Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Obama Birth-Control Proposal: Some Religious Groups Reject Revised Plan

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Obama Birth-Control Proposal: Some Religious Groups Reject Revised Plan

Article excerpt

The Obama administration proposed a way Friday that women working for religious nonprofits could receive free birth-control coverage without mandating that their employers pay for it.

The plan, issued almost a year after a similar proposal by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), reignited the controversy over how contraception is handled in President Obamas health-care reform. The administration faces dozens of legal challenges by religious nonprofits, including Catholic schools and hospitals, which said the original plan would violate their religious liberty.

In the new proposal, women would receive birth-control coverage through a separate insurance plan that their employer would not pay for. The insurer would provide the coverage for free and would recoup its costs by paying a lower fee for inclusion on the health- insurance exchanges that are being set up online. Preventive care would also presumably result in lower health-care costs to insurers down the road.

Today, the administration is taking the next step in providing women across the nation with coverage of recommended preventive care at no cost, while respecting religious concerns, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. We will continue to work with faith-based organizations, women's organizations, insurers, and others to achieve these goals.

Under the previous proposal, religious groups complained that the exemption from paying for contraception was too narrow. The proposal released Friday offered a new definition of religious employers, following the definition used by the Internal Revenue Service, which covers all houses of worship and affiliated institutions, such as schools and hospitals.

Some religious organizations did not reject the new plan outright, while others did.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, reacted cautiously.

We welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely, Cardinal Dolan said in a statement. We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later.

But the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the legal group representing many of the religious institutions that are suing the administration, rejected the proposal. …

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