WASHINGTON — The Obama administration proposed new rules on Friday aimed at providing contraceptives to women who work for religious organizations and companies that object to financing some or all forms of birth control.
The rules would require nonprofits, including religious colleges and hospitals, and closely held private companies, like Hobby Lobby, to inform the administration that they object on religious grounds to paying for contraceptive coverage.
The administration would then inform the relevant insurance carriers to provide the coverage at no cost to the organization or company.
The rule regarding for-profit companies was developed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June that Hobby Lobby, a crafts chain based in Oklahoma City, didn’t have to comply with the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act because the family that controls the company objected on religious grounds to financing some of the methods.
According to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, companies like Hobby Lobby would not, under the proposed rule, have to “contract, arrange, pay or refer for contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds.”
The administration is seeking comment from the public on how to define a closely held for-profit company, something the Supreme Court did not do in its decision.
In regard to nonprofit organizations, the new rule goes into effect immediately and will require them to notify the administration in writing that they object to providing contraceptive coverage.
Then the administration would “notify insurers and third-party administrators so that enrollees in plans of such organizations receive separate coverage for contraceptive services, with no additional cost to the enrollee or the employer,” according to the HHS.
Religious organizations had objected to a previous rule that required them to send a form to the insurance plan administrators, believing it still made them complicit in providing contraceptives that violated their religious beliefs.
The Supreme Court in July granted an injunction to a Christian college in Illinois that had sued over the policy.
on Congress to act
White House principal deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said Friday that the rules were aimed at ensuring women who work for the religiously oriented organizations receive contraceptive coverage.
And he said lawmakers should get involved.
“We believe that Congress can and should act to ensure that any women affected by recent Supreme Court actions get the same coverage options that everyone else has offered,” Schultz said. “Legislative action is the quickest and best way to ensure that women get access to the services they need, and we call on Congress to act quickly.”
The administration may continue to face legal challenges over the mandate’s application to religious organizations.
Lori Windham, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented Hobby Lobby and numerous organizations that sued over the contraception mandate, said Friday, “Under pressure from hundreds of lawsuits, the government continues to retreat.
“After three losses in the Supreme Court and dozens of losses in courts below, the government continues to confuse the issues. The government issued over 70 pages of regulations, when all it needed to do was read the First Amendment. We’ll be reviewing this latest attempt with each of our clients.”
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, also called for Congress to take action.
She said, “The revised accommodation has no impact on for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby that are now allowed to deny birth control coverage to their employees. Women who work at corporations like Hobby Lobby can still be denied birth control coverage, and we are glad to see that the administration is proposing ways to ensure that these women can get no-copay birth control.”