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Religious institutions allowed extra year to comply

Religious institutions allowed extra year to comply

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


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How is this an infringement of Roman Catholic religious rights any more than pacifists having to pay for wars they oppose on religious grounds is an infringement of their rights, or property owners who are convinced that public education is of the Devil being forced to support it, or people who believe that cigarette smoking is a sin having to support government tobacco subsidies? Sometimes being part of society means supporting things you are morally opposed to. The only difference I can see is that in the first three cases the financial support is done through intermediaries.

Bill Dilworth


June, there is also the principle in ethics, not to say in law, of the professional autonomy of the provider. In that case, and for a number of specified procedures, there are in law provisions for the conscientious objection of providers.

Now, I’m not entirely at east with the specifics. The regulations for health care conscientious objection are not as broad as the last Administration tried to make them; and standards of care are still based on professional standards (such as Codes of Ethics of professional organizations) and not on law. On the other hand, allowing a doctor to object to providing futile care at the end of life is related to allowing a doctor to refrain from prescribing the morning after pill, at least where other docs are available.

“No religious institution is forced to accept public funding.” Perhaps; but when the Government is the largest provider of health insurance (between civil employees, Medicare, Medicaid, and TriCare), one of the largest providers of health care (between the VA, military, Indian Health and Public Health services), I’m not sure any institution, religious or not, could survive without doing business with them. And as the saying goes, “No margin, no mission.”

This is not to say that religious organizations are not accountable within society, or not accountable to those they serve. It is to say that these discussions are not simple.

Marshall Scott

C. Wingate

June, that’s really quite irrelevant. All the Catholics have to do to be subjected to this requirement is to have employees. Period.


My bad, Jamie!

Is this a public funds issue (as it was w/ the recent Catholic adoption agencies not placing children w/ gay couples)?

That’s just a further point in the favor of (for example) Catholic institutions playing by the same rules. Rights, but not privileges.

JC Fisher


Jamie, no religious institution is forced to accept public funding. Once the decision is made to accept public funds, then the institution must play by rules that apply to the them and to the wider society, which includes people who do not share their beliefs.

June Butler

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