Multiple Agencies Propose Rule to Eliminate Protections for Moral Objectors to Contraceptive Mandate, Create New Scheme to Fund Abortion Industry

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and U.S. Representative Debbie Lesko (Ariz.-08), led a bicameral group of lawmakers, in formally requesting the withdrawal of a pending Biden administration rule to eliminate moral exemptions established to protect individuals and entities who object to some or all contraceptives, including those that can destroy human life.

The letter was issued to the heads of the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury in opposition to the proposed rule:  Coverage of Certain Preventive Services Under the Affordable Care Act, 88 Fed. Reg. 7236 (February 2, 2023).  Six Senators and 20 members of the House of Representatives signed the letter.

“As Members of Congress, we have a unique Constitutional interest and oversight role in ensuring regulations governing the ACA [Affordable Care Act] comport with the law and Congressional intent, and do not exceed their Congressional mandates,” the lawmakers wrote.

“While appropriately maintaining the religious exemption rule, the Proposed Rule would, however, eliminate the moral exemption rule, which exempts nonprofits and for-profit entities without publicly traded ownership who object based on their moral convictions to providing some or all forms of contraceptive coverage.  The Proposed Rule would subject nonprofit organizations, small businesses, and other covered entities to crippling fines unless they violate their fundamental moral convictions,” the lawmakers continued.

The letter argues that the rule should be withdrawn because it would:

  • Force individuals and entities, including secular pro-life organizations, to provide contraceptive coverage that violates their sincerely held moral convictions, including their convictions about human dignity and the sanctity of human life; and
  • Create a new program that will divert exchange user fees in a way that will benefit the abortion industry financially and, in bypassing the appropriations process, deprive Congress of the opportunity to establish appropriate guardrails.

“The creation of this program by regulatory fiat deprives Congress of the opportunity to establish appropriate guardrails, such as to apply the Hyde Amendment and to exclude abortion providers like Planned Parenthood from receiving funds under this program.  It can be assumed that abortion providers, as they do with Medicaid and Title X funds, will seek to enrich themselves under the proposed program, and may benefit from the additional failure of the Proposed Rule to establish guardrails for fair pricing of contraceptives under this new program,” the letter asserts.

Finally, the letter urges the Departments to maintain the religious exemption from the contraceptive mandate, and reject mandating accommodations that still burden religious exercise, noting that this exemption is legally required under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment.

In addition to Hyde-Smith, U.S. Senators Steve Daines (R-Mont.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), James Risch (R-Idaho), and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) signed the letter.

Additional House members who signed the letter include U.S. Representatives Mary Miller (Ill.–15), Jeff Duncan (S.C.-03), Brian Babin (Texas–36), Robert Aderholt (Ala.–04), Pete Sessions (Texas–17), Lauren Boebert (Colo.–03), Mike Kelly (Pa.-03), Gregory Steube (Fla.-17), Ronny Jackson, M.D. (Texas–13), Andrew Clyde (Ga.–09), Diana Harshbarger (Tenn.–01), Bruce Westerman (Ark-04), Andy Ogles (Tenn.–05), Michael Guest (Miss.–03), Rick Crawford (Ark.-01), Blaine Luetkemeyer (Mo.-03), and Ralph Norman (S.C.-05).

The letter has the support of Catholic Vote, Heritage Action, Students for Life Action, Concerned Women for America LAC, and the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s HHS Accountability Project.

Read the lawmakers’ letter here.