On Friday, ABC, CBS, and NBC's evening newscasts all ignored how the Obama administration issued the latest version of its abortifacient/contraception mandate under ObamaCare, which ignores multiple court rulings against it – including the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling in 2014 – and again tries to force religious non-profits to fund drugs that they consider to be immoral. Instead, the Big Three programs all devoted over a minute and a half each to the ticker tape parade in New York City for the World Cup-winning U.S. national women's soccer team. [video below]
CBS's Anna Werner pointed out how each of the team members were given keys to the city, and hyped that "they may have already unlocked doors for a generation of girls to come." ABC's Paula Faris touted how the world champions were "proudly taking their victory lap." NBC's Stephanie Gosk gave the most glowing tribute to the soccer players:
STEPHANIE GOSK: There have been a lot of heroes that have walked down this canyon – astronauts, the military, sports teams – but never a team quite like this, the women's soccer team. What an incredible day; what an incredible message!
ABC's World News Tonight even set aside a minute and 26 seconds of air time to a full report on celebrities confronting people for using their cell phones during performances. Correspondent Cecila Vega marveled over Broadway actress Patti LuPone confiscating a cell phone from an audience member: "A lot of people, to you, right now are saying, 'Bravo!'"
Ricardo Alanso-Zaldivar of the Associated Press detailed the new federal regulations in a Friday report:
Hoping to put to rest one of the most difficult disputes over its health care law, the Obama administration Friday unveiled its latest plan to address employers' religious objections to providing free birth control for their female workers.
The health care law requires most employers to cover birth control as preventive care, at no cost to women. While houses of worship are exempt, the requirement proved controversial with religious nonprofits and private businesses whose owners have deeply held beliefs.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that some private companies can avoid the requirement on religious grounds.
The rules issued Friday attempt to provide a template for those companies to opt out. However, their female employees could still get free birth control directly from the employer's insurance company. Neither the women nor the employer would be charged. The administration says any cost is basically a wash for insurers....
The administration's latest effort also attempts to address the objections of some religious nonprofits to an earlier accommodation. That previous plan called for the nonprofit to notify its insurance administrator of its objections to covering birth control. Some nonprofits said that would essentially involve them in arranging the coverage, albeit indirectly....It's unclear if the new accommodations will resolve the long-running dispute. However, most employers appear to have complied and moved on.
The Becket Fund, which represented Hobby Lobby in the 2014 Supreme Court, and is currently assisting the Catholic Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious organization in their litigation against the Obama administration, denounced the Friday announcement, and underlined that it "comes after multiple losses in contraceptive mandate cases at the Supreme Court...In fact, just last week the Supreme Court ordered the government not to enforce this rule against Catholic organizations from Pennsylvania, marking the government’s sixth loss in a row at the Supreme Court regarding the mandate."
Notre Dame law professor O. Carter Snead zeroed in on a chilling component of the new regulations in a Friday interview with National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez:
...In effect, the final rule allows the government (through the Department of Labor) to hijack the employer's own contract and forcibly modify it in a way that contradicts the sincerely held beliefs of the employer. For religious non-profits that contract with insurance companies to provide coverage, the decision to provide health care for workers triggers the provision of the objectionable drugs and procedures without cost sharing.
The regulation extends this same phony accommodation to closely held for profit entities like Hobby Lobby....
The most galling thing about this coercion is that it is wholly unnecessary to achieve the government's purposes. They could easily provide free contraceptives, etc., to people through numerous other channels just as easily and without involving objecting religious nonprofits or closely held for-profits. They could do so through Title X funding, through tax credits, even through the state and federal exchanges created by virtue of the ACA — which include multiple insurance companies who are already providing these drugs and services without cost sharing.
Because this accommodation still amounts to a substantial burden on religious employers, and because there are alternative, less restrictive ways for the government to achieve its goal, I remain hopeful that the courts will see their way clear to providing relief under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.