In a statement released yesterday, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced that they submitted comments (PDF) to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in opposition to the Obama Administration’s recent announcement that employers’ insurance plans must include contraception coverage. The Obama Administration, in an accommodation, made clear that if a religiously-affiliated institute objects, the insurance company will provide the coverage for contraception directly to the employee or student without institutional involvement. The regulation requiring birth control coverage without co-pays or deductibles is a part of the preventive care package of the Affordable Care Act that goes into effect August 2012. The Bishops have rejected the administration’s compromise.
The comments sent to HHS from the USCCB’s General Counsel outlined six points of opposition to the mandate. These points included that contraceptive services are still included as a mandated preventative service in the Affordable Care Act, that religious employers are defined as employers that “primarily hire and serve only members of their own religion”, and that there is a lack of exemption for non-religious employers with “conscientious objections.”
In the comments, the USCCB wrote “we believe that this mandate is unjust and unlawful – it is bad health policy, and because it entails an element of government coercion against conscience, it creates a religious freedom problem. These moral and legal problems are compounded by an extremely narrow exemption that intrusively and unlawfully carves up the religious community into those that are deemed ‘religious enough’ for an exemption, and those that are not.” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters, “We’re not trying to win an argument here… we’re trying to implement a policy that will affect millions of women.”
USCCB Press Release 5/15/12; USCCB Memo to HHS 5/15/12; The Hill 5/15/12; AP 5/15/12; Feminist Daily News Wire 4/13/12, 3/15/12