BLOGAt HHS, Encouraging Signs on Religious Freedom

By Jared Dobbs Posted on: | March 10, 2017

ADF represents five Christian universities and numerous other religious and pro-life organizations that, along with the Little Sisters of the Poor, could still use a little help. And help may be on the way in the coming weeks as the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) works to resolve the disputes over Obamacare’s contraceptive regulations. The regulatory mandate requires many employer and student health insurance plans to cover contraception, including some that can induce early abortions.

ADF represents 20 religious organizations that object to the mandate because it forces them to choose between violating their consciences or paying enormous fines. Two of ADF’s cases were bundled with the Little Sisters case at the U.S. Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell. Last year, the Court vacated the lower rulings and ordered that the federal agencies work with these religious groups to find a solution that would not burden their consciences.

With a new administration, there’s a new sheriff in town who plans on helping out. This time, the government appears to support genuine conscience protections in federal health insurance regulations. Earlier this week, HHS Secretary Tom Price, a pro-life physician from Georgia, indicated in a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt his desire to ensure that the law protects, rather than burdens, freedom of conscience:

Hugh Hewitt: Are you going to use your regulatory authority to extend conscience protections to people who do not want to participate in the purchase of abortifacients?

Tom Price: This is really important, because this is fundamental to, we believe, the Constitution and individual rights. And as I said, we’re looking at all of the rules and regulations. The conscience provisions are ones that [are] near and dear to my heart, and those of the President’s, and so the answer to your question is we will be addressing this, and we’re working through the legality of that and the rulemaking provision for that as we speak.

This is an encouraging sign for the Christian and pro-life organizations we represent and for the Little Sisters, who both wish to serve their communities in a way that affirms the sanctity of life. The last chapter of Zubik still remains to be written—a decisive move on the part of Secretary Price could quickly resolve the cases in favor of the objecting organizations. If President Trump’s administration stands by these words, more Americans will be free to live and work in a way that respects the unborn. 

Jared Dobbs

Communication Integrity Specialist

Jared Dobbs is the Communication Integrity Specialist at Alliance Defending Freedom.

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