On Friday, June 28, the Department of Health and Human Services offered up its final ruling on the mandate for all employers to offer insurance plans covering abortion services and abortificients. The ruling itself is over 100 pages, and will sebeliustake some time to dissect. However, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty made this statement:

‘Unfortunately the final rule announced today is the same old, same old. As we said when the proposed rule was issued, this doesn’t solve the religious conscience problem because it still makes our non-profit clients the gatekeepers to abortion and provides no protection to religious businesses’ says Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. ‘The easy way to resolve this would have been to exempt sincere religious employers completely, as the Constitution requires. Instead this issue will have to be decided in court.’

The final rule fails to fix the HHS employer mandate’s fundamental problems:

  • Non-profit religious employers are still dragooned into acting as gatekeepers to abortion
  • Self-insured religious groups must hire administrators that pay for abortifacients and contraceptives
  • Religious business owners still have to provide abortion-inducing drugs or pay up to millions of dollars in fines

Hobby Lobby, the craft store chain, has been granted a temporary restraining order against the mandate, as have 21 other for-profit businesses and organizations. This final ruling continues to treat pregnancy as a disease requiring “preventive services“, and religious institutions will be forced to comply by January 1, 2014. According to Dr. Susan Berry,

The Department of Health and Human Services claims that insurers will not face additional costs for covering contraceptives, since it is the Obama administration’s belief that birth control will cut down on costs associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Insurers and pharmacists, however, have challenged that claim.

After a flood of complaints about the mandate from churches and religious groups, the Obama administration issued an “accommodation” which states that insurance issuers will be required to directly “provide payments for contraceptive services” purchased by women working for religious employers who oppose such products.

In addition, self-insured religious employers will work with a third party administrator, who, in the view of the Obama administration, will essentially act to provide “moral cover” to the religious employer by providing or arranging for free contraception and abortion drugs for employees.

Currently, there are 200 cases filed against the mandate. It remains to be seen if this final ruling will truly be “final.”