New HHS policy aims to ensure religious freedom on issues of grave moral concern.
The Trump administration announced broad new exemptions to the HHS contraceptive mandate on Friday, giving relief to religious non-profits and others with deeply held religious or moral convictions regarding contraception.
A senior HHS official told reporters on Thursday that the exemptions are intended provide full protection for those with religious beliefs and moral convictions. Religious liberty protections are central to American values, the official explained.
The HHS official told reporters that on issues of grave moral concern to Americans, where the issue of human life is at stake, policy needs to ensure that religious believers are not “punished” by the federal government. Such policy reflects authentic “tolerance” of divergent viewpoints, he said.
In a May 4 executive order “promoting free speech and religious liberty,” President Donald Trump promised relief from the HHS mandate to the Little Sisters of the Poor, who were present at his May announcement in the White House Rose Garden. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. were also present for the announcement, which came during a National Day of Prayer ceremony.
“I want you to know that your long ordeal will soon be over,” Trump told the Little Sisters present at the White House. Their lawsuit against the mandate dates back to 2013.