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Obama Administration Caves to Ultraconservative Religious Leaders

June 28, 2013

“The Obama administration has once again listened to the bishops instead of to Catholic voters on a matter that deals with both women’s healthcare and religious freedom,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. “Thousands of women will be left without contraceptive coverage as a result of a compromise that the government has made with ultraconservative religious leaders.” Speaking about the final rule on women’s preventive services announced today by the Department of Health and Human Services, O’Brien deplored that the administration caved to religious leaders who do not represent the people they purport to lead.

“Today, the administration exempted some employers from providing healthcare for their employees that experts agree is critical and that every other woman in the US now has access to at no cost. The rationale for the exemption flies in the face of the facts and takes healthcare decisions away from women and their doctors, giving this power to employers instead.

“The new rule implementing the Affordable Care Act and its provisions for no-cost contraception exempts certain religious employers because, the administration claims, their employees are likely to be people of the same religion who will therefore agree with their employers and not use contraception. This is an assumption that neither the administration nor an employer has any right to make—and, at least for Catholic women, it is an assumption that is dead wrong.

“The Catholic bishops are vehemently opposed to contraception and have spent untold sums to get the government to allow them to discriminate against their employees by denying coverage. But we know that 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women have used a method banned by the bishops. There are no legal barriers to providing contraceptive coverage with no exemptions; several states already do it, including Wisconsin and New Hampshire. Women who live in those states will continue to be able to follow their consciences without interference from their employers—no matter who they work for. Sadly, when it comes to other places, the administration did not examine the evidence and decided to instead cede to the demands of ultraconservative religious leaders. That’s bad practice, bad policy and bad precedent.”