Shorter NBCNews: 'U.S. Government' Knows Catholic Theology Better Than Little Sisters of the Poor

Whatever are you to do when you're a journalist who favors Team Obama but the administration is going up against an underdog that you'd have to be a monster to hate: the Little Sisters of the Poor. Well, you simply call the Obama administration the "U.S. government" and you structure your story in such a way that it sounds like those silly sisters are making much ado about nothing against a "so-called contraceptive mandate."

Look no further than NBCNews.com's Maggie Fox and her January 3 article, "U.S. argues nuns have no complaint over birth control requirement" (emphasis mine):


A group of Colorado nuns don't have any reason to appeal the birth control mandate in the health care law because they don't have to provide contraception anyway, the U.S. government argued on Friday.

It’s an early skirmish in a year expected to be full of battles over the so-called contraceptive mandate in the Obamacare law.

The administration says the group is already exempt from the law, because their insurance is provided by Christian Brothers Services. As a church organization, it’s excused from the law’s requirements. The nuns have said they don't want to sign a waiver asking for an exemption.

"With the stroke of their own pen, applicants can secure for themselves the relief they seek from this Court," the Department of Justice wrote in its response. "They need only self-certify that they are non-profit organizations that hold themselves out as religious and have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services."

"The idea that it’s just a stroke of the pen trivializes the matter," countered Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the Little Sisters.

"The reason they won't sign (is because it is) saying 'we authorize and designate you to do this'. It makes them complicit with it," Rassbach told reporters in a telephone briefing.

"You don’t have to actually do it to be liable. If you are directing someone else to do the act that is immoral, you yourself are immoral."

To be fair, Fox did explain the Little Sisters' contention, but she failed to pull on the thread and explain for readers the financial reality behind the "compromise" which is anything but. All the waiver does, essentially, is produce an accounting gimmick, as Michael Chapman of NewsBusters sister site CNSNews.com reported in February 2013:

Catholic, pro-life, and religious liberty leaders denounced the latest revised rule by the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) concerning mandated coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs, stating that it is an “accounting gimmick,” an “accounting shell game,” which will “do practically nothing to lessen President Obama’s attack on religious freedom.”

The HHS mandate, as it stands under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), requires nearly all health insurance plans to offer sterilizations, contraceptives, and abortion-inducing drugs, such as “ella,” without co-pays. Strictly religious entities, such as a church or seminary, could exempt themselves from the mandate.

In its slightly revised rule proposal, announced Friday, the HHS expanded that exemption to include non-profit religious organizations. But the proposal did not address individuals who may object to the rule, and it still would require the health insurance plans to offer the contraceptive and sterilization coverage in a separate policy.

In a statement, the Catholic Association said, "The HHS mandate announcement today changes nothing, it is just another accounting gimmick and the HHS mandate continues to be a violation of civil rights, religious freedom and First Amendment rights. Catholic institutions and other faith-based organizations, including hospitals and universities and private employers, still do not get their First Amendment rights back and are still being forced to either violate their faith or pay crippling government fines for practicing their faith."

Catholic, pro-life, and religious liberty leaders denounced the latest revised rule by the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) concerning mandated coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs, stating that it is an “accounting gimmick,” an “accounting shell game,” which will “do practically nothing to lessen President Obama’s attack on religious freedom.”

The HHS mandate, as it stands under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), requires nearly all health insurance plans to offer sterilizations, contraceptives, and abortion-inducing drugs, such as “ella,” without co-pays. Strictly religious entities, such as a church or seminary,  could exempt themselves from the mandate.

In its slightly revised rule proposal, announced Friday, the HHS expanded that exemption to include non-profit religious organizations. But the proposal did not address individuals who may object to the rule, and it still would require the health insurance plans to offer the contraceptive and sterilization coverage in a separate policy.

In a statement, the Catholic Association said, "The HHS mandate announcement today changes nothing, it is just another accounting gimmick and the HHS mandate continues to be a violation of civil rights, religious freedom and First Amendment rights.  Catholic institutions and other faith-based organizations, including hospitals and universities and private employers, still do not get their First Amendment rights back and are still being forced to either violate their faith or pay crippling government fines for practicing their faith."

- See more at: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/catholic-and-religious-liberty-leaders-denounce-latest-obamacare-contraceptive#sthash.oMEXCSNE.dpuf

At any rate, Fox sought to assure liberals that even if the Supreme Court upholds the stay on the mandate, it's not big deal in the long run, as far as the suits at liberal womens' groups are concerned:

Right now, the Supreme Court’s involvement in the Little Sisters case is minimal. Sotomayor can send it back to the federal courts or she can ask her colleagues to consider it as a full court.

It's all a bit of a sideshow anyway, argues Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "Today, 27 million women have access to birth control without a co-pay under the Affordable Care Act, and that’s not affected by the Supreme Court reviewing the administrative mechanism that religious groups can use to opt out of covering birth control," Richards said in a statement.

“This spring, a bigger question faces the Court, which could affect millions of people: whether women’s bosses at for-profit companies can decide to deny them access to birth control. This bigger question has a very real impact on millions of women’s lives."

Brigitte Amiri of the American Civil Liberties Union, which supports the mandate, says she is not concerned by Sotomayor’s action.

“Justice Sotomayor wants to make a thoughtful decision,” she told NBC News. “I think this temporary holding pattern isn’t a cause for concern at this point. It allows for all briefs to be filled out.”

“It was like, ‘let’s take a deep breath’,” agreed Judy Waxman of the National Women’s Law Center.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters