(CNSNews.com) – Pro-life leaders applauded the Trump administration this week for issuing two new rules that allow small businesses and non-profit groups to exempt themselves, on moral or religious grounds, from an Obama-era regulatory mandate requiring them to cover contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs and devices (such as Plan-B and IUDs) in the health insurance plans they offer their employees.
“[E] entities that have sincerely held religious beliefs against providing contraceptive services (or services which they consider to be abortifacients) would be exempt from the mandate and no longer be required to provide such coverage,” stated the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Nov. 7.
In addition, “this rule gives nonprofit organizations, small businesses, and individuals that have non-religious moral convictions opposing services covered by the contraceptive mandate protections that are similar to the religious final rule’s protections for religious organizations and businesses,” said HHS.
Commenting on the new rules, Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, said, “Pro-life organizations should not be forced into betraying the very values they were established to advance and this rule will allow such freedom.”
“March for Life bases its pro-life beliefs on ethics and science; the government has no right to demand that organizations provide health insurance plan options that explicitly contradict their mission; it is un-American,” she said. “We are very grateful to the Trump Administration for its work to protect such conscience rights.”
National Right to Life President Carol Tobias also commended the president and emphasized the importance of rights of conscience in the pro-life movement.
“Rights of conscience are extremely important to the right-to-life movement to protect medical professionals, religious institutions and employers from being forced to participate in abortion,” Tobias said. “We commend President Trump for keeping his campaign promises by supporting these rights of conscience.”
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said the rule was a “huge victory for conscience rights and religious liberty in America.”
“No longer will Catholic nuns who care for the elderly poor be forced by the government to provide abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans,” Dannenfelser said. “Not only that, moral objectors such as Susan B. Anthony List will also no longer have to pay for life-ending drugs that are antithetical to their mission and for which we have argued there is certainly no ‘compelling state interest.’”
Focus on the Family said it was “pleased to learn” of the new guidelines, and the American Family Association (AFA) called the rule a “good move.”
“This is a good move by the Trump administration and it is very heartening for those who value religious liberty,” the AFA wrote.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) said in a statement that religious and moral beliefs “should be protected” and that all Americans “should be free to peacefully live and work according to their faith and conscience without threat of government punishment.”
“Through these regulations, President Trump kept his promise that people of faith wouldn’t be bullied on his watch,” the ADF wrote.
Catholic League President Bill Donahue said, “Kudos to President Trump for affirming religious liberty and conscience rights.”
The contraceptive mandate, which was introduced in 2011, was not part of the Affordable Care Act itself, but a regulation issued under that law by President Barack Obama's Department of Health and Human Services.
While the Trump administration’s new rule expanded the exemptions to this regulatory mandate, it did not completely eliminate the regulatory mandate. In fact, the new rule requires that the insurance plans that publicly traded businesses and government entities provide to their workers must still cover contracpetives and abortion-inducing drugs and devices.
“The Departments considered public comments and decided at this time not to extend the moral exemptions to publicly traded businesses or government entities,” the HHS wrote. “The Departments thoroughly considered and responded to the many public comments and made technical changes to ensure the rule is clear.”