Call for Public Comments on the HHS Contraception / Abortifacient Mandate
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Last Updated Date: 
11/21/2017

On October 6, 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued two interim final rules that, together, create a broad religious and moral exemption from the HHS contraceptive Mandate. Although this action does not rescind the Mandate itself, it does give religious and moral objectors immediate relief from its onerous burdens. HHS has called for public comments about this policy change, and we urge you to offer comments in support of the exemptions before the public comment period ends on December 5.

The USCCB has submitted comments that you can read here and here. Please add your voice to theirs and let the Trump Administration know that although we still urge the Administration to reconsider and rescind the Mandate, as long as the Mandate is in place these broader exemptions are laudable and mark a return to common sense.

Actions to take immediately:

  • Submit comments to HHS in one of the following ways: 1) Electronically click here   2) By regular mail. You may mail written comments on the moral exemption expansion to the following address ONLY: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: CMS-9925-IFC, P.O. Box 8016, Baltimore, MD 21244-8016. You may mail written comments on the religious exemption to the following address ONLY: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: CMS-9940-IFC, P.O. Box 8016, Baltimore, MD 21244-8016.  3) By express or overnight mail. You may send written comments to the following address ONLY: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: CMS-9925-IFC, Mail Stop C4-26-05, 7500 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21244-1850.
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Suggested Messages:

Comments on the Religious Exemption Expansion:

HHS should reconsider and rescind the mandate requiring coverage of contraception and sterilization in health plans, as these are not “preventive services.”  These drugs, devices and procedures prevent not a disease condition, but rather impair the healthy condition known as fertility, and they pose significant risks of their own to women’s lives and health.  Indeed, some contraceptives can act after fertilization and therefore raise concerns about harm to new human life.  At a minimum, consistent with the Affordable Care Act and the Weldon amendment, HHS should not mandate coverage of any drug or device that can disrupt an existing pregnancy.  As long as the mandate, or any portion of the mandate, remains in place, however, I fully support the exemptions that these two interim final rules together provide to stakeholders with religious or moral objections, and I commend HHS for adopting these exemptions. Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Comments on the Moral Exemption:

HHS should reconsider and rescind the mandate requiring coverage of contraception or sterilization in health plans, as these are not “preventive services.”  These drugs, devices and procedures prevent not a disease condition, but rather impair the healthy condition known as fertility, and they pose significant risks of their own to women’s lives and health.  Indeed, some contraceptives can act after fertilization and therefore raise concerns about harm to new human life.  As long as the mandate, or any portion of the mandate, remains in place, however, I fully support the exemptions for those individuals and entities with religious or moral objections to the mandate.  The exemptions for moral objections should apply to a list of stakeholders that is at least as broad as that for religious objections.  Accordingly, I recommend that the interim final rule on moral exemptions be adjusted so that it parallels the list of stakeholders with religious objections in the companion interim final rule. Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Background:

On July 2, 2013, the Obama Administration published a final rule mandating contraception and sterilization coverage in most health plans nationwide, with an extremely narrow “exemption” for some religious employers. The HHS Mandate forced coverage of sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and devices as well as contraception, along with “counseling and education” to promote them. Though commonly called the “contraceptive mandate,” the federal mandate also forced employers to sponsor and subsidize coverage of female sterilization. And by including all drugs approved by the FDA for use as contraceptives, the mandate included drugs that can induce abortion such as “Ella” (Ulipristal), a close cousin of the abortion pill RU-486.  Religious nonprofit organizations engaged in charitable ministry were not exempt from the mandate. 

On May 4, 2017, President Donald Trump promised to provide relief from the HHS Mandate. While HHS did not rescind the Mandate, on October 6, 2017, HHS issued interim final rules which expanded the religious and moral exemptions and lifted the burden of the Mandate from moral and religious objectors. The public is invited to submit comments until 11:59 PM EST, December 5, 2017.