The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is issuing two final rules revising the Obamacare contraception mandate, in an effort to relieve those with religious and moral objections from compelled contraceptive insurance coverage. Not a moment too soon, either. Read Wesley J. Smith’s summary of the rules here.
HHS describes the rules:
The first of today’s final rules provides an exemption from the contraceptive coverage mandate to entities that object to services covered by the mandate on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs. The second final rule provides protections to nonprofit organizations and small businesses that have non-religious moral convictions opposing services covered by the mandate.
The religious and moral exemptions provided by these rules also apply to institutions of education, issuers, and individuals.
The Departments are not extending the moral exemption to publicly traded businesses, or either exemption to government entities.
I’ve written at length about the Obamacare mandate that contraceptives for women be treated as “preventive” health care. The mandate was and is wrong on at least two levels: its assumption that women are broken and need to be fixed, and its attack on the First Amendment rights of employers like the Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby who have religious or moral objections to helping provide or procure contraceptives, abortifacient or otherwise, for employees.
The new rules may be as close to a solution as can be achieved, with exemptions to the mandate now much broader than before. But there shouldn’t need to be exemptions, because the mandate shouldn’t exist.
President Trump’s Administration is right to recognize the threat to religious liberty posed by the mandate. But this president is no more likely than the previous one to back away from the public policy that treats women as things that need fixing, as though women’s fertility were a disease.
I ask my readers’ indulgence as I shamelessly swipe something from the latest update out of 40 Days for Life in Greenland, New Hampshire.
…I also got an update about the women from the Correctional Center who pray for our Greenland 40 Days for Life Efforts. The Godmother to one of the women forwarded my 40DFL email in which I mentioned the women and their prayer support of our local 40 DFL efforts. The women were very encouraged by the connection they have to something outside their walls-the 40 Days for Life Greenland vigil!
No one is beyond prayer, and no one is beyond joining in prayer.
Of course, the fellowship from the women in the correctional center means that someone talked to at least one of them about 40 Days for Life and its peaceful witness against abortion, and that person talked to others, and so on. It started with one person.
Might you be such a person? Are there people in your life who don’t yet know about 40 Days for Life? You never know whose heart may be ready to respond.
There’s still time to join in the fall campaign, which runs through Sunday, November 4. Learn more at 40daysforlife.com, and click on the green button that says “find a campaign” to find the one nearest you.
The Trump Administration has announced a proposed rule that would prevent federal Title X family planning money from going to abortion providers. That’s “proposed.” It’s a long road from announcement to implementation. Pro-lifers are cheering as though it’s a done deal, and abortion providers are screaming as only people who’ve been hit in the wallet can scream.
The UL article goes on to quote PP’s spokeswoman: “Our services are generally staying the same. It’s pretty much going to be business as usual.” Yup. Pretty much. Generally.
And then comes the last paragraph: “Planned Parenthood said it plans to seek a conditional use permit from the Planning Board to address a parking shortfall if the variance goes through.”
For anyone who has followed the buffer zone issue, and for anyone familiar with the parking situation near 24 Pennacook Street, that’s an interesting sentence. Will a “parking shortfall” provide PP with an excuse to post a buffer zone, in the name of safety? What would be the terms of a conditional use permit? Would it mean setting aside some of the public on-street parking area for PP use, thus effectively imposing a buffer against peaceful pro-life witnesses without using the buffer zone law?
Or maybe “it’s pretty much going to be business as usual” is a straightforward statement. We’ll see.
A portion of this post is adapted from remarks I delivered at the closing rally for 40 Days for Life in Manchester, New Hampshire.
This has been one of those 40 Days for Life campaigns that I refuse to call a “Spring” campaign. Too darn cold and snowy. So what did we have for the closing rally? Temps in the mid-forties, and a forecast of rain. Spring rain! How good that sounded.
I was blessed during this campaign to be able to participate in campaigns in Concord and Greenland as well as Manchester. Manchester’s sort of home base, and I’m grateful to campaign coordinator Sheila and her team. Traveling was good, though. I saw 40 Days for Life through fresh eyes as I visited different towns.
One of the things I love about 40 Days for Life is its presence in so many cities at the same time. If I was praying at 7 a.m. in Manchester, even with just one other person, I knew we were praying and witnessing in solidarity with many other people.
We have good days – a conversation with a woman considering abortion, a “save,” maybe just a smile from a passerby – and bad days when we feel “what’s the point?” When that happens, remember that peaceful, consistent pro-life witness during 40 Days for Life is touching people not involved with the facility outside which we stand. The neighbors see us. So do the driver of the school bus rumbling down Pennacook Street, and the woman walking to the Rite-Aid on the corner, and the guy sweeping the streets. There’s no telling when or where or how peaceful witness will bear fruit.
We all know that it’s not bearing fruit at the State House at the moment. March was a discouraging month, legislatively. It would be easy for me to focus on that. Culture is about more than politics, though.
This was brought home to me at a recent hearing in Concord, where I met someone just getting started in pro-life work. At the same hearing was an old friend who’s been in the vineyard with me, so to speak, for about 30 years. The three of us got to talking. My new friend asked us if New Hampshire had made any pro-life progress over the years.
I felt like a know-it-all fifth grader. Ooh! Ooh! I know this one! I got ready to launch into a sixty-second rant about how terrible our laws are relative to the right to life. As I drew breath to start, though, my old friend said, “oh yes, definitely.” Knocked me right off my soapbox. New friend and I exclaimed at the same time, “what do you mean?”
My old friend then laid down a bit of truth that put politics in its place. “Thirty years ago, there were seven crisis pregnancy centers in the state. Now, there are 30 places, pro-life places, where women can go.”
Think about that. Thirty places. And they’re not just about crisis pregnancies, either. For example, what does every center publish on its wish list for donations? Toddler-size diapers and training pants. So much for only caring about babies until they’re born. And for moms and dads, many centers offer parenting classes and assistance with job-hunting. Some places offer housing for pregnant and parenting women who would otherwise be homeless.
Each of the 30 places began with one person seeing a need. It takes a team to open and sustain a pro-life project, but each one starts with a single person with compassion and vision. Think of that next time you’re in prayer, alone, wondering if you can make a difference. Yes, you can.
We begin laying the groundwork for the Fall campaign today. Let’s spread the news. If you have pro-life friends, if you’re in a service group or prayer circle, if you have a podcast, if you are part of any pro-life organization that needs a speaker, invite someone on the 40 Days for Life leadership team. I’m saying this without consulting any of them, but I feel safe in saying that they would welcome the chance to tell more people about what 40 Days for Life is about.
I want those team leaders to get so many speaking engagements that they can’t keep up. Let them get mad at me for putting them in that predicament. It’ll be worth it.