Tell the Obama Administration to Stand Strong on Birth Control Rule

April 2, 2013

On February 1, 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed yet another set of changes to the birth control rule, which mandates that employers or health insurance companies provide free coverage for preventive health services, such as contraception. We think these changes are both unnecessary and unwise. At the same time, we are pleased that HHS has resisted pressure from religious organizations to eliminate the rule.

The proposed changes would, among other things, further accommodate employers that object to contraception on religious grounds by expanding the definition of "religious employer," and simplifying the manner in which objecting organizations can opt out of coverage. 

We at the Center for Inquiry (CFI) applauded the Obama administration for issuing the birth control rule in August 2011, as we considered it an important step forward for reproductive rights and health care. And we are pleased the administration has held relatively steady on its commitment to provide women with free access to safe, preventative health care despite intense opposition from organized religion.

However, the proposed changes needlessly complicate what was already a scientifically sound policy, and they will force women to face additional challenges in accessing contraceptive coverage. Furthermore, the changes were a futile attempt at placating religious critics such as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Yet both groups reject the changes and, as they have stated in their own comments on this issue, will be satisfied with nothing less than the rule being completely rescinded.

This is where you come in. Do you believe women should have full control over their reproductive systems regardless of the religious beliefs of their employer? Do you feel HHS has gone far enough in trying to please far-right religious critics of the birth control rule? Do you think it’s time to finalize the rule and move on? 

HHS will accept public comments on the proposed changes until April 8, 2013. While CFI is completing the draft of its formal comments and will not release them until next week, we urge you to write HHS as soon as possible and tell them that:

  • Whatever accommodations might be adopted, nothing should prevent women from having straightforward, free access to birth control.
  • The expansion of the definition of "religious employer" is wrong, and it gives organizations that claim to have a religious identity more control over the health care decisions of their employees.
  • It is deeply troubling that the religious lobby has had so much influence over a major health and public policy decision, which should be based on reason, science, and the common good, rather than sectarian dogma.
  • At the very least, employers should be responsible for notifying insurance providers that they will need to arrange coverage, and notifying employees that they will still receive coverage, at no additional cost, from their insurance provider.
  • Coverage for health care benefits such as contraception should be seamless and any additional burdens created by HHS accommodations should be placed on the employer or else the insurance company—not the employee.

Hundreds of thousands of people who work at religiously affiliated organizations are depending on you to speak out on their behalf. Make your voice heard! Take action now!

Here’s how:

1.  Visit www.regulations.gov.

2.  In the search field, type the following: CMS-2012-0031-63161.

3.  Scroll to the result and click on “Comment Now!”

4. On the following page, submit your comment either by typing or pasting your message in the open box, or by uploading a file.

Thank you!

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