The Obama Administration Admits (Without Realizing It) the HHS Mandate Was Never Needed

By Dustin Siggins Published on May 17, 2016

Attorneys for opponents of President Obama’s contraception and abortifacient mandate say the president himself has officially admitted its four-year court fight against non-profit religious groups was unnecessary.

In comments to Buzzfeed shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ordered the administration to find a way to accommodate the objections of 37 groups opposed to the mandate, President Obama declared the decision a victory. “The practical effect right now is that women will still continue to be able to get contraception, if they are getting health insurance,” he said. “And we are properly accommodating religious institutions who have objections to contraception.”

According to Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and an attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor, Obama’s comments are an admission that his clients and the other 36 plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case do not have to be involved in providing insurance coverage the groups oppose on faith and moral grounds.

“I wish HHS had reached the same conclusion five years ago that President Obama did yesterday,” Rienzi said in a statement from the Beckett Fund.” The president’s admission that any woman who wants contraception can get it even when the Little Sisters are not providing it shows that the HHS mandate was not needed.”

The administration has maintained that opponents of the mandate must be active participants in insurance coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptives and sterilization. At least four of the 20 approved contraceptives double as abortifacients, meaning that they both prevent the creation of new human life and end it, which is what many of the mandate’s opponents are fighting.

That argument has now changed, said Rienzi, in both recent court documents and now the president’s statement.

“The rhetoric from our opponents in this case has never matched the reality,” Rienzi continued. “We hope that the President’s willingness to acknowledge that the Little Sisters’ religious objections have never threatened any woman’s access to contraception will encourage others to tone down their rhetoric and follow his lead.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters the administration is pleased with the court’s decision because “It will allow millions of women across the country to continue to get the health care coverage that they need.”

According to Earnest, “the administration has put forward an accommodation that ensures that women, nationwide, have access to health care, including contraceptive coverage — without pay, I might add — while also protecting religious liberty. And we were pleased to announce this accommodation and to demonstrate that we were committed to both principles.”

Earnest’s comments were quickly criticized by Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Greg Baylor in a Facebook press conference. ADF represented several plaintiffs in the case. “This statement rests on yet another false narrative, that all we want to do is stop women from getting access to these drugs and devices,” he said. “That’s not true, that’s never been true. Our objection has not been to someone using these things, but us being involved in providing them.”

Echoing Rienzi, Baylor said that Earnest’s statement showed that, contrary to many past statements by the Obama administration, religious non-profits could be given complete separation from the mandate.

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