CV NEWS FEED // Twenty-two state attorneys general have signed a letter calling on the U.S. Departments of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services (HHS) to rescind all Trump-era religious conscience protections under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The letter applauds “Democrats for their efforts to improve access to contraceptive coverage under the ACA,” including their plan to rescind “the moral exemption.”
The signers express concern, however, that the Biden administration is not taking drastic enough measures to ensure access to contraceptives and abortifacients. They call for an end to religious exemptions in addition to the “moral” exemptions included in the “Obamacare” mandates.
The letter states: “We are disappointed to see that the Proposed Rule unnecessarily retains the overly broad religious exemption of the 2018 Rules.”
No More Religious Exemptions?
As reported by CatholicVote, the HHS mandate has been subject to extensive litigation, and faith-based employers have won numerous victories against it in the courts. The Biden administration is now targeting non-religious employers who have a “moral” but not necessarily “religious” objection.
CatholicVote’s supporters submitted 9,604 individual letters objecting to the attempted resuscitation of the mandates during the period for open public comments. The 22 attorneys generals’ letter was submitted on the final day of the period.
In August 2011, the Obama administration issued a mandate requiring employers to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive drugs in their health insurance plans, including abortifacients.
The narrow religious exemptions – which the attorneys general are now demanding be narrowed even further – did not let religious non-profits such as the Little Sisters of the Poor off the hook.
As a result, the Little Sisters were subjected to five years of litigation, including two trips to the Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision, the high Court ruled in favor of the religious sisters in 2016, and in 2017, the Trump administration issued a new rule with a broader religious exemption that includes religious non-profits.
‘It’s Natural Law’
“Throughout the HHS mandate fight, the Catholic Church was the pre-eminent institution that pushed the moral – not just religious – exemptions … because it’s not just a religious argument. It’s natural law; it’s human rights,” Roger Severino, a leading expert on the HHS mandates, told CatholicVote:
It would be a tremendous loss for society if we severed the two and said, “Only your unscientific, irrational, superstitious religious beliefs get any protection because that’s the only reason you would have such a bigoted view of these questions.” We don’t want to be in that boat.
CatholicVote Director of Government Affairs Tom McClusky noted:
These attorneys general were elected to protect the rights of the citizens in their states, instead they are trying to force Catholics and other Christians to abandon their faith and conscience. The irony that they are exposed doing this during the holiest week of the year is likely lost on them.
The attorneys general of California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Delaware authored the 28-page letter to the Biden administration this week. Co-signers included AG’s from Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.