With their commander-in-chief back in the country after his first overseas trip as president, federal officials in the Trump administration are moving towards fulfilling one of his key campaign promises.
A newly drafted rule submitted this past week for review will reportedly solidify religious liberty protections for the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious groups, who had previously been threatened with penalties for refusing to provide contraception coverage as part of their health insurance plans.
Back in October 2016, in a letter to leaders of Catholic organizations, then Republican nominee Trump wrote:
I will make absolutely certain religious orders like the Little Sisters of Poor are not bullied by the federal government because of their religious beliefs.
Trump was referring to an Affordable Care Act mandate requiring employers to provide birth control coverage as part of their employees’ health insurance plans. This mandate was challenged by multiple religious organizations who conscientiously object to the use of contraceptives.
Most notably, the Little Sisters of the Poor took their case all the way up to the Supreme Court where the justices voted unanimously to overturn a lower court ruling against the Little Sisters. The decision of the court stated that the Little Sisters could not be fined for not providing contraception coverage and instructed the lower court to give the federal government time “to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates the petitioners’ religious beliefs.”
Now, one year since the Supreme Court issued this ruling, the time for the federal government to act has arrived.
Earlier this month, President Trump’s issued an executive order telling cabinet departments to “address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate.” Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price issued a statement in response:
Religious liberty is our country’s first freedom. Americans of faith play a vital role in caring for our most vulnerable citizens, including the elderly and the poor.
We welcome today’s executive order directing the Department of Health and Human Services to reexamine the previous administration’s interpretation of the Affordable Care Act’s preventive services mandate, and commend President Trump for taking a strong stand for religious liberty.
We will be taking action in short order to follow the President’s instruction to safeguard the deeply held religious beliefs of Americans who provide health insurance to their employees.
By eradicating the Obamacare contraception mandate, this new drafted rule would follow Trump’s order to ensure religious employers are not forced to violate their religious convictions. The Little Sister’s victory is now finally being actualized.
Photo credit: American Life League via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0