Carter Snead, law professor, e-mails:
President Obama’s proposed adjustments to the new Health & Human Services rule requiring Catholic institutions, including the University of Notre Dame, to provide health care plans covering contraception, sterilization and abortifacient drugs continue to violate religious liberty, according to O. Carter Snead, professor of law at the University of Notre Dame.
Today’s ‘compromise accommodation’ is nothing of the sort.
The original uproar across the ideological spectrum was in reaction to the administration’s requirement that virtually all religious employers cover abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization in violation of their strongly held beliefs.
Today’s rule still requires religious institutions (on pain of ruinous treasury fines) to purchase insurance that covers these same objectionable services. It is irrelevant that the rule requires the insurance company (rather than the religious institution) to explain to employees that the policy purchased for them by their employer includes the 5-day after pill. For institutions that self-insure, the situation is even worse; they will be forced to contact their employees and pay for such services themselves.
It is no answer to suggest that the religious liberty of such employers is being accommodated because they are not “paying” for the objectionable services. First, it is naïve to imagine that the services are truly cost-free and that these costs will not be passed along to the employers who purchase these plans. More importantly, the simple fact is that under this policy the government is coercing religious institutions to purchase a product that includes services that they regard as gravely immoral.
We should ask ourselves why President Obama has sustained the narrow exemption for churches, religious orders, and auxiliaries? This is tantamount to the admission that this policy, just like the previous one, runs afoul of religious liberty.
Snead was general counsel of the presidential Council on Bioethics and will be director of the Center for Ethics and Culture at Notre Dame later this year.
Editor’s Note: The title of this post has been amended since initial posting.