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More Employers Now Allowed to Deny Benefits

July 10, 2015

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, issued the following statement:

“The government issued the final regulation today responding to the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision regarding contraceptive coverage for employees who work at for-profit companies that object to the coverage on religious grounds. The administration claims this rule will ensure that all women will have equal access to birth control coverage no matter where they work. But the reality is that more women will now be forced to jump through hoops to access the healthcare they need.

“Expanding the current accommodation for objecting nonprofit organizations—which allows organizations to refuse to cover contraception, instead requiring the insurance company to provide coverage directly—today’s rule allows a broadly defined set of private corporations to deny coverage. Now even more employers can impose their beliefs on their employees.

“Worse still, the rule offers no relief for women working for churches, dioceses and some schools and charities throughout the US. They don’t even have the opportunity to jump through these hoops, as they are still denied coverage. When the Obama administration caved to aggressive lobbying by the Catholic bishops and their ultraconservative allies, creating exemptions and special rules in the Affordable Care Act, they put reproductive health decisions in the hands of bishops instead of women.

“The majority of Catholics across the United States reject religious exemptions that allow employers to deny or create barriers to birth control access, whether at a religiously affiliated institution or a private business.”

According to a 2014 poll:

  • Two out of three Catholics disapprove of a religiously affiliated university denying “its employees and students insurance coverage for birth control on the grounds that birth control is a sin.”
  • Two‐thirds (67 percent) of Catholic voters reject the right of employers to “deny birth control coverage to their employees and their dependents based on the employer’s beliefs.”

O’Brien continued, “If the Obama administration was serious about fixing contraceptive coverage regulations, it would reconsider its decision to regulate discrimination, rather than dismissing the religious liberty of women across the United States because of where they work. The administration has left these women and their dependents subject to the whims of employers, when it should deliver on the president’s promise of comprehensive healthcare—including reproductive healthcare—for all.

“Catholics for Choice will continue to advocate for the real religious freedom of every individual and fight so that women and men across the country may exercise the rights that belong to each and every one of us.”