CNA Staff, Jul 9, 2020 / 10:30 am (CNA).- Former vice president Joe Biden pledged on Wednesday to reinstate Obama-era policies that would require the Little Sisters of the Poor to ensure access to birth control and abortifacients for employees in violation of their religious beliefs.
Biden, who is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, made the promise July 8, following the Supreme Court decision in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor in the case Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, which upheld an exemption for the sisters from the “contraception mandate” which obliges employers to provide for contraceptive coverage for employees through their health care plans.
“If I am elected I will restore the Obama-Biden policy that existed before the [Supreme Court’s 2014] Hobby Lobby ruling: providing an exemption for houses of worship and an accommodation for nonprofit organizations with religious missions,” said Biden in a statement released by his campaign.
“This accommodation will allow women at these organizations to access contraceptive coverage, not through their employer-provided plan, but instead through their insurance company or a third-party administrator.”
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law in 2010, while Biden was serving as vice president. On August 1, 2011, then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebellius announced an interim final rule that required all ACA-compliant insurance plans to cover at least one form of female birth control, including sterilization. At the time the bill was voted on and signed, there was no contraception mandate included.
The rule, finalized on January 20, 2012, contained a narrow religious exemption to the mandate which only covered employees of a church or religious organization. The Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious order dedicated to serving the elderly poor, were one of many groups who were not covered under the religious exemption because they do not exclusively employ or serve Catholics.
The Little Sisters of the Poor have repeatedly stated that authorizing a “third-party administrator” to provide birth control to their employees is still a violation of their beliefs and is not an acceptable compromise.
Following an initial 2016 appeal to the Supreme Court, in 2017, the Trump administration granted a religious and moral exemption to the mandate for the sisters and other objecting groups. Several states filed lawsuits saying that the executive action shifted the burden of providing coverage onto the states and claimed the administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act in setting up the exemption.
On Wednesday, the court found that the Trump administration “had the statutory authority to craft that exemption, as well as the contemporaneously issued moral exemption,” and “that the rules promulgating these exemptions are free from procedural defects.”
The court’s decision only found in favor of the executive action excusing the sisters and others with conscience objections – action that could be revoked or reversed by a subsequent administration.
On Wednesday, Biden, who has campaigned on the importance of his Catholic faith, said he did not agree with either the court’s decision or the exemption for the sisters, adding that there is “a clear path to fixing it: electing a new President who will end Donald Trump’s ceaseless attempts to gut every aspect of the Affordable Care Act.”
“I am disappointed in today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that will make it easier for the Trump-Pence Administration to continue to strip health care from women–attempting to carve out broad exemptions to the Affordable Care Act’s commitment to giving all women free access to recommended contraception,” said Biden.
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How can a Catholic even contemplate voting for Biden or any Democrat when it is clear the President Trump is the one protecting our religious freedom, Pro-life, and pretty much everything else we believe in? If you don’t vote Republican, you really need to consider if the Catholic church should be your choice of worship.
Anticipation of what to expect may occasion a worthwhile response. Bishop Barron’s public chastisement for his recent views on Laity and hierarchy brought at least a partial worthwhile ‘after the fact’ response, “I understand that people are passionate, especially about religious matters, but when it comes to this commentary we always must keep truth and love in the forefront”. He also correctly cited calumny, a deliberate false accusation meant to harm as serious sin. Biden’s remarks on the Little Sisters and contraception, abortifacients will likely provoke anger, as I was quite angered. Biden is justifiably susceptible to righteous anger, perhaps contempt. Hopefully not calumny. It’s easy to invent suppositions about a man that are unproven, and if not calumny are borderline. This is where Bishop Barron whatever his shortcomings on the issue of Laity was clearly correct. We instead have opportunity here to avoid calumny ‘before the fact’ of responding to what is contemptible. Eternity in Hell to say the least is quite a long time. Humor aside, that prospect is most terrible. Perhaps a best among our rightful dispositions during internet commentary is zeal for the salvation of souls.
Speaking of social media, Barron said that “I must admit the vitriol, negativity, personal attacks, and outright calumny that come regularly from self-professed Catholics is dismaying and disedifying in the extreme.”
Years ago I had a grudging respect for Senator Biden because he at least seemed his own man.
Biden plans to end exemption for little sisters of the poor….of course he does….nothing surprising…completely predictable.