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FIRST-PERSON: An HHS ‘accommodation’ for the naive

DALLAS (BP) — The federal government finally kept its promise to provide a revision to its abortion/contraceptive coverage policy under the health care law. The announcement of the so-called accommodation came earlier in February. It was too convoluted — really — to explain on the nightly news.

This new policy was supposed to be the miracle that relieved concerns of the Catholic church and all the religious groups and Christian-owned companies who object to providing contraception and/or abortion-inducing drugs under their health plans. Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson wrote of it: “Upon reflection, it seems less like the parting of the Red Sea than a parlor trick.” “Accounting gimmick” is what others are calling it.

Churches have been, and still are, fully exempt from the HHS mandate. Like the last accommodation for charities, colleges and hospitals run by religious organizations, this one exempts these institutions from having to pay directly for contraceptive and abortion-inducing drugs. It says, instead, that the insurance company will do the providing of the coverage. The objection to the last accommodation was that if I as a religious organization provide my employees with insurance and that insurance provides abortion-inducing contraceptives, I am paying for something that violates my deeply held faith-based principles.

This new accommodation stipulates that a stand-alone insurance policy –- one that the religious organization will not pay for — will provide the contraception/abortion-inducing drugs for free. Free? Really? Columnist Cal Thomas warned that “only the naive can possibly think the cost won’t find its way back to the institution in the form of higher health premiums.” And this policy is still tied to the person’s employment.

Gerson says this latest accommodation “is a shell game useful only for those who want to deceive themselves.” The administration, he writes, “views access to contraception as an individual right to be guaranteed by the government, and institutional religious rights as an obstacle and an inconvenience.”

Religious liberty, purchased at such a dear cost and carefully enshrined in our First Amendment, is thus so easily traded for every woman’s right to have birth control/abortion-inducing drugs. If this is not evidence of the administration’s hostility toward faith, it at least shows that those in power simply don’t get loyalties that extend beyond government.

This accommodation does not even attempt to deal with Christian-owned businesses, like Hobby Lobby, the crafts chain. Hobby Lobby actually lost its challenge to the mandate at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and now faces penalties of over a million dollars a day for not providing abortifacients to employees through their health insurance. Religious organizations and businesses are fighting a now-or-never battle for religious freedom.
Penna Dexter is a conservative activist and frequent panelist on the “Point of View” syndicated radio program. Her weekly commentaries air on the Bott and Moody radio networks. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • Penna Dexter