The Department of Health and Human Services on Friday set the stage for a massive showdown between the federal government of the United States and American Christians who believe the government has no right to force them to act against their faith by mandating that they buy, provide or facilitate health-care coverage that includes sterilizations, contraception, or abortion-inducing drugs.
HHS released a new proposed regulation under the Obamacare law that the department presented as an accommodation to religious “organizations” that object to providing sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans. However, the proposal does not truly expand the exceedingly narrow religious exemption presented in the initial regulation, which was finalized last year, and continues to offer no exemption at all to Christian individuals or business owners.
“There really is no expansion of the religious exemption,” said Leonard Leo, a Washington attorney, who is a board member of The Catholic Association, a group of Catholic lay persons dedicated to applying the teachings and principles of the church to the issues of the day.
“The HHS mandate announcement today changes nothing, it is just another accounting gimmick and the HHS mandate continues to be a violation of civil rights, religious freedom and First Amendment rights,” said Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor to The Catholic Association. “Catholic institutions and other faith based organizations, including hospitals and universities and private employers, still do not get their First Amendment rights back and are still being forced to either violate their faith or pay crippling government fines for practicing their faith.”
The original regulation, finalized by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in January 2012, said virtually all health care plans in the United States must provide all women of child-bearing age with cost-free coverage for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.
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