The Trump administration announced last Friday that employers who offer health insurance would no longer be required to provide their employees with contraceptive coverage through the Obama-era mandate popularly known as the Affordable Care Act. That mandate stipulated that employers who offered health insurance – including Christian businesses and religious organizations – provide their employees through health coverage plans with access to all forms of contraception including abortion-inducing drugs.
The Trump administration issued two rules exempting employers from providing access to such contraceptives if it conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs. The exemptions cover those with moral objections and those with religious objections. The Trump administration stated that the Affordable Care Act failed to properly provide protections to those who held sincere moral or religious convictions against providing contraceptives such as the abortion pill at no cost to their employees.
During a White House Press Briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked for her response to the fact that the ACLU had already stated their intention to file a lawsuit, claiming that “The Trump administration is forcing women to pay for their boss’s religious beliefs.”
“The President believes that the freedom to practice one’s faith is a fundamental right in this country, and I think all of us do. And that’s all that today was about — our federal government should always protect that right. And as long as Donald Trump is President, he will.”
The action by the Trump administration to broaden the exemption to the HHS contraception mandate has been much applauded, especially among pro-life groups.
Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Greg Baylor stated:
We are pleased that this rule is a major step forward in keeping that promise and restoring back to people of faith their constitutionally protected freedom. We are also pleased the rule protects the conscience convictions of organizations like March for Life, an organization that bases its pro-life beliefs on science and philosophy, and hosts the largest pro-life gathering in the world every year in Washington, D.C.
Alliance Defending Freedom is representing 20 organization and 12 individuals, including the March for Life, in challenges to the HHS Obama-era mandate. The action taken by the Trump administration in broadening the exemptions to the mandate will improve the position of these organizations and individuals, although a final decision from the courts will ultimately be needed to resolve the cases.
With the recent loss of Tom Price as the former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Family Policy Institute of Washington last week appropriately voiced concerns over possible challenges this could pose to the state of religious liberty. Thankfully, it appears that there is still a reason for optimism and that the absence of former Secretary Price as head of HHS at least so far has not hindered the safeguarding of religious liberty protections.
After five grueling years of enduring the Obama-era mandate which, in essence, attempted to force business owners to violate their consciences or face crippling fines and even possible bankruptcy, the action taken by the Trump administration is a very welcome reprieve. Millions of Americans wanted no part of the healthcare mandate and the broadened exemptions put in place by Trump are certainly a partial fulfillment of his many campaign promises to ensure the continued religious liberty and conscience protections for individuals who are simply trying to live peacefully in accordance with their faith.
Josh Denton is a contributing writer for FPIW.