The Obama administration has proposed a compromise on contraception coverage under the new federal health care law. A flood of lawsuits have followed the policy that requires contraception coverage in private insurance, with exceptions for purely religious institutions. Some private employers have objected to covering any form of birth contraception in their health plans; others have objected to certain devices and pills taken after sex that they contend work after an egg has been fertilized and thus amount to abortions.
The compromise broadens exceptions for religious-related institutions, but won't quell objections from purely private employers.
The Health and Human Services Department announced the new policy Friday morning: Women will still be able to get the same health benefits, but the new rule announced exempts certain religious employers from paying for it.
The new policy is designed to quell outcry from religious-affiliated institutions, such as an evangelical Christian school or Catholic hospital, that the Obama administration was making them violate their religious beliefs.
The Arkansas legislature has been moving to ban private insurance coverage — even wholly paid by private parties — in policies offered under health exchanges. National polling have shown broad support for coverage of birth control pills under health insurance. It is preventive health care, after all, and nobody objects to erectile dysfunction coverage for men. But the anti-contraception lobby is politically strong, particularly in southern states.
Women's rights advocates cheered today's rule filing because it still broadly advances contraceptive coverage.
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said the Obama administration’s new regulations to implement the contraceptive-coverage policy reinforce the White House’s commitment to women’s health.
Based on an initial review, NARAL Pro-Choice America is optimistic that these new draft regulations will make near-universal contraceptive coverage a reality.
“Today’s draft regulation affirms yet again the Obama administration’s commitment to fulfilling the full promise of its historic contraception policy,” said Hogue. “Thanks to this commitment, most American women will get birth-control coverage without extra expense. Increased access to birth control is a huge win for women and is necessary to prevent unintended pregnancy—a goal on which both pro-choice and anti-choice people ought to agree.”