Obama Compromises With Religious Leaders Over Contraception
Today, the Obama administration sought to settle a long-lasting dispute with religious leaders over whether employees at faith-affiliated universities, hospitals and other institutions should have access to health insurance coverage for contraceptives.
The new set of proposals suggests instead that employees at religious non-profits are guaranteed access to birth control coverage without out-of-pocket costs through separate plans with insurers picking up the tab.
The rules follow months of protest and legal action by groups representing Roman Catholics, Protestant evangelicals and private employers. They have argued that President Barack Obama's 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act forces them to violate their own religious tenets against contraception.
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For more than a year, the Obama administration has struggled with how to balance its desire to guarantee universal contraceptive coverage with religious freedoms provided by the US Constitution.
Faced with the anger of religious leaders and social conservatives in the midst of a heated presidential campaign, Obama said last February that he would create an accommodation for religious employers under the law.
The new rules from the Department of Health and Human Services consolidate many of the ideas administration officials voiced then, but in greater detail. “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.”