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Obama's Contraceptive Mandate Goes Into Effect Today: 'Cherished Liberty...Thrown in a Gov't Dumpster

Faith

"A day when family-owned small businesses were forced to abandon their religious beliefs to provide products and services for free."

Photo Credit: AP

For months, we've heard about the controversial contraceptive mandate. And now, after intense debate, no-cost birth control will officially be offered -- by government directive -- in employer health care plans starting today, August 1, 2012. Since its announcement, the mandate, which continues to be heralded by President Barack Obama, has been contentious for a variety of reasons.

(Related: 150 Christian Leaders Send Protest Letter Accusing Obama Admin of Creating ‘Two-Class Religious Scheme’)

To begin, many big government opponents believe that federal officials shouldn't be in the business of dictating what private companies cover. Furthermore, with affordable options available for birth control purposes, some wonder why a no co-pay, no contribution system is a necessity (after all, there are numerous life-saving drugs that aren't currently being mandated).

On the religious front, church-affiliated groups have made their stance known. Since January, relations between the Obama administration and faith communities, particularly the Catholic Church, have declined substantially. These groups do not believe that it is sensible, constitutional or proper for the federal government to dictate what faith-based institutions should include in health plans.

Furthermore, the Catholic Church stands firmly opposed to birth control, thus creating a situation in which the faith-affiliated employers would be forced to violence conscience in order to comply with the law.

While these issues continue to be considered and debated, the mandate has gone into full effect today, but with one caveat; religious institutions have been given an additional year to come up with a compromise with administration officials.

Originally, Obama's plan would have exempted all churches, while requiring universities, hospitals and social service groups with an attachment to religious institutions to comply. But after an uproar, these latter institutions were given the additional year to sort through issues and concerns.

 

Already, legal battles have unfolded with a victory resulting for those supporting the mandate and another for those opposing it. Interestingly, religious colleges are among those seeking to stop with mandate, with the University of Notre Dame standing as one of the latest to join in the fight.

Despite the ongoing church versus state drama, the mandate, today, is in effect for most new and renewing health insurance plans. A variety of health care services (a full list can be found here) -- many of which are benign and relatively uncontroversial -- are included on the required list.

Shirking the controversy surrounding the regulation, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took to Capitol Hill on Tuesday and praised the new regulations going into effect.

"Surveys showed that more than half the women in this country delayed or avoided preventive care because of its cost," she explained, surrounded by senators who voted for the health care bill.

"All new insurance plans will be required to cover additional services and tests for women, with no out-of-pocket costs, including domestic violence screenings, FDA-approved contraception, breast feeding counseling and supplies, and a well woman visit, where she can sit down and talk with her health care provider," she added.

Not everyone shared such a positive view on the matter. Take, for instance, Matt Smith, president of the Catholic Advocate.

"August 1st will be remembered as the day our most cherished liberty was thrown in a government dumpster and hauled away," he said on the eve of the mandate's effective date. "A day when family-owned small businesses were forced to abandon their religious beliefs to provide products and services for free."

Clearly, the debate is far from over. And judging from the rhetoric coming from both sides, the next year of negotiations between faith groups and the federal government will be less-than-pleasant.

(H/T: NPR)

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