WASHINGTON, D.C., April 9, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – With the comment period now closed, the Obama administration will begin formally composing the regulatory language of the controversial HHS mandate. The process will likely reinvigorate attempts to have the provision legally overturned, an effort that ultimately seems destined to end at the Supreme Court.
The period for Americans to comment on the proposed regulation – which would force employers to provide contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs to all employees with no co-pay – ended yesterday.
The Sunlight Foundation notes that the controversial provision has generated “more comments than any other regulatory proposal on any subject government-wide.”
A coalition of supporters, including Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, says its groups delivered nearly 350,000 messages of support for the mandate.
Numerous lawsuits seeking to halt or overturn the mandate – including those filed by Ave Maria University, Belmont Abbey College, and Notre Dame – have been dismissed on the grounds that the regulations have not yet reached their final form, sometimes legally referred to as “ripeness.”
After the administration finalizes the rules, the lawsuits will move forward.
Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB's Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, said he continues “to pray for the success of all of these lawsuits.”
He said, “Their goal is nothing less than securing the freedom of the Church to continue to obey the Lord’s command – and, in turn, to serve the common good – by providing charitable ministries in health care, education, and service to the poor, all without compromising Catholic beliefs.”
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Critics were harshly critical of the latest proposed “accomodation” as a shell game, saying that it still requires employers to violate their conscience while maintaining the fiction of separation on paper.
The HHS proposal, released in February, would allow religious non-profits to avoid directly funding such measures on paper. Instead, the insurance company would provide their female employees with a separate policy that provides contraceptives and abortifacients “at no charge.”
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told the Harvard School of Public Health on Monday, “We think [the 'accommodation'] upholds the religious beliefs of some, but does not impose religious views on an employee who may or may not share those religious beliefs. Having said that, we’re being sued.”
Her comments reflect the frequent feminist talking point that forcing religious employers to violate their conscience prevents those employers from “imposting their religious views” on those employed by them.
“The current proposal still leaves these employers with an impossible choice: follow the law or follow their conscience and be subject to draconian fines,” said Maureen Ferguson of The Catholic Association. “We call for a real solution to the dilemma this administration has created with its HHS mandate, and ask that no person of faith be coerced by the government to provide products and services they find morally objectionable.”
“We see only one acceptable change regarding the mandate: rescind it completely,” said Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life.
The Abortion Lobby has hailed the HHS mandate as a step forward for its agenda.
“We know that access to birth control is good public policy and good health-care policy, so you can imagine how women everywhere cheered when the Affordable Health Care Act included this much-overdue health benefit,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said.
However, pro-life groups have pointed out that, in addition to violating conscience rights, the birth control measure is detrimental to women's health.
Paul Rondeau, executive director of the American Life League, observed that “studies in France and by the United Nations link the potential for hormone disruptive chemicals to life-threatening venous thromboembolism (blood clots), infertility, the development of non-descended testes in young males, breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men, developmental effects on the nervous system in children, attention deficit/hyperactivity in children, and thyroid cancer.”
“We have a president who believes Americans are so stupid or indifferent that they will not see that he has elevated his personal ideology over their liberty and safety,” Rondeau wrote. “All Americans, and especially our daughters, mothers, and sisters, will pay the price.”