Candidate Donald Trump made distinct and important promises to pro-life organizations and faith based groups, which helped get him elected. Probably tipped that election, truth be told.
But in the days leading up to the high profile 100 day mark of this presidency, not only did the infamous HHS mandate remain in place, it reportedly would continue to give the Little Sisters of the Poor and other faith based groups tough legal challenges for a while longer.
In spite of a specific promise to the contrary, President Trump was holding off on reversing the mandate “that employers provide birth control to their employees under the Affordable Care Act”, the Washington Post reported. Accurately.
The (Justice) department has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit for an additional 60 days to negotiate with East Texas Baptist University and several other religious groups objecting to a requirement to which they are morally opposed.
The request doesn’t necessarily mean that Justice plans to continue defending the mandate; the agency could be buying extra time as the new administration figures out its next move.
Trouble is, among other things, the government lawyers defending their case in court under the Obama administration are still holding those positions in the Trump administration. The learning curve has extended too far for a great number of religious liberty plaintiffs.
The Little Sisters of the Poor and their lawyers won a reprieve from the Supreme Court last May, but hoped the new administration would uphold promises to end the government mandated coercion of conscience rights. Everyone was surprised when word came out last week that the administration would hold off on fulfilling that promise a while longer.
“Given the gravity of the dispute and the substantial clarification and refinement in the positions of the parties, the parties on remand should be afforded an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans ‘receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage’,” the Court stated.
Leaving aside the central point of the HHS mandate in the first place, for another post on another day, the Supreme Court was ‘allowing the parties sufficient time to resolve any outstanding issues between them’, which just isn’t that complicated.
Now, as has been the case so often in this administration, an announcement suddenly came out Tuesday of this week that a White House ceremony will be held Thursday, on the National Day of Prayer, at which the president will sign an executive order on religious liberty. Will it repeal the HHS mandate? What will it say? My experts in law, politics and media (even those invited to the ceremony) don’t know and can’t quite call this one.
But in recent days, President Trump signaled a commitment to his promises by naming pro-life advocate Charmaine Yoest as Deputy Secretary of HHS.
This is the part of the learning curve that helps the president learn more about the passion of citizens who care deeply about human life and family issues, women’s comprehensive health, moral health care, and religious liberty.
In the profoundly simple wisdom of baseball legend Yogi Berra, paraphrased, it’s not done until it’s done. We’ll follow and see what gets done.
Sheila Liaugminas writes from Chicago. She is a journalist, author and host of A Closer Look on Relevant Radio.