The Obama administration’s latest rules for its abortion/contraception mandate fail to resolve religious liberty concerns and should be scrapped, Southern Baptists’ lead ethicist Russell D. Moore has told the federal government.
The president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission outlined his opposition to the new regulations in three pages of formal comments filed Oct. 27 with the Department of Labor. Moore’s letter came in response to the eighth version of the rules since the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) first issued in August 2011 regulations requiring employers to provide for their workers not only contraceptives but drugs and devices that can potentially cause abortions.
The latest rules in an ongoing controversy provide a new option for notification by non-profit religious organizations that object to the mandate. A non-profit may notify HHS in writing of its religious objection to providing coverage of all contraceptives or those that are potentially abortion-causing. In response, the federal government will notify the insurer or a third-party administrator it is responsible for providing employees of the non-profit with payments to cover the services. The new version no longer requires the non-profit to authorize the government to contact its insurer.
While the ERLC is pleased HHS recognizes the conscience problems with the regulations, it is “deeply disappointed, however, that [HHS] still believes it should be the arbiter of the line between what constitutes protected religious activity and what does not,” Moore wrote in his comments.
The new option, or accommodation, in the rules does not eliminate the moral objection by religious organizations, he said.
“Non-exempt religious organizations which object to providing abortifacients on moral and religious grounds are still the conduit by which employees receive the drugs and devices,” Moore wrote.
“Non-exempt organizations are unable to comply with the rules, and, at the same time, maintain fidelity to their religious beliefs,” he said. “The new accommodation is merely a reshuffling of the paperwork and does not resolve the concerns of non-exempt religious organizations: their actions are ultimately providing abortifacients to their employees.”
The new rules are the most recent effort by the government to satisfy moral objections by employers with pro-life convictions while expanding contraceptive access as part of the controversial 2010 health-care law. The abortion/contraception mandate, which HHS issued as part of implementing the health-care measure, requires coverage of such drugs as Plan B and other “morning-after” pills that appear to possess a post-fertilization mechanism that can cause an abortion by preventing implantation of tiny embryos. The rule also covers “ella,” which — in a fashion similar to the abortion drug RU 486 — can act even after implantation to end the life of a child.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press