A New Battle Over Contraception
The Obama administration made the right call in August when it issued new standards requiring all insurers to cover contraceptives without a deductible or a co-payment, starting next year. The White House now needs to resist pressure from House Republicans, the Roman Catholic Church and other groups out to eliminate or significantly weaken the contraceptives mandate.
The new rules already exempt churches and other religious institutions from having to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees. That is similar to provisions in state laws upheld by the highest courts in New York and California.
Nevertheless, church leaders are calling for an expansive exemption for all employees of Catholic hospitals, charitable organizations, elementary and secondary schools, and colleges and universities. That would, in effect, deny coverage for contraceptives for millions of women who may not be Catholic and may disagree with the church’s stance on birth control.
Some opponents of contraceptives are pushing to allow all employers to opt out of providing contraceptives coverage if it offends their conscience.
The issue was joined last week at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing called by Representative Joe Pitts, Republican of Pennsylvania, who opposes the mandate. At the hearing, Jon O’Brien, the president of Catholics for Choice, testified that 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women in the United States have used a form of contraception banned by the Vatican.
He criticized the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for doing the very thing that it wrongly accuses the administration of doing: trying to impede “the religious freedom of millions of Americans” by “taking reproductive health care options away from everybody.”
The administration’s policy on birth control coverage follows the recommendation of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, which studied the medical facts, including high rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion largely caused by lack of access to birth control. President Obama should stand by the policy.
This article originally appeared in the New York Times.