Trump Administration Expands Contraceptive Mandate Exemptions For Religious and Moral Objectors

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Yesterday the Trump Administration issued Interim Final Rules (effective immediately) that expand exemptions from the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate for organizations, colleges and businesses that have religious or moral objections to furnishing coverage for employees (or enrolled students), as well as for employees who object to having such coverage.  The new Interim rules were issued in two releases, one covering religious exemptions (full text), and the second covering moral objections (full text).  A press release from the Department of Health and Human Service explains the new rules:The Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor are announcing two companion interim final rules that provide conscience protections to Americans who have a religious or moral objection to paying for health insurance that covers contraceptive/ abortifacient services. Obamacare-compliant health insurance plans are required to cover “preventive services,” a term defined through regulation. Under the existing regulatory requirements created by the previous administration, employers, unless they qualify for an exemption, must offer health insurance that covers all FDA-approved contraception, which includes medications and devices that may act as abortifacients as well sterilization procedures.Under the first of two companion rules released today, entities that have sincerely held religious beliefs against providing such services would no longer be required to do so. The second rule applies the same protections to organizations and small businesses that have objections on the basis of moral conviction which is not based in any particular religious belief….Key Facts about today’s interim final rules:The regulations exempt entities only from providing an otherwise mandated item to which they object on the basis of their religious beliefs or moral conviction.The regulation leaves in place preventive services coverage guidelines where no religious or moral objection exists – meaning that out of millions of employers in the U.S., these exemptions may impact only about 200 entities, the number that that filed lawsuits based on religious or moral objections….The regulations leave in place government programs that provide free or subsidized contraceptive coverage to low income women, such as through community health centers….Comments on the Interim Final Rules are due by Dec. 5.The ACLU immediately announced that it was filing suit to challenge the Interim Rules.  The complaint (full text) in  ACLU v. Wright, (ND CA, filed 10/6/2017) contends that the Interim Rules violate the Establishment Clause as well as the equal protection components of the 5th Amendment, and the Administrative Procedure Act.

Source: http://lslink.info/?c=ZM6

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