Religious Groups Remain Concerned About Contraception Mandate

Religious nonprofits won't have to pay for contraception coverage under ObamaCare, but their employees must be offered the benefit, the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed Friday in a rule-making proposal.

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REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

An illustration picture shows a woman holding a birth control pill at her home in Nice January 3, 2013.

Religious nonprofits won’t have to pay for contraception coverage under ObamaCare, but their employees must be offered the benefit, the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed Friday in a rule-making proposal.

The announcement was mostly a codification–not a change–from the somewhat tangled religious exemptions that the administration proposed last year. Under the framework, houses of worship, like mosques and churches, would not be required to offer contraceptive coverage to employees. But the employees of other religious nonprofits, like Catholic hospitals and evangelical colleges, would get contraception coverage, though it would be paid for by insurers, not employers. For-profit companies would be required to pay for contraception coverage themselves, even if the owners objected on religious grounds.

The announcement Friday expended the definition of religious nonprofits who could benefit from insurer-funded contraception, and offered new options and procedures for self-insured religious non-profits that do not want to shoulder the direct cost of contraceptive coverage. But the new proposal left in place its most controversial elements, earning more praise from Planned Parenthood than from the Catholic Church and conservative evangelicals.

The announced rules offer no relief for private for-profit companies, whose owners object to contraception. The Christian-run crafts store Hobby Lobby, for example, has filed suit against the administration, saying it should not be required to pay for insurance that covers treatments that violate its owner’s beliefs. More than 40 other lawsuits have been filed by both secular non-profits and religious for-profits, claiming that the mandate violates their religious beliefs.  “Today’s proposed rule does nothing to protect the religious liberty of millions of Americans. The rights of family businesses like Hobby Lobby are still being violated,” says Kyle Duncan, General Counsel at the Becket Fund. “The Becket Fund continues to study what effect, if any, the Administration’s proposed rule has on the many lawsuits currently pending on behalf of non-profit religious organizations like Ave Maria University, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, East Texas Baptist University, EWTN, Houston Baptist University, and Wheaton College.”

Cardinal Dolan of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was also cautious upon hearing about the rule. He issued only a very short statement: “We welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely. We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later.”

Liberal groups, by contrast, were effusive. Catholics United executive director James Salt called the announcement “a victory not only for the Obama administration, but for the Catholic Church” and “a good day for Americans.” Women’s groups Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America both applauded the measure, with the caveat that they would review the technical aspects of the proposal to ensure a woman’s rights were protected, no matter who her boss is.

The idea that birth control coverage would still be available for women whose religiously-affiliated employers object to it is by no means new. TIME’s Kate Pickert wrote about it on Swampland almost a year ago to the day.

In the face of mounting pressure from Catholic leaders and politicians, the White House on Friday tweaked its position on contraception coverage mandates in the Affordable Care Act. Rather than require large religious institutions like Catholic colleges and hospitals to provide employees with free health insurance coverage for contraception, insurance companies themselves will have to pick up the tab. “We fought for this because it saves lives and it saves money,” President Obama said in a midday appearance at the White House. “As we move to implement this rule, however, we’ve been mindful that there’s another principle at stake here. That’s the principle of religious liberty.’”

Here’s how the new rule will work: A Catholic hospital will provide health insurance to employees that does not include contraception; the insurance company servicing the hospital will reach out to female employees and offer contraception or contraception coverage without any copays or coinsurance. At least one powerful Catholic organization has already endorsed the change.

On a conference call with reporters, senior Administration officials pointedly called the change an “accommodation,” not a compromise, and said that the new policy had actually been in the works for a long time. This seems unlikely, given that this more nuanced contraception setup has been floating around in policy circles for months and the Administration opted to initially present a more stringent set of insurance guidelines for religious organizations.

The time lapse between the initial policy and its new and improved version allowed a major political storm to develop. Despite the best efforts of Catholic power players in the Obama Administration, the President appears to have made his original decision based on women’s rights, but also on politics. As I and others have previously written, it seemed – on paper – that requiring large Catholic institutions to provide free contraception to employees would be a net political positive. By a fairly thin margin, U.S. Catholics agree with the President’s position; an even larger margin of support than among women.

You can read her full story here.

The new proposal will be open for public comment for the next 60 days, after which the final rule will be published. The issue is then likely to be litigated in the courts.

77 comments
SarahConfran
SarahConfran

There are religious sects out there who object to any and all medication, they believe one should simply pray to heal. Should they be allowed to deny their workers all health benefits? Most would say no. How is this any different? No one is forcing an individual to take a contraception (and not all birth control pills are prescribed solely for preventing pregnancies) so how is any individual religious rights being infringed? If you don't want someone to take away your religious freedom don't take away theirs by refusing to cover a prescription medication.

notsacredh
notsacredh

OT, but today is the 4th anniversary of me hitting 15k on a $ 2 scratch-off. I was at the local store today and I hit a $ 10 winner. I was waiting to cash it in and was talking to the guy behind me. He asked me if mine was a big winner. I said "No, just a ten". He said he hit a nice one earlier in the week on the Pick 4 number. I asked him how much. Fifty thousand dollars. He wins.

notsacredh
notsacredh

There aren't many people posting today. Is there a football game on or something?



apr2563
apr2563

Jay Rosen @jayrosen_nyu

Candy Crowley on CNN today: Panetta and Gen. Dempsey on Hagel. NBC's Meet the Press today: Panetta and Gen. Dempsey on Hagel... Competition!

gysgt213
gysgt213

I remain concerned about all the taxes I have to pay to make up for the taxes religious groups due not pay. 

jmac
jmac

Since when do we worship at the church of Hobby Lobby?   

apr2563
apr2563

Question 2:  I there still a means to edit your comments?

apr2563
apr2563

Question, when a comment is moderated is the poster still notified.  I posted a long statement and it has disappeared.

Libtards-UNITE
Libtards-UNITE

@SarahConfran So Sarah, do you believe that Viagra should be covered?  Most insurances don't cover that, maybe the government should make them!! It's my right!! 

notsacredh
notsacredh

That was great apr2563. Whether it's raked sand or the pyramids, all of the works of man are fleeting. It's just a matter of scale.

superlogi
superlogi

@gysgt213 Why should they pay anything?  Their income is from private donations and does good works without the waste, fraud, abuse and bureaucracy of your government.  But then, no matter what we taxed them, the unweaned would think it wasn't enough.

notsacredh
notsacredh

I'm still working on getting non-profit status for my church (house):

Sacred's Church of Perpetual Penetration

Sue_N
Sue_N

@jmac From what I've read of the proposal, it doesn't sound like Hobby Lobby's going to qualify. As well they shouldn't.

superlogi
superlogi

@jmac Since when do we call the Constitution an out of date anachronism, based on a bunch of teat sucking children.

notsacredh
notsacredh

Thank God they didn't catch their kids in any gay behavior. Heaven forbid they'd have a boy that was into Goth. It'd be off to the wood chipper.

notsacredh
notsacredh

Apr2563, to edit a comment, copy your original comment. Delete the comment with the error. Paste your copied comment and make the correction to it.

notsacredh
notsacredh

apr2563, if I'm going to post a long comment, I always copy it first in case it gets eaten.

notsacredh
notsacredh

When they go, it's a black hole. You never see them again and you're not notified.

Sue_N
Sue_N

@apr2563 I saw that WP … thing … and almost punched my computer screen. We've gone from birthers to skeeters. Our media deserves to be mocked. Hard.

notsacredh
notsacredh

apr2563, you've been away so here's a little trick for navigating between threads. Click on your icon (or anybody else's) and look at the comments. The threads that you/they've been posting on can be reached just by clicking on them. It also highlights that comment with a blue rectangle. It's kind of nice if you want to highlight what someone has said. Good or bad. 

apr2563
apr2563

@superlogi @gysgt213 You seem to have missed the Catholic church pedophelia scandal and well as their financial scandal.  My counsin's Catholic church had to mortgage their paid for facility to contribute to the Church legal fees.  One painting from the Sistine chapel would have taken care of it.

Do you have any concept how much secular property churches own?  Do you have any idea how much some pastors take out of their contributions for personal use?

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@superlogi @gysgt213

Their income is from private donations and does good works without the waste, fraud, abuse and bureaucracy of your government

Aha, you're clearly unaware of the waste, fraud, and abuse that runs the Catholic Church.

jmac
jmac

@superlogi @gysgt213@gysgt213  "Their income in from private donations ..."    Hobby Lobby does not get it's income from private donations.  The article said it's  a "Christian-run crafts store."  It's owned by a family, not a religion.   If that family were Muslim . . .    

apr2563
apr2563

@superlogi @gysgt213 Churches are one of the largest land holders in this country.  Their income is not limited to donations.  Most do not share audits and we have no knowledge of their efficiency or honesty.

superlogi
superlogi

@sacredh Just another name for the office of POTUS and the dear leader who runs it.

notsacredh
notsacredh

I still haven't decided if the congregation should kneel or bend over.



jmac
jmac

@Sue_N @jmac Hobby Lobby lost in a lower court but is still standing firm and perhaps still  gathering fines (?)   Don't know what the Supreme Court will say and don't know why it's included in the article.  Obviously it shouldn't qualify as a church.  I'd like to hear Thomas/Scalia opinions on it, though.  It can't be good for the Republican party that any business can say it's "Christian-run" and get away with ignoring federal law.  

Sue_N
Sue_N

@MementoMori @apr2563 Upworthy has some great stuff. Sometimes it just makes you smile, other times it makes you think. And still others, it makes you want to find the nearest GOP legislator and shake him 'til his teeth rattle.

apr2563
apr2563

@sacredh Knew a wealthy older couple when I lived in Portland, Or.  They were evangelicals and would not let their dog out because their neighbors were Jewish therefore their dog must be also.

apr2563
apr2563

@superlogi You ever seen the digs at the Vatican?  The homes of "pastors" like Franklin Graham?  How much money has the Church spent trying to buy off pedophiles?

superlogi
superlogi

@apr2563 @superlogi @gysgt213 So, you're suggesting they should share whatever their income is, with you, when they already share most of it with the needy?  Truly, you are an Obamanite.

notsacredh
notsacredh

They cancelled church this morning because we had another 3' of snow and the roads were icy. Even God takes a break for Super Bowl Sunday.

notsacredh
notsacredh

That's hilarious. My son is going to be a minister and moved out. He's getting married. His wife-to-be knows that I'm an atheist and asked me if I had any problems with him going to be a minister. I told her "It's his life and he can do what he wants to". I also told them that if they vote republican I'd cut them both out of my will in a heartbeat. A minister I can deal with. A republican in the family? Not a chance.