Obama & His HHS Mandate: A Play in Three Acts

I have a story to tell you in the form of a play.

But before we begin a play, you must meet its main character. It is the tale of an unlikely leader: a scrawny African-American boy raised by his single mother and grandparents in worlds as disparate as Hawaii and Indonesia. This boy would find himself on a voyage of self-discovery where he would find himself at Occidental College, Columbia University and Harvard Law School. After serving as community organizer, teaching at the University of Chicago Law School and becoming an associate with a civil rights law firm, he would enter Illinois Senatorial politics. In 2004, when running for the U.S. Senate, he would become a national sensation bursting on the scene with a riveting keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention.

“That is the true genius of America, a faith…a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles; that we can tuck in our children at night and know that they are fed and clothed and safe from harm; that we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door; that we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe; that we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution; and that our votes will be counted — or at least, most of the time.”

‘To say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door; that we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe’. The words still ring and echo as the years have passed. This scrawny African-American young man would defy the odds and become a two-term President of the United States.

And so we enter our drama.

Act One – The Speech

The Scene: The University of Notre Dame

Controversy swirled almost immediately after the announcement: President Barack Obama would receive an honorary law degree and be giving the 2009 Commencement Address to the Graduates of the University of Notre Dame. The concern? The president’s record on abortion and embryonic stem cell research was most clear. From serial opposition to the “Born Alive” bill (as state Senator), repealing a ban on funding for international agencies providing abortion, exuberant promotion of federal funding of the nation’s foremost provider of abortion (Planned Parenthood) and an ardent advocacy of embryonic stem cell research, the President left little wonder regarding his priorities. Yet the University of Notre Dame, arguably the nation’s premiere Catholic institution of higher learning, enthusiastically pursued him in spite of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops admonition that,

“The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

The Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, would introduce President Obama,

“We welcome President Obama to Notre Dame, and we honor him for the qualities and accomplishments the American people admired in him when they elected him…He is a leader who has great respect for the role of faith and religious institutions in public life. He has said: ‘Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square.’”

Shortly after the President began, a lone voice yelling ‘Abortion is murder! Stop killing children!’ was drowned out by the amiable smile of the President and the defiant chant of the Notre Dame faithful “Boo! We are ND! We are ND! Yes we can! Yes we can!”. President Obama would proceed to applause and laughter,

“When we open up our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe — that’s when we discover at least the possibility of common ground. That’s when we begin to say, ‘Maybe we won’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions.’ So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions, let’s reduce unintended pregnancies. (Applause.) Let’s make adoption more available. (Applause.) Let’s provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term. (Applause.) Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women. Those are things we can do. (Applause.)”

“Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics… It would be three years later (almost to the day) that Notre Dame’s same President, the Rev. John Jenkins, would issue a statement in response to President Obama’s Health and Human Services (HHS) chosen implementation of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). The “HHS Mandate” required all (but a narrow set of exemptions) schools, universities, hospitals, charitable organizations and for-profit businesses to fund contraception, sterilization and abortifacients in the name of “preventive medicine” regardless of religious or conscience-based objections. Jenkins would write,

“Today the University of Notre Dame filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana regarding a recent mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). That mandate requires Notre Dame and similar religious organizations to provide in their insurance plans abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization procedures, which are contrary to Catholic teaching…

This filing is about the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission, and its significance goes well beyond any debate about contraceptives. For if we concede that the Government can decide which religious organizations are sufficiently religious to be awarded the freedom to follow the principles that define their mission, then we have begun to walk down a path that ultimately leads to the undermining of those institutions. For if one Presidential Administration can override our religious purpose and use religious organizations to advance policies that undercut our values, then surely another Administration will do the same for another very different set of policies, each time invoking some concept of popular will or the public good, with the result these religious organizations become mere tools for the exercise of government power, morally subservient to the state, and not free from its infringements. If that happens, it will be the end of genuinely religious organizations in all but name.”

On January 2, 2014, having been denied a stay on the rule and facing a $100 per day per employee penalty for not complying, the University of Notre Dame submitted.

Act Two – The Executive Order

The Scene: The Capitol & The White House

In mid-March, 2010 a lesser-known Democratic Representative from Michigan captivated the nation. Rep. Bart Stupak, a pro-life Democrat, had formed an alliance with a small cadre of like-minded Democrats insisting that they would vote against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act unless firm assurances protecting life were enshrined in the law. Without their votes, the bill’s passage was in jeopardy. As a result, President Obama promised to issue and uphold an Executive Order reaffirming the Hyde Amendment which bans federal funding of abortion. The bill would pass 219-212. Rep. Stupak would comment,

“We’ve always said … that we were for health care reform, but there was a principle that meant more to us than anything, and that was the sanctity of life.”

“We have the assurances from the president that he won’t rip this up tomorrow.” 

President Obama’s White House would assure,

“[The Affordable Care Act would] reaffirm its consistency with long-standing restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion.” 

 “While the legislation as written maintains current law, the executive order provides additional safeguards to ensure that the status quo is upheld and enforced and that the health care legislation’s restrictions against the public funding of abortions cannot be circumvented.”

In time, however, the truth would become apparent. Through the HHS Mandate, with narrow exceptions, abortifacients would be universally required coverage regardless of religious or conscience objections. Furthermore, only one insurance option per state is required to exclude abortion coverage by 2017. Most other  insurance options will cover abortion, are required to disclose this in subtle forms ( for instance, in a solitary sentence embedded in reams of paperwork) and may disclose this to the consumer late in the process (i.e. upon enrollment). Furthermore, a mandatory $1 surcharge per month per person would be charged (without the ability to opt-out) and placed in a “separate pool” for the coverage of elective abortions. This pool of mandated private dollars from citizens is segregated from government tax credits giving the pretense that the federal government is free of funding abortion while it simultaneously taxes citizens $1 per month to pay for it.

In September, 2012, Stupak would lament,

“To tell you the truth, I am perplexed and disappointed having negotiated  the executive order with the president…Not only does that HHS mandate violate the executive order, it also violates statutory law. If you go back to the Omnibus Budget Act of 2009, passed by Democratic House, Democratic Senate and signed by President Obama, that is probably the most specific particular language that no funds can be used to promote abortion. I think it’s illegal.”

Act Three – The Court Case

The Scene: The Supreme Court

On March 25, 2014 arguments were heard in The Supreme Court regarding Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby Stores & Conestoga Wood Specialites. At issue was whether the owners of these for-profit entities could refuse to fund what they perceived as objectionable forms of birth-control/abortifacients on the basis of conscience and religious freedom under the First Amendment and the 1993 Religious Freedom & Restoration Act (RFRA). For Hobby Lobby and Conestoga, attorney Paul Clement argued that the RFRA protects the owners as individuals and as a corporation. Further, he outlined how the government fails to meet the standards required by Congress’ RFRA law. In RFRA it is required that the government has a) a compelling interest that must justify the violation of an individual or corporation’s conscience/religious freedom, that the government has b) pursued the least restrictive means in choosing to violate the conscience/religious freedom of an individual or corporation as it tries to attain its ends, and that c) this violation is not a substantial burden on the individual or corporation to justify their objections.

Specifically, Clement reasoned that the exemptions provided to some and the grandfathering of other non-compliant programs show compelling interest is lacking since the consequences of these exemptions/grandfathered programs are not considered catastrophic to the third parties they affect. The fact that exemptions and cheaper alternatives are provided in certain circumstances demonstrate that there are less restrictive means than those which violate religious liberty. He further argues that the substantial burden to the individual/corporation is significant with draconian fines, pressure to avoid offering insurance and to raise wages. As is revealed by all the exemptions, grandfathering, and shifting time frames for compliance, the ability to arrive at an affordable way to provide access to birth control/abortifacients which simultaneously preserves religious/conscience freedoms is conceivable. The questions is whether the government wants to conceive of it. 

For the Government, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the argument hinged on the importance of these medications for women’s health, the impact of a corporation’s religious objections on third parties (insured employees) and the inability of a corporation to “freely exercise religion” thus invalidating its protection under RFRA. It was argued (and rebuffed by Chief Justice Roberts) that the corporation must check its morality at the threshold of the public square. And, ultimately, the Government advocated that the substantial burdens imposed on the companies are overshadowed by the overwhelming compelling interest dictated by the Government’s priorities – universal access to free birth control, sterilizations and abortifacients.

Plaintiffs and defendant would rest. The Court would adjourn. The verdict will come to us in June.

Who is this young, promising man – this main character in our play? Perhaps we can know by considering him in each act: The Speech, The Executive Order, The Court Case. Perhaps.

This play, in three acts, is far from finished. There is more to be said and done. Will it end as a comedy? Or a tragedy? How will it end? How, indeed? We shall see. We shall see.

Why Pope Benedict XVI Matters to Me
On Being Breathless: My Daughter's First Holy Communion
Behold the Pierced One: Spending Holy Week with Benedict XVI
On Catholicism & Atheism...My Dogma & Yours
  • Maggie Goff

    Thank you so much. Very well laid out and explained.

  • Larry Peterson

    It will never be a “comedy”. Hopefully not a “tragedy” either. Rather, I am hoping and praying for an American ‘wake up moment”, a rebirth of “Spirit” where the liberties we cherished will no longer be so taken for granted and a new nationalism will emerge. We are Americans and we have been lied to, conned and laughed at by some of our own for long enough. Time for the “silent MAJORITY” to resurrect and take our nation back from the shackles of greed and egoism.

    • ortcutt

      It’s funny that a bunch of old religious fogies like yourself have unilaterally decided that you a the silent majority. Your time is over. The youth have wised up and you can’t pull your religious wool over people’s eyes anymore. Sorry, but you’re on your way out. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

      • cleos_mom

        Whenever I hear of or read a conservative talking about “taking back *our* country” I always keep an extra-vigilant eye on both my wallet and my rights. That kind of mentality eventually comes out as support of ethnic, gender and religious “cleansing.”

        • Svein Magnussen

          I think America is in a big mess…the “lying to” has gone on for too long..and the lying is perhaps not what you think it is. When the day comes and eyes are forced opened, and we all will face truth, we may be very surprised. Nations can be manipulated, and people can manipulate themselves, you see what you want to see, and that needs not to be the truth. Christ threw out the merchants selling in the synagouges…same merchants are doing the same today. Can you see it?

          • cleos_mom

            No, Sveinbuns, I’m just typing to exercise my fingers.

      • Rosemary Gremillion

        Are you saying that Catholicism(I am Catholic) is out or that the Catholic beliefs we have been taught are out? Because you are young, you want everything your way. If you were brought up in a middle class household by parents who never went to Catholic Mass, you don’t have a clue as to the concept of moral v. immoral, despite that you may have taken courses in philosophy in college(if you went, and I think you are either in college now or have graduated). You don’t know God-that is evident in your post. You have no understanding of what is good and what is evil. I hope that not all milennials believe as you do. Your caustic and cruel last statement was evident of your lack of respect for your elders. I hope that you will wake up one day “ortcutt”.

  • One More Guy

    It is sad that agents of our government really believe that they must do every thing they can to force others to pay for non-life saving medicine and procedures. In fact they are things that do the exact opposite of what medicine should even do. What about things that actually save lives like dialysis, chemo or even dental? In my experience most people just get a “oh well” response when it comes to those sorts of things.

    • ortcutt

      The Institute of Medicine, a non-profit, non-governmental organization under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, determined that contraception is preventative care and thus part of the mandatory coverage. Why on Earth do you think that you are better placed to make that decision than a panel of many of the nation’s most distinguished doctors? The level of anti-professionalism and anti-intellectualism among religious folks is sometimes astonishing to behold.


      • cleos_mom

        The last group of people I can think of who are qualified to judge womens’ need for birth control is a convocation of male clergy who have taken vows to never have sex (with adults).

      • Lily

        And when a group of doctors decide that disabled people are better off dead, will you simply accept it because they are doctors and so know better than you? Or, more immediately possible, that sterilising the disabled is “preventative medicine”: will you bow to their superior ability to define terms as they see fit? Or will you put up a fight? How deep is your deference to authority?

        Or can you have a strong view on medical ethics without being a trained doctor?

        • cleos_mom

          If I had to choose, I’d far rather put such a matter in the hands of a doctor than clergy of any breed.

  • eddiestardust

    Extremely well written….
    In October of 2008, I received a call from my brother and he told me that I should look at a certain link he was sending me.
    I did just that…turns out that Senator Obama had Irish roots and that his ancestral name was Kearney a not so common name at all here in America.
    My Grandfather came in 1920, originally from Dublin and settled in Boston
    President Obama’s family came from a county west of Dublin but had at least one relation that had lived in Dublin
    My Grandfathers name?
    So there a good possibility that
    he is in fact a distant blood relation.

    30 years ago, I was Elected Delegate to The Democratic National Convention, tonight, 30 years later I am no longer a Democrat and I am voting Republican because at least they still think that traditional American values such as Marriage really do apply.

    Please pray for our nation as I do.

    • Heartlander

      I always thought Kearney was a pretty common name. But then, I lived many years in cities with big Irish populations.

      I, too, am a FORMER Democrat. I’m afraid the only people still in the ranks of that wicked party are either totally uninformed/ignorant/illiterate or hopelessly, stubbornly, deliberately obtuse.

      How did the Democratic Party get so corrupted? There’s a great book by David Carlin that gives kind of a short history of how it happened. Though it’s titled “Can a Catholic Be a Democrat?” I would recommend it to anyone who wants to understand modern politics in America, even if they are neither Catholic nor Democrat. I would also recommend Ramesh Ponnuru’s “The Party of Death” — a real eye-opener on how the party of Clinton and Obama is NOT your mom and dad’s Democratic party.

      • eddiestardust

        I have served both in local government and have been an
        elected Democratic officeholder in 1980 and 1984 and it not
        even my Democratic Party:(

  • TapestryGarden

    The reality is that Obama LIES AND LIES AND LIES. His syrupy words are designed to put the adoring masses at ease while people like me from day one knew he was basically dishonest. Anyone who would vote against helping babies born alive after botched abortions is a ghoul. Although I’m staunchly pro-life I do understand those who might approve a Morning After Pill or some type of early abortion. But who claims that saving a live,child is “getting between a woman and her doctor.” There was something sick and sickening about this man, caught with a hot mic denigrating “salt of the earth” Americans for being bitter clingers. He is what he is, a Leftist, elitist, sociopath. The man seems to have no heart for anyone but himself. The tragedy has already played out in the stupidity of the American people who were fooled not once but twice.

    • Heartlander

      Very, very well put. Thank you for expressing it so well. I agree — Obama’s enthusiastic, repeated support of killing babies AFTER birth should have been the tip-off, if nothing else was, that we were dealing with a clinically diagnosable sociopath. There is something seriously wrong with him, and it’s frightening that such a cold-hearted freak has such power over our lives!

  • BT

    “Through the HHS Mandate, with narrow exceptions, abortifacients would be universally required coverage regardless of religious or conscience objections.”

    Can we clarify which abortifacients we are talking about? I assume we’re not talking basic birth control pills here.

    • ortcutt

      In religious cuckoo-land, they somehow believe that oral contraceptives are abortifacients. There’s no point in trying to reason with irrational people about this.

      • BT

        I’m aware of some of that.  I see comments like the one I referenced, and it always makes me want to ask for clarification.

      • Lily

        Perhaps people “somehow” believe it because one of the mechanisms by which some oral contraceptives work is by the thinning of the uterine lining, preventing implantation, and so leading to the abortion of an embryo.

        Since you don’t consider any of that a problem, you obviously don’t care, but it is not hard to see why other people would.

      • Heartlander

        It’s not a matter of “believing” they’re abortifacient. It’s just scientific fact. Look at the manufacturer’s product pamphlet or the Physician’s Desk Reference (the PDR, a standard reference work every doctor uses), and you’ll see that the manufacturers themselves describe the pharmacological mechanisms of the drug’s operation in detail — and one of those mechanisms is abortifacient.

        If you don’t have access to the PDR, check this out, it explains it:


  • cleos_mom

    Skip the play; stick to reality. The play will be about as accurate and objective as Shakespeare’s Richard III.