For Immediate Release
Contact: Paul Fidalgo
Phone: (207) 358-9785
June 02, 2017
The Center for Inquiry expressed its exasperation with and opposition to Thursday’s draft regulation regarding religious exceptions to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.
A leaked Trump administration regulation would allow any corporation to claim a religious exemption to providing contraception under employer sponsored health insurance plans, markedly expanding the current exemption.
“This is precisely the kind of out-of-control religious privilege that we feared when Justice Alito handed down his legally flawed and politically motivated decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.,” noted Nick Little, CFI’s Legal Director. “If this draft regulation goes into effect, the rights of women to receive much needed zero cost preventive care would depend on the religious whims of their employer.”
Under the Affordable Care Act, employers providing health insurance coverage (including universities providing insurance for their students) were required to offer insurance with no-cost access to FDA-approved methods of contraception as part of a package of free preventative care. As a direct result, the percentage of American women of childbearing age who paid for contraception out of pocket fell from 20% to 4%.
Claiming this was a violation of their religious freedom, employers opposed to women’s contraception, sued. In Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court ruled that small, closely held for-profit corporations deemed religious were entitled to the exemptions offered to religious nonprofits. In Zubik v. Burwell, the Court was unable to decide whether that nonprofit exemption, which required the signing of a form objecting to providing contraceptive coverage, itself violated the religious rights of the groups concerned.
Any attempt at balancing a woman’s interest in reproductive health with a narrow religious exemption would be eliminated under the Trump administration’s proposed rule, which would give the exemption to all comers. “This president sees himself as indebted to Christian extremists for their electoral support,” said Robyn Blumner, CFI’s President and CEO. “Allowing employers to impose their religious dogma through workplace rules is one way to payback the religious right.”
Legal Director Nick Little promised action. “CFI took part in the legal fight in both Hobby Lobby and Zubik, supporting the rights of women and the secular character of our government,” he said. “Whatever final regulation this administration promulgates regarding contraceptive access, the Center for Inquiry will fight alongside our allies to make sure religious dogma and prejudice aren’t prioritized over women’s health.”
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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at www.centerforinquiry.net.