John Jalsevac

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Obama unlikely to compromise on HHS mandate: U.S. bishops official

John Jalsevac

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 25, 2013, ( – Catholics and others concerned about the HHS mandate shouldn’t hold their breath for any form of compromise from the Obama administration, according to one of the leading experts on the ongoing legal battle against the mandate.

“I think that the Obama administration feels their base of support lies with pro-choice Americans, and with single women who are interested in this free contraceptive coverage,” said Richard Doerflinger, the associate director of the Secretariat for Pro-life Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Doerflinger, speaking to at the annual conference of the Pontifical Academy for Life at the Vatican, said that the Obama administration now likely feels they been given a green light to forge ahead with implementing the HHS mandate in its original form following Obama’s re-election.

“I would hope, but I don’t think we’re going to be seeing any serious compromise coming forward,” he told LifeSiteNews.

Doerflinger said that the revised “accommodation” offered by the administration last month accomplishes “almost nothing.” While the new rules simplify the definition of a religious employer, “the regulation itself says that it will still apply to the same very, very narrow class of churches and houses of worship that it did before,” he said.

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But just because the Obama administration is unlikely to budge does not mean that the battle is lost. Instead, said Doerflinger, deliverance from the mandate is far more likely to come from the other two branches of government: judicial and legislative.

Currently dozens of lawsuit have been filed by scores of employers against the mandate. These lawsuits are wending their way through courts across the country, and, according to Doerflinger, may eventually end up before the Supreme Court.

In Doerflinger’s opinion the chance of success in the courts is good. In many cases judges have already issued preliminary injunctions halting the enforcement of the mandate for individual employers, a sign that the judges believe the plaintiffs will ultimately prevail in their legal challenge.

When asked what the options are if the legal challenge fails, Doerflinger said that they are “all very bad.”

“It is to stop offering health coverage to employees, or somehow violate one’s conscience by complying with an unacceptable mandate,” he said. “So, we’re doing everything possible now to ensure that Hobson’s choice is not given to us.”

“I have every hope that it will be resolved,” he added, “and I think it will be resolved in favor of our long-standing tradition of religious freedom.”

He concluded by urging Catholics to get involved in the public debate on the issue: to write letters to the editor and to congress, and to educate others on what’s a stake.

“The public debate is open to all, and we all have a stake in whether the Church is allowed to continue to act on its values,” he said. 

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