Question: Do the new conscience-protection regulations the administration released last week maintain or rescind President Barack Obama's regulatory mandate that health insurance plans provide co-pay-free coverage for sterilizations and all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives -- which include abortion-inducing drugs and devices?
Answer: They maintain it.
Despite offering broad exemptions for people and institutions that have religious or moral objections to this coverage, the new regulations maintain Obama's mandate.
Thus, the government will still force most insurance plans to cover these things, and -- given that Obamacare forces taxpayers to subsidize insurance premiums for people with incomes under 400 percent of the federal poverty level -- it will still force taxpayers, regardless of their own moral or religious beliefs, to underwrite this coverage for others.
Our government is still saying: We will confiscate your hard-earned income to pay for someone else's chemical abortion.
Seven years ago, a Democrat-controlled Congress and White House did not believe they could get away with writing an explicit mandate for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients into the Obamacare law.
Today, a Republican administration -- governing with a Republican Congress -- has failed to use its lawful authority to simply rescind the regulation Obama issued to force this coverage into insurance plans.
The Affordable Care Act included general language empowering a division of the Department of Health and Human Services to recommend the "additional preventive care and screenings" for women that should be mandated in health insurance plans.
This legislative language did not mandate coverage of sterilizations, contraceptives or abortifacients.
The two new conscience-protection regulations the administration issued last week did correctly interpret this aspect of the law.
"The Congress did not specify any particular additional preventive care and screenings with respect to women that HRSA could or should include in its guidelines, nor did Congress indicate whether the guidelines should include contraception and sterilization," the regulation granting religious objectors an exemption from the mandate observed.
In 2011, when HHS issued its regulation requiring all non-grandfathered health plans to cover sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs and devices, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called for this entire mandate to be reversed.
In comments on the regulation written by its lawyers, the USCCB noted that Congress had never been able to enact through the legislative process what the Obama administration was forcing on the nation by administrative edict.
"Until now, no federal law of any kind, or at any time, has required private health insurance plans to cover contraceptives or sterilization," said the USCCB. "Efforts to pass such a law in Congress have persistently failed."
The right remedy? Kill the entire sterilization-contraception-abortifacient mandate.
"In sum, we urge HHS to rescind the mandate in its entirety," said the bishops. "Only rescission will eliminate all the serious moral problems the mandate creates; only rescission will correct HHS's legally flawed interpretation of the term 'preventive services.'"
Rather than rescind the regulation, Obama engaged in years of litigation, seeking to enforce it even on individuals and institutions who had moral and religious objections.
The day President Donald Trump was inaugurated, he signed an executive order seeking to roll back enforcement of Obamacare as far as possible through executive authority.
"It is the policy of my administration to seek the prompt repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," Trump said in his order.
"To the maximum extent permitted by law," Trump continued, "the secretary of Health and Human Services ... and the heads of all other executive departments and agencies ... with authorities and responsibilities under the Act shall exercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the act that would impose a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications."
It would have made perfect sense under this order for HHS "to waive" in its entirety Obama's sterilization-contraception-abortifacient mandate -- while Trump worked with a Republican Congress to repeal the Obamacare law that never required that mandate in the first place.
Instead, the administration has maintained Obama's mandate and issued two regulations -- which together are 263 pages -- exempting individuals and institutions that have religious or moral objections to some or all of the surgeries, devices and drugs it requires.
HHS has put out a press release boasting about the small impact these new regulations will have on carrying out Obama's surviving mandate.
"The regulation leaves in place preventive services coverage guidelines where no religious or moral objection exists -- meaning that out of millions of employers in the U.S., these exemptions may impact only about 200 entities, the number that filed lawsuits based on religious or moral objections," says Trump's HHS. "These rules will not affect over 99.9 percent of the 165 million women in the United States."
HHS did not calculate how many newly conceived human beings will perish in the coming years as a result of the Trump administration maintaining Obama's mandate.