Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Critics Take Aim at New Federal Contraception Rules

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Critics Take Aim at New Federal Contraception Rules

Article excerpt

The Obama administration's latest attempt to end the contentious battle over contraception coverage is facing resistance, as expected, from some of the most vehement opponents of the federal health law requirement.

New rules, announced last week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, would allow religious nonprofits and some companies with religious owners to opt out of paying for birth control for female employees while ensuring that those employees still have access to contraception.

The rules are a response to recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions in favor of opponents of the birth control mandate, including Hobby Lobby, a retail chain.

Although the new rules drew plaudits from pro-birth control groups, they earned condemnation from religious leaders, including Catholics and Lutherans, who object to providing insurance coverage for medicine in conflict with their moral convictions.

"While we're still studying the details, the interim final rules do not go far enough, because they do not broaden the exemption from the mandate. Since the accommodation still appears to be crafted to result in the provision of abortifacients, it remains objectionable," said the Rev. Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, in a statement provided to the Post- Dispatch. Abortifacients are drugs that induce abortions.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis, which has sued over the coverage mandate, referred comment to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. That group's president criticized the new approach.

"On initial review of the government's summary of the regulations, we note with disappointment that the regulations would not broaden the 'religious employer' exemption to encompass all employers with sincerely held religious objections to the mandate," Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., said in the statement.

The Affordable Care Act requires most employers with more than 50 full-time workers to provide insurance coverage that includes access to contraception. But some religious organizations, including nonprofits such as hospitals or colleges and some for-profit companies, have fought that requirement in court citing moral objections to authorizing and paying for some forms of birth control.

Under the previous system, nonprofit religious groups had to inform the insurer or third-party administrator directly about any coverage objections.

But the administration's new rule allows religiously affiliated nonprofit organizations to notify the federal government if they have an objection to providing employees with certain forms of birth control. The government would then notify the insurer, who would provide contraception coverage at no cost to the female employees or the organizations.

The continued opposition to the government's rules drew scorn from Planned Parenthood's top officer in St. …

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