CFI Applauds Obama Administration for Standing up to Religious Lobbying on Birth Control Rule

January 22, 2012

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) would like to thank President Barack Obama and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for rejecting pressure from organized religion and keeping in place new guidelines that require health insurance providers and organizations providing health care plans to cover preventive health services, such as contraception, without charging a co-payment. The new rule will go into effect in August 2012.

The Center for Inquiry considers this an important step forward for reproductive rights. Free coverage for safe, preventative health care allows women to control their reproductive systems. Moreover, contrary to the rule’s opponents, the rule in no way restricts the free exercise of religion.

The new guidelines had faced fierce public opposition from organized religion. Most notably, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops lobbied the HHS to either eliminate the new guidelines or widely expand the current exemption clause – which now covers employers whose main purpose is to promote religious doctrine – to also include religious hospitals, charities, and universities. Ultimately, Obama and HHS rejected these efforts.

Unfortunately, HHS has provided a one-year compliance exemption for religious hospitals, charities, and universities. This means that hundreds of thousands of women will be left without reproductive health coverage until August 2013 simply because of their employer’s religiously motivated objections. CFI sees no compelling reason why organizations with secular purposes ought to receive any exemption from the law.

Nonetheless, CFI considers this a victory, and commends the Obama administration for basing its health care laws on science and reason, not religious belief.

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