to violate their conscience and provide the objectionable drugs, or be subject to millions of dollars in crippling fines. Although the U.S. Supreme Court vindicated the concerns of Hobby Lobby and appeared to be on their way to doing the same for the Little Sisters, the old rule still exists and needed to be drastically revised to grant complete religious freedom to all employers, not just a few churches and seminaries.
Dozens of ongoing lawsuits involving hundreds of individuals and organizations still hang in the balance.
The proposed draft will protect all employers with religious or moral concerns about abortion, contraceptives and sterilization. It will also protect concerned colleges and universities from being forced to provide the objectionable drugs and services in student health plans. All of these drugs and services are readily available from other sources. There is no need to infringe someone’s religious conscience in order to provide them.
Most importantly, the new draft rule recognizes one of the founding principles of our nation – that religious freedom is something the government recognizes, not grants. It existed long before government agencies and unaccountable bureaucrats started placing limits on it. This has been a healthy and necessary basis for America’s success for over two centuries, and we would do well to keep this principle at the forefront of our nation’s public policy as we move forward.
The reaction from legal groups representing many of the people and organizations aggrieved by the old rule has been immediate and positive. We join in that optimism and congratulate Secretary Tom Price and others at HHS and elsewhere in the Trump Administration for taking this necessary step. This action was a key item on our own list of accomplishments we hoped to see from this Administration, and we are gratified to watch it come to fruition.