USCCB president urges Trump to quickly act to ease contraceptive mandate


(CNS) — The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called on
President Donald Trump to ease the “onerous” contraceptive mandate of
the Department of Health and Human Services under the Affordable Care Act because it violates
religious freedom.

Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said in an op-ed piece in The Hill Aug.
3 that the mandate, which requires most employer-offered health insurance programs
to cover contraceptive and abortion-inducing drugs and devices, “has
tested this country’s commitment to a healthy pluralism.”

Trump’s pledge to ease the mandate during a White House signing ceremony May 4 for
an executive order promoting free speech and religious liberty, Cardinal
DiNardo lamented that after three months no steps have yet been taken to erase
the HHS mandate for organizations that object to it for faith reasons.

charities, schools and pro-life advocacy organizations, the cardinal wrote,
could face millions of dollars in fines from the federal government for not
complying with the mandate.

president’s promises were not just in his speeches,” Cardinal DiNardo
said. “The text of the executive order itself directs the secretary of
Health and Human Services to ‘considering issuing amended regulations,
consistent with applicable law, to address conscience-based objections to the
preventive-care mandate.

the onerous regulations that are still on the books have not been
amended,” he said.

DiNardo called on Trump to act so “that the government give us the
space to fully participate in American life.”

freedom is a fundamental right, not a political football. Freedom belongs to us
by human nature, not by government dictate. A government that serves its
citizens is one that respects the right to religious freedom,” the
cardinal added.

The column
follows recent failed efforts by Congress to pass a law to repeal the
Affordable Care Act. It also comes two months after the May 31 leak of a draft rule from HHS exempting religious groups from the contraceptive
mandate. The draft was welcomed at the time by church officials and
attorneys representing the Little Sisters of the Poor, one of the groups that
challenged the mandate in the courts.

The 125-page document remains under review by the White House Office of
Management and Budget. It details objections to the Affordable Care Act’s
requirement that employers cover contraceptives in their employee health plans despite
their moral objections to such coverage.

would leave in place the religious accommodation created by President Barack
Obama’s administration for nonprofit religious entities such as church-run
colleges and social service agencies that are morally opposed to contraceptive
coverage and can file a form or notify HHS that they will not provide it. The
draft rule also would broaden this exemption to cover employers with religious
or moral objections to providing coverage for some abortifacients. The new rule
also makes it clear that insurers may issue separate policies to women whose
employers are exempt from the mandate.

mandate has undergone numerous legal challenges from religious organizations
including the Little Sisters of the Poor and Priests for Life. A combined
lawsuit, Zubik v. Burwell, made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices
in May 2016 unanimously returned the case to the lower courts with instructions
to determine if
contraceptive insurance coverage could be obtained by employees through their
insurance companies without directly involving religious employers who object
to paying for such coverage.

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Editor’s Note: The cardinal’s column can be read online at

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