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Obama’s New ‘Accommodation’ Offers Limited Reprieve, Most Lawsuits Will Continue


JOAN FRAWLEY DESMOND

Source:
Nat. Cath. Register
Type:
Media/Opinion
Date:
2/1/2013

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ABSTRACTObama’s New ‘Accommodation’ Offers Limited Reprieve, Most Lawsuits Will Continue | Daily News | NCRegister.com Print Edition:  January 27, 2013 Sign-up for our E-letter!   Donate Archives Blogs Store Resources Advertise Jobs Radio Subscribe Make This My Homepage Resources Arts & Entertainment Books Commentary Culture of Life Education In Person News Opinion Sunday Guides Travel Vatican Dan Burke Edward Pentin Mark Shea Matthew Warner Jimmy Akin Matt & Pat Archbold Simcha Fisher Tito Edwards Jennifer Fulwiler Steven D. Greydanus Tim Drake Tom Wehner Our Latest Show About the Show About the Register Donate Subscribe Stations Schedule Other EWTN Shows Advertising Overview Editorial Calendar Order Web Ad Order Print Ad Print Article | Email Article | Write To Us Daily News Daily News Obama’s New ‘Accommodation’ Offers Limited Reprieve, Most Lawsuits Will Continue (715) Latest HHS mandate proposal still excludes Christian-owned businesses, as well as Catholic hospitals and universities. Tweet by JOAN FRAWLEY DESMOND 02/01/2013 Comment WASHINGTON, D.C.— On Feb. 1, the Obama administration announced the latest modification to its 2012 proposed “accommodation” for religious institutions that object to the federal contraception mandate. The announcement prompted a flurry of news reports asserting a breakthrough in the year-long impasse between the administration and religious employers — non-profits and for-profits — that oppose the mandate on moral grounds. But the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops declined to comment until the proposal had been adequately reviewed, while the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and other organizations defending plaintiffs in legal challenges to the HHS mandate said the modifications would not help most of their clients. “Today, the administration is taking the next step in providing women across the nation with coverage of recommended preventive care at no cost, while respecting religious concerns,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “We will continue to work with faith-based organizations, women’s organizations, insurers and others to achieve these goals.” But after legal experts involved in HHS mandate cases quickly reviewed the government’s latest proposal, they could identify only a modest improvement: Catholic dioceses will likely be exempted from the mandated coverage. However, Catholic hospitals, social agencies and universities will not — though HHS proposed other ways to provide the required benefits without any direct financial or administrative involvement by objecting religious non-profits. “We are extremely disappointed with today’s announcement. HHS waited nearly a year and then gave us a proposed rule that still burdens religious liberty. It also gives no concrete guidance to self-insured religious organizations,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty . “Given that today’s proposed rule was prompted in part by the D.C. Circuit’s order in the Wheaton College case, that is a remarkable and surprising omission,” Duncan said. At present, there are 44 legal challenges to the HHS mandate, and the administration has sought to have many dismissed by arguing that forthcoming  regulations would resolve the dispute. But the promised changes have not been finalized.  Several recent rulings expressed impatience with the government's stance, and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals directed the government to provide an update by mid-February.  During a Feb. 1 press call, Duncan said he could not be sure how the new proposal would likely affect some of the legal challenges, and he did not know if the D.C. Circuit Court would be content with the latest modification. But Duncan said his organization would continue to press for broad exemptions and conscience protections for all non-profits and for-profit employers who object to the mandate: “We remain committed to protecting religious liberty until the Administration recognizes the conscience rights of all Americans.” Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a brief statement that said the bishops would “welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely. We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later.” Significantly, Sister Carol Keehan, the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, offered no endorsement of the administration’s latest proposal, and said that CHA would also be “studying” the plan. A year ago, when Obama announced his Feb. 10, 2012 “accommodation,” Sister Carol said she was “pleased” with the plan, but after a lengthy process of consultation with her membership, she subsequently issued a sec.......