Final “Exemptions” Announced to HHS/Obamacare Mandate

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.

Committee Nixes Conscience Bill, 14-4

(Updated to delete a reference to HB 1680, which will be addressed in a separate post.)

Today’s chapter in the annals of Aren’t-You-Glad-You-Have-a-Republican-Legislature: the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee has voted “inexpedient to legislate” on HB 1787, a bill to provide conscience protections for medical personnel. The committee recommendation will go to the full House next week.

Voting against the motion to kill the bill were four representatives, all Republican: Joseph Hagan of Chester, Gary Hopper of Weare, Kurt Wuelper of Strafford, and Dan Hynes of Merrimack.

Voting in favor of the “inexpedient to legislate” motion: Reps. Claire Rouillard (R-Goffstown), Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont), Kathleen Hoelzel (R-Raymond), Robert Graham (R-Milton), Jason Janvrin (R-Seabrook), John Leavitt (R-Hooksett), Janet Wall (D-Madbury), Timothy Horrigan (D-Durham), Paul Berch (D-Westmoreland), Suzanne Smith (D-Hebron), Linda Kenison (D-Concord), Sandra Keans (D-Rochester), Charlotte DiLorenzo (D-Newmarket), and Debra Altschiller (D-Stratham).

HB 1721, to prevent coerced abortions: ITL, 15-3

On the same day, the committee recommended “inexpedient to legislate” on a bill to prevent coerced abortions. The vote was 15-3. Representatives Wuelper, Hopper, and Leavitt voted against the ITL motion.

 

Undermining the First Amendment in the name of “Health Care”

Short memories make for bad public policy. I can’t help but reflect on that.

As I write this, Congress is about to take a vote on doing something-or-another with Obamacare: repeal, replace, whatever. I’m not sure they know what they’re doing, despite good intentions all around. In all the tinkering, I am not hearing much from Members of Congress about what made the “Affordable Care Act” utterly unacceptable to so many Catholics, including me: the contraceptive mandate. Continue reading “Undermining the First Amendment in the name of “Health Care””

House refuses to repeal buffer zone law

The New Hampshire House has given thumbs-down to repealing the state’s unenforced buffer zone law, rejecting HB 589 with a 191-165 “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL) vote.

This is the third unsuccessful attempt to repeal 2014’s buffer zone law, which gives abortion providers the ability to prohibit exercise of First Amendment rights on public property near their facilities. Last year’s repeal attempt was passed by the House before dying in the Senate.

New Hampshire’s law is similar to the Massachusetts law struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in McCullen v. Coakley.

Before the vote on HB 589, Reps. Jeanine Notter, Kurt Wuelper, and Dan Hynes spoke in favor of the repeal bill. I’m proud that two of them represent my town.


Here is the link to the roll call on HB 589. Keep in mind that the motion was ITL, so a “yea” vote favored killing the repeal effort. The “nays” came from reps who presumably don’t want to deny First Amendment rights to peaceful pro-life witnesses.

Among the 165 representatives who opposed killing the repeal bill were four non-Republicans. I tip my cap to Democrats Amanda Bouldin, Raymond Gagnon, and Jean Jeudy for being willing to take a position at variance with that of their party’s leaders. Libertarian Caleb Dyer cast a pro-First-Amendment vote, too.

Most of the 191 votes to kill the repeal effort came from Democrats, but 34 Republicans lined up behind them.