A Nun’s Right to Choose
The Trump Administration on Friday eased Obama Care’s contraception mandate, the now infamous regulation that coerced Americans (even Catholic nuns) to pay for forms of birth control that violate their religious beliefs. This is welcome news for American tolerance and pluralism, not a scene from “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
The Health and Human Services Department issued interim final rules that will allow moral and religious exemptions to the contraception mandate, which currently requires employer insurance to cover all forms of birth control approved by the Food and Drug Administration at no cost to individuals. The Obama Administration threatened the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of nuns who care for the elderly poor, with up to $75 million in fines for refusing to pay for types of contraceptives the nuns view as abortifacients.
After years of legal challenges, the Supreme Court last year told the government to try again to work out a solution that would accommodate all parties. The Trump Administration has followed through in good faith, unlike the Obama Administration, which originally offered the Little Sisters a phony exemption that still required the nuns to subsidize birth control.
The left is treating this modest regulatory relief as a GOP effort to ban birth control, claiming millions of women will no longer have access to oral contraceptives. But HHS says the tweak won’t affect 99.9% of women, and that number could probably have a few more 9s at the end. Left untouched are “the multiple other Federal programs that provide free or subsidized contraceptives” for women, the rule notes, and birth control is available through Medicaid and community health centers.
The overwhelming majority of affected employers have complied for years with the mandate, and there is no incentive to change. Contraception is not the type of expensive care that drains insurers, and companies will not be eager to face the left’s wrath for even minor coverage alterations.
The Little Sisters still need relief in court, which the new rule should make easier, but the regulatory change will launch a crush of new lawsuits from groups like the ACLU. That so many resources in government and so much litigation are necessary to allow nuns to practice their faith is a testament to the toxic identity politics that corrodes American life.