From Grand Forks Herald: Christopher Dodson, Bismarck, letter: Facts of contraception mandate refute sugar-coated view
BISMARCK — In her letter, Betsy Perkins accuses Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., of failing the truth test about the new sterilization and contraception mandate (“‘Controversial’ rule mirrors established law,” Page D3, Feb. 12).
In fact, she fails the truth test on several points.
Perkins claims that the new federal mandate is not new, citing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruling from 2000 and the alleged existence of similar laws in 60 percent of the states.
Here’s the truth. The EEOC recommendation was just that — a recommendation. It has never had the force of law. If it had, the new rule would be moot.
What about those “60 percent” of the states? All but three of those states contain a broad exemption for religious employers. Moreover, even without a religious exemption, religious employers already can avoid the contraceptive mandates in 28 states by self-insuring their prescription drug coverage, dropping that coverage altogether or opting for regulation under a federal law (ERISA) that pre-empts state law.
The new Department of Health and Human Services mandate closes off all these avenues of relief.
On the contraception coverage alone, the new rule is unprecedented. But here’s another fact. The new mandate includes sterilization, which is not included in any state mandate except in Vermont. But Vermont has a religious employer and self-insured exemption.
Perkins also wrongly claims that the new mandate merely states that if an employer offers a prescription drug plan, it also must cover contraception. On the contrary, the new mandate states that insurers or employers must provide sterilization and contraception at no charge, regardless of whether they offer a prescription drug plan.
The truth is this: The mandate, even under the “compromise” recently offered by the president, is an unprecedented infringement upon religious liberty. Even the latest proposal still treats religious mission-based operations as not truly religious.
The irony is that many religions teach that faith means more than worshiping in churches, synagogues and mosques. It means feeding the poor, burying the dead, healing the sick, housing the homeless and caring for those in need.
But the federal government has now declared that the more you do that, the less religious you are in its eyes.
Dodson is executive director of and general counsel for the North Dakota Catholic Conference.