Executive Order Leaves Room for Doubt About HHS Mandate

Published July 14, 2017

An executive order issued by President Donald Trump protecting religious speech left open whether the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will rescind an Obama administration mandate requiring some employers to violate their religious beliefs.

Trump issued the directive “in order to guide the executive branch in formulating and implementing policies with implications for the religious liberty of persons and organizations in America, and to further compliance with the Constitution,” the May 4 executive order stated.

HHS and other federal agencies “shall consider issuing amended regulations, consistent with applicable law, to address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate,” the order states.

The HHS preventive-care mandate, also known as the contractive mandate, requires employers to assist health insurers in providing contraceptives to employees.

No Certainty

Josh Blackman, an associate professor of law at South Texas College of Law–Houston and author of Unraveled: Obamacare, Religious Liberty, & Executive Power, says Trump’s order does not necessarily signal the administration’s intent to change the mandate.

“The provision simply directs the agencies to undertake new rulemakings concerning the contraceptive mandate case,” Blackman said. “It offers no details, so we have no clue what is in mind.”

Defending the mandate before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016, the Obama administration’s Justice Department conceded the mandate needlessly violates the constitutional rights of employers who object on religious grounds. The Court’s ruling instructed lower federal courts to reconsider the constitutionality of the mandate after giving the federal government time to develop an approach more accommodating of objectors’ consciences, which HHS has yet to do.

— Staff Report

Internet Info:

Michael T. Hamilton, “Supreme Court Protects Employers from Coercion, Fines in Insurance Mandate Case,” Health Care News, The Heartland Institute, May 20, 2016: https://heartland.org/news-opinion/news/supreme-court-protects-employers-from-coercion-fines-in-insurance-mandate-case

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