Obama: Religious Employers Must Pay for Pill
Faith-based employers are outraged that they will be required to pay for birth control.
Religious groups are livid with the Obama administration since it announced Friday that faith-based employers must provide free birth control for workers. The development came about because a stipulation in the new health care law calls for insurance plans to cover preventive care, including contraception, at no cost to employees. While institutions that function mainly as houses of worship — churches, mosques and temples — won’t be required to cover birth control, faith-based schools, non-profits and hospitals would be. The shift comes as a blow to the Catholic Health Association (CHA), which includes about 600 hospitals.
“This indicates the need for an effective national conversation on the appropriate conscience protections in our pluralistic society, which has always respected the role of religions,” stated CHA president Sister Carol Keehan.
Although certain states already make faith-based employers cover contraception for employees and no such employer would be mandated to cover abortions for employees, expect the Republican presidential candidates to argue that the new requirement shows President Barack Obama’s disregard for Christian values. After all, since he’s taken office, Obama has been characterized as everything from an anti-American Muslim to the anti-christ. Obama has stated repeatedly that he’s a Christian, but his rivals have conveniently overlooked this.
The thing is, faith-based employers staff up anywhere from one to two million American workers. While many of these employees are people of faith, they likely use some form of birth control. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that 99 percent of U.S. women in their reproductive years have used contraception at some point. To boot, 70 percent of sexually active women in their reproductive years seek to avoid becoming pregnant.
Because faith-based employers will have an entire year to adjust to the new regulation, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius views the new development as a compromise.
“I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services,” she stated.
Still, religious groups are expected to put up a fight to reverse the new regulation. And if it’s not reversed? Some faith-based employers may choose not to provide any health coverage at all for workers. Of course, that would place an undue burden on their employees and result in fines from the federal government, as the new healthcare law stipulates. But that’s a risk religious employers are prepared to take.