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Obama administration offers another 'accommodation' on contraceptive mandate

August 22, 2014

The Obama administration has again altered regulations governing the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act, in a bid to legal challenges.

The new regulations, issued on August 22, would require non-profit organizations to provide written notification to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) if they had moral objections to providing contraceptive coverage in employees’ health-care programs. HHS would then arrange that coverage for the employees, without involving the employers.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell claimed that the new regulation—the 8th effort by the Obama administration to address the objections brought by religious employers—“reinforces our commitment to providing women with access to coverage for contraception, while respecting religious considerations raised by non-profit organizations and closely held for-profit companies."

The Obama administration has made repeated efforts to ensure that contraceptives are covered in all employees’ health-care programs. But the contraceptive mandate has been challenged in more than 300 lawsuits, and opponents of the policy have grown increasingly confident that the contraceptive mandate will ultimately be struck down by the US Supreme Court. “This is latest step in the administration’s long retreat on the HHS Mandate,” observed Lori Windham of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Until the release of today’s amended regulation, religious organizations were required to inform their insurance carriers that they were morally opposed to paying for contraceptive coverage; the insurers would then be obliged to provide that coverage at their own expense. Religious organizations had objected to that policy, saying that by providing the written notice they were, in effect, taking the step necessary to arrange for contraceptive coverage, against their principles. The US Supreme Court upheld a challenge on those grounds in the Wheaton College case.

However, the new HHS policy is unlikely to satisfy opponents of the contraceptive mandate. Religious employers are still required to provide written notice of their refusal to cover contraceptives, and that notice would still trigger the coverage. Arina Grossu of the Family Research Council characterized the new plan as adding “another clerical layer to an already existing accounting gimmick.” She added: “This new proposed rule maintains the threat of crippling fines on non-profits who stand up for their freedom of conscience.”

The latest HHS regulation takes effect immediately. However, it is classified as an “interim final rule,” which could be changed yet again in response to criticism and/or legal challenges.


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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Aug. 23, 2014 7:13 AM ET USA

    Catholics should not go along with the lie that contraception is moral or is health care. Contraception disables a perfectly healthy system, and is the opposite of health care.

  • Posted by: filioque - Aug. 22, 2014 11:03 PM ET USA

    @nix898049: No, you are not simple. But this is not about respecting people’s rights or consciences, it is about forcing complicity in policies and activities that supposedly free people find abhorrent. There is no need for this complicity, they can easily get what they want without it. But they want to coerce participation to destroy the last vestige of disapproval for their choices. It is not about their freedom to do what they want, it is about our subjugation to their demands.

  • Posted by: nix898049 - Aug. 22, 2014 5:01 PM ET USA

    Instead of demanding a written statement from entities that DO NOT want abortion, etc. included in coverage why not exclude what isn't 'health care' in the first place unless the entity provides a written statement that it DOES want it included? Maybe I'm just simple.