U.S. President Barack Obama takes questions from reporters during a news conference at the White House in Washington, January 14, 2013.
(Photo : REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
On Friday the Obama Administration announced its compromise to put an end to the controversy religious institutions found against the Affordable Care Act.
Religious leaders objected to President Obama's health care reform bill in 2010 because it mandates that all employers include free access to birth control in their employee health insurance plans. The Roman Catholic Church, Protestant evangelicals and private employers argued that they did not believe in the use of contraception and that providing women with birth control would violate their religious principles.
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Therefore, as a compromise, Obama will exempt faith based organizations from the inclusion of contraceptives in employees' health insurance plans by proposing to separate birth control from other health benefits. In effect, religious employers will not have to pay for women's contraceptives through employer-provided insurance, but workers will still be guaranteed access to birth control without out-of-pocket costs. The law mandates coverage for birth control measures such as sterilization and Plan B emergency contraception pills.
"Today, the administration is taking the next step in providing women across the nation with coverage of recommended preventive care at no cost, while respecting religious concerns," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. "We will continue to work with faith-based organizations, women's organizations, insurers and others to achieve these goals."
Many groups praised this step as a fair compromise for faith organizations and women's rights including the Catholic League. "The rules proposed today by HHS appear to go a long way toward rectifying the most problematic provisions of the mandate," said Bill Donohue, head of the Catholic League, in a statement.
Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards also released a statement saying, "This policy delivers on the promise of women having access to birth control without co-pays no matter where they work," Richards said. "This policy makes it clear that your boss does not get to decide whether you can have birth control."
However, other groups expressed disappointment over the rule, including the exclusion of for-profit businesses from the mandate.
"This proposal does nothing to change the scope of religious employer exemption," said Kyle Duncan, of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, calling it "very disappointing." He added, "The proposal has nothing to do with millions of family businesses and owners who are having their rights violated by the mandate and are currently in litigation."