In Further Compromise, Religious Groups Get Expanded Contraception Coverage Exemption

image of a month's supply of Birth Control pills

On Friday (02/01), President Obama’s administration announced a further watering down of the new health care rule that would require birth control coverage to be offered through an employee health plan. Previously churches were exempt but now religiously owned and operated non-profit groups and organizations will be able to gain an exemption if they request it. All exemptions would then shift the cost and provision of coverage to the insurance company. Of course the more vocal religious right groups say it’s not enough saying even private companies owned and operated by people who might have religious objections must be allowed to be exempt. They need to worry more about the people they serve rather than being so selfish.

The Obama administration on Friday proposed yet another compromise to address strenuous objections from religious organizations about a policy requiring health insurance plans to provide free contraceptives, but the change did not end the political furor or legal fight over the issue.

The proposal could expand the number of groups that do not need to pay directly for birth control coverage, encompassing not only churches and other religious organizations, but also some religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and social service agencies. Health insurance companies would pay for the coverage.

But Kyle Duncan, the general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in Washington, which is representing employers in eight lawsuits, said the litigation would continue. “Today’s proposed rule does nothing to protect the religious freedom of millions of Americans,” Mr. Duncan said.

Religious groups dissatisfied with the new proposal want a broader, more explicit exemption for religious organizations and protection for secular businesses owned by people with religious objections to contraceptive coverage.

Birth Control Rule Altered to Allay Religious Objections

Americans United offered support for the new compromise:

“Birth control is a fact of modern life,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “This proposed rule acknowledges that reality while going out of its way to accommodate religious groups. This should more than satisfy religiously affiliated institutions that have objected to the birth control mandate.”

“The rule strikes a balance between guaranteeing access for birth control consistent with a woman’s conscience and the objection of some religious providers,” Lynn continued. “It aims to ensure that Americans can get access to the birth control they need and want yet shields religiously affiliated institutions from paying for it directly or indirectly.”

Americans United Issues Statement On Obama Contraceptive Rule

Basically AU is saying the new compromise is “better than nothing” which is true but when will we stop caving into religious conservatives?

Catholic teaching is against divorce. Will that mean down the line that Catholic run hospitals or colleges won’t want to hire or allow health insurance coverage to divorcees?? Or how about a business owner who is really into his particular religion who doesn’t want to do business with single mothers because his beliefs are against sex out of wedlock.

As I wrote in a previous post:

Real Religious freedom would be not allowing the Bishops, nuns, and other religious people to force themselves into the private personal health matters of other people under the religious freedom ruse.

The Secular Coalition for America doesn’t support the new compromise for the same reason as I do:

With today’s rule announcement, HHS rescinded 3 out of 4 requirements needed to comply with its earlier definition of “religious employer” thereby making explicit their intention to broaden the number of exempt organizations. This significantly increases the number of women who will be denied access to no-cost contraceptive services.

In addition to returning to a previous, broader definition of “religious employer”, the new rules create accommodations for non-profit religious organizations (but not churches, houses of worship, or their “integrated auxiliaries”). These accommodations set a terrible precedent for religious interference in individual choice.

“Both the revised definition and the new accommodations are short term solutions that create a long-term problem,” said Executive Director Edwina Rogers. “The Obama Administration’s commitment to ensuring women have access to preventive health services is commendable. But religious groups’ insistence on a new definition of ‘religious freedom’ has only created further bureaucracy for employers, insurers, and the federal government to navigate. These new accommodations signal that religious institutions – particularly those faiths opposed to contraception – should be treated differently. What is to stop these institutions from gaining preferential treatment with respect to any laws with which they disagree?”

Secular Coalition Disappointed with HHS Rule Change

Religious groups who complain about the mandate should worry more about the people they serve and not about themselves. In the different religions I’ve looked at, people don’t get into heaven being selfish.


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