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Response to Fresno Bee article on HHS Contraception Mandate

This past Sunday, the Fresno Bee ran a New York Times story on attempts by state lawmakers to counteract proposals from the Trump administration to roll back Obama-era mandates requiring employers to cover contraception, including abortifacient contraception, in their employee healthcare plans.  It was essentially an editorial, barely concealed under a façade of objective news.  We at Right to Life felt like we should respond.

The article’s tone is totally sympathetic to the position Democrats have taken since the Obama administration issued these mandates in 2012: that all employers—presumably including religious employers—should be forced to cover contraception and chemical abortion drugs for their employees, ignoring their wide, low-cost availability through means other than employer-based insurance coverage.  It waits until its final sentence to mention any differing viewpoint, characterizing those supporting the mandates’ rollback as “religious conservatives and anti-abortion advocates” (read: “wackos,” or perhaps even “deplorables”).

Well, we wackos don’t stand alone.  The First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (or “RFRA,” a 1993 religious freedom law passed by a Democrat Congress and signed by Bill Clinton), and the United States Supreme Court pose a far greater threat to the ACA abortion/contraception mandates than Trump does.

In its 2014 Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision, the Supreme Court ruled that there were various other ways the government could achieve its goal of providing women with contraception coverage, without involving employers in insurance purchasing actions that violate their deeply-held religious and moral beliefs.  As a result, the mandates violated RFRA, and the Court struck the mandate down as it applied to closely-held private corporations.

In its 2016 Zubik v. Burwell decision, the Court again forced the government to find accommodations for objecting employers, directing a settlement to relieve religious non-profits such as the Little Sisters of the Poor.  The ACA mandates absurdly compelled this order of Catholic nuns to provide abortion and contraception coverage for its members, or else face crippling fines.  The Times story neglected to mention these cases, and the tenuous, controversial legal grounds on which the mandates rest.

The article also snidely mentions that those who object to the mandates “say” that some of the covered treatments cause abortion.  We do not merely “say” so—it is an indisputable fact.  Ella, IUD’s, and many other “contraceptive” treatments are not actually designed to prevent conception.  They prevent conceived embryos from implanting, and thereby induce a miscarriage, killing a living human organism.  These embryos are living human beings, miracles of biology with their own unique DNA, set of chromosomes, and metabolic systems, entities separate and distinct from their parents.

Objections to the ACA contraceptive mandates are not simply the gripes of ignorant cranks.  They are weighty ethical reflections based on serious engagement with science, faith, law, and ethics.  One may disagree with these views, but they deserve more notice than a throwaway sentence at the end of an article cheerleading for a single viewpoint.