The Obama administration on Friday released an advance notice of the public rule requiring all employers to provide insurance that covers drugs that could cause early abortions, inviting public comment for the next 90 days.
But according to experts who've analyzed the fine print, the administration only seems to be asking for help in balancing its priority — free contraceptives, sterilizations and abortifacient drugs for all women — with the religious freedoms of employers.
The 32-page notice asks the public for input on which, if any, organizations should be exempt from the mandate. "What entities should be eligible for the new accommodation (that is, what is a 'religious organization')?" it asks.
Moreover, should religious employers be allowed to object to providing some forms of "contraception," but not others?
"This is an administration that pushed through ObamaCare despite the fact that there was overwhelming disapproval of the bill, said Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of the Independent Women's Forum. "This appears in some ways to be some backpedaling. It's unclear whether it's their way of appeasing people or demonstrating they're listening, when they have no intention of making any changes — which is my perception of the way this administration actually works."
Friday's notice refers several times to free "contraceptives" — some of which cost as little as $9 a month — but that's not all employers or insurance companies will be forced to provide for "free" once the mandate takes effect. Sterilization surgeries also would be provided — and according to Planned Parenthood, those can run anywhere from $1,500 to $6,000 apiece.
"Benefits like this cost a tremendous amount," Schaeffer said. "They will cost women and their families. And then there are all the moral objections people have. It's frustrating because (the administration keeps) coming back to this 'many women use birth control' argument. But the contraception mandate is as much about birth control as the American Revolution was about tea. This is about the basic separation of church and state, and that's sadly being overlooked in all this."
What the notice really indicates, said Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, is that by suggesting alternative ways to pay for the mandate, the administration is quietly admitting its idea has failed.
"But the religious organizations would still be required to make sure all of their employees have access to the offending coverage," she wrote in National Review Online on Saturday. "So nothing has changed."
Contact: Karla Dial