Washington Post notes that the Obama Administration is extending the deadline for religious institutions to comply with the mandate to provide coverage for birth control.
The Obama administration will allow religious organizations an additional year to comply with a new rule requiring employers that offer their workers health insurance to include coverage of birth control without out-of-pocket costs, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced Friday.
But the rule itself and the types of employers covered by it remain unchanged. This is likely to disappoint religious groups such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which had lobbied vigorously for a permanent exemption for all employers that oppose birth control on religious grounds.
Sarah Posner at Religion Dispatches reports on the ruling by the Obama Administration on compliance by religious institutions with the contraception mandate:
In a move that is sure to become a new anti-Obama rallying cry for the religious right, the Department of Health and Human Services has ruled that religious institutions have a one-year exemption before they must comply with the requirement under the Affordable Care Act that employers provide co-pay free coverage for contraception in their health insurance plans.
Churches and other houses of worship have always been exempt from the requirement. But the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had pressured the Obama administration to expand that exemption to other religious institutions, including hospitals and universities, arguing that the rule infringed on their religious freedom. The pressure from the Bishops infuriated Democrats, but is one piece of a stepped-up campaign to portray public policy they view as being at odds with Vatican teaching on sex, gender, and reproductive issues as an infringement of religious liberty. Just yesterday, Pope Benedict told a gathering of Bishops that "radical secularism" poses a "grave threat" to religious freedom in the U.S.
In praising the Obama administration's position, Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, said, "The battle over this issue is a warning about what is to come, especially as the bishops are playing the victim card in their pleas for special treatment and their false assertions about alleged attacks on religious freedom. The president and Congress will need to get real about what is going on, and remember that this coming November the electorate will not be listening to the bishops, so neither should they."
The Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, ... has issued a statement (tellingly calling the rule an "abortion drug mandate") claiming that the rule will not withstand constitutional scrutiny