Obama admin responds to lawsuit: don’t rule yet because we might change mandate later
February 17, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Days after saying the birth control mandate was “final,” the Obama administration has told a federal court it shouldn’t rule on a lawsuit against the new rule because the administration may decide to change it at an unspecified later date.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Belmont Abbey College in the case, said Friday that the administration’s response lacked any constitutional defense of the mandate, which would force religious organizations, including charities, hospitals, and even religious orders, to cover birth control, sterilizations, and abortifacient drugs.
“Apparently, the administration has decided that the mandate, as written and finalized, is constitutionally indefensible,” said Hannah Smith, senior counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “Its only hope is to ask the court to look the other way based on an empty promise to possibly change the rules in the future.”
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The defense by the Department of Justice also stated that it hadn’t yet been made clear that Belmont Abbey’s insurance plan wouldn’t be grandfathered in and therefore temporarily exempt from the mandate.
While announcing a “compromise” on the mandate last Friday, in which the administration claimed religious groups wouldn’t pay for employees’ birth control coverage because insurers would offer it for “free,” the president indicated that the rule could change. Nonetheless, a White House official this week said the Friday announcement was the final concession the administration would make to outraged religious leaders.
Joseph Knippenberg, a professor of politics at Oglethorpe University, wrote in First Things that the administration’s claim against adjudicating the case immediately may be accurate, given that the mandate has not yet been implemented. However, he said, “None of this means that the Administration’s response isn’t troubling,” and quoted an excerpt of the DOJ document defending the mandate as benefiting the health of “society at large.”
“Stated another way, the Administration’s brief contends that social utility trumps religious and moral scruples,” wrote Knippenberg. “The aim of the regulations is to ‘reduce unintended pregnancies (and the negative health outcomes that disproportionately accompany unintended pregnancies) and promote healthy birth spacing.’ The scruples of employers to the contrary notwithstanding, the Administration wants more people to plan their parenthood.”