NASHVILLE – GuideStone Financial Resources has renewed its vow to fight the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive/abortifacient mandate and is now looking to court action alongside efforts in Congress and before federal agencies.
The need to fight arises from the Obama Administration’s requirement that all employers who provide health benefits also must cover contraceptives. The mandate covers all FDA-approved contraceptives, including those that cause early abortions.
“Our plans have strict prohibitions against the coverage of any of these abortifacients that are out there,” GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins told members of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee Sept. 16. “And yet, [the Obama Administration] wants to tell us that we not only have to provide [abortifacients], but without cost to anybody that wants them.
“But the truth is, we’re not going to do it. We’re in a fight.”
Hawkins told Executive Committee members that litigation is the latest front in GuideStone’s three-pronged fight to protect church health plans. More than 1 million pastors and church workers depend on church plans for their health benefits. GuideStone also has been working with a broad coalition of religious denominations on both the regulatory and legislative fronts.
Advocacy on the regulatory front yielded the exemption to the contraceptive mandate for churches and church auxiliaries but it did not go far enough, Hawkins said. The contraceptive mandate offers a narrow exemption to churches and church auxiliaries – including most Southern Baptist boards and seminaries – but not other ministries such as colleges and charities.
On the legislative front, Sen. Mark Pryor, D.-Ark., introduced the Church Health Plan Act of 2013, which would help church health plans regain some protections lost under the health care reform law.
Republicans, however, have expressed reluctance to pass legislation that would offer technical fixes to the health care reform law as they say they are working to repeal it, Hawkins said.
“We have a huge challenge preserving church health plans as we have known them for over 100 years,” he told the Executive Committee.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is senior manager of editorial services for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)