Obama Will Announce "Accommodation" for Religious Groups' Contraception Coverage

Media are buzzing that Obama is backing down from his Affordable Care Act requirement that nearly all emlployers provide health insurance that cover contraception, and The White House is expected to announce details of the so-called compromise to expand religious groups' exemption later today. 

ABC News reports that Obama may cave by allowing for a "Hawaii Plan," which the Guttmacher institute describes as the following

The Hawaii law specifies that when an employer is exempted from the contraceptive coverage requirement on religious grounds, its employees are entitled to purchase coverage directly from the plan. The cost to the employee must be no more than the price the employee would have paid had the employer not been exempted. The law requires an exempted employer to notify its employees of this option.

While this plan allows women who work for religious groups to receive the same contraceptive benefits as other employees, it still allows for political meddling in what is a woman's health issue, and should only be decided by a woman and her physician. 

Mother Joneshas more: 

Here's the thing: The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has already said that this is unacceptable to them, because according to the National Catholic Register, this would still mean that religious employers "must directly send women to drugs and devices that are morally wrong and can do harm to them." (Millions of women use contraception, including the vast, vast majority of Catholic women, many of them for health reasons rather than preventing pregnancy.) It's also not clear the Hawaii plan is workeable at the federal level, as one administration source told CNN that "the federal government cannot compel insurers to provide a side-contraception plan."

The unacknowledged background to this fight is that, as my colleague Nick Baumann reported earlier this week, federal law has required employers to offer health insurance for more than a decade—which is why DePaul University, the largest Catholic university in America, already offers birth control coverage to its employees. Far from being an unprecedented "assault on religious freedom," the narrow religious exception here has ample legal precedent. As Michelle Goldberg has written, contraception mandates are in effect in 28 states in various forms, and the courts have ruled against challenges brought to those state laws. Add in a 1990 opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia found that laws "neutral toward religion and generally applicable" don't hamper inviduals' constitutional rights, so the administration seems to be on firm legal ground.

Following the Obama Administration's politically-motivated decision to make the morning-after pill available over-the-counter only to women over 17, Obama's contraception mandate had been championed by women's health advocates.  

To fight back, sign this petition urging Congress not to block affordable access to contraception  

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at February 10, 2012, 3:29am

Today's Top Stories