HHS Mandate Remains Unchanged

On the morning of the religious freedom rallies across America last Friday, organizer Eric Scheidler was questioned by a network television news anchor about the goal of the event. “Since the administraiton already provided an ‘accommodation’ for religious objection” said the newsman, ”are you looking for another accommodation?” It was a fundamentally flawed premise, widely held by major media still.

One of the more revealing aspects of the mandate’s mass marketing has been how startling it is to so many people when they hear that there was no accommodation. Let’s clarify.

Kathryn Lopez takes it on directly at NRO’s Corner.

Can we all get one fact straight? As the president was announcing an “accommodation” in a press conference with Kathleen Sebelius on February 10 concerning the HHS contraceptive mandate, a rule was filed in the Federal Register that was unchanged (the word “unchanged” even appears four times in the final rule as filed) from the regulation the same Cabinet secretary had announced on January 20, that had been originally presented on August 1. That August rule had the narrowest of religious exemptions. And that rule was subsequently filed in the Federal Register.

Unchanged, to repeat.

Which Matt Franck explicitly pointed out on Public Discourse.

After three weeks of outcry from religious leaders regarding its Health and Human Services contraception insurance mandate, the Obama administration announced a “compromise” on February 10. But the White House’s idea of “compromise” is nothing more than a classic shell game, leaving the same problems in place that have been the source of controversy since this federal rule was first proposed last August. Some people claiming to represent a Catholic perspective have offered their support to the administration, but the nation’s Catholic bishops have declared this “bargain” unacceptable. Already, scores of college presidents, scholars of religious liberty, and other religious and educational leaders—Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish—have joined the bishops in rejecting the administration’s fraudulent “accommodation.”

But media have not done the homework to find the obvious, finding it easier to echo an empty claim. It achieved the goal of convincing some key people.

The president and the secretary seemed to realize that some appearance of being accommodating was necessary, and so on February 10 they produced just that—a mere appearance of “compromise.” First, the controversial rule was published that day in the Federal Register, without any change.

Then, in a “fact sheet” distributed by the White House, the administration promised to work “in the transition year” from August 2012 to August 2013 on a “new regulation” covering “religious organizations” not fitting in the current exemption. The transparent objective of this promise is to get past the 2012 presidential election without arguing about this controversy any further.

It’s not working. The facts are there.

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Sheila Gribben Liaugminas, of Chicago, is a member of the Voices editorial board, and was host of The Right Questions on Relevant Radio and Issues and Answers news show. She and her husband have two sons, one a seminarian and the other a college student. Follow updates on this story (and contact Sheila) at www.inforumblog.com.

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