CFI Urges Obama Administration to Protect Women’s Access to Birth Control

April 8, 2013

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) on Monday, April 8, submitted formal comments urging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to promulgate a final rule that requires all employers, apart from houses of worship, to provide or else arrange coverage for birth control without charging a co-payment.

You can download our nine-page letter here.

As you might recall, the “birth control rule” was originally announced on August 1, 2011, to acclaim from a wide variety of groups, including CFI. Yet almost immediately some organized conservative religious groups criticized the rule as an assault on religious freedom and called for it to be completely rescinded, or else amended to allow any organization to opt out.

In response, HHS has issued several “accommodations” for employers that object to birth control on religious grounds. These include an expansion of the definition of “religious employer” to allow merely religiously affiliated organizations to qualify for accommodation, and a procedure whereby religiously affiliated nonprofit organizations may opt out of the rule, thus requiring insurance companies to provide separate coverage.

CFI is pleased that HHS has resisted intense pressure to eliminate the rule entirely. However, we also believe that both the previous and proposed changes are unnecessary and unwise.

In our formal comments, we reiterate our support for the former definition of “religious employer” and detail a number of flaws with HHS’ new, expanded definition; explain why the birth control rule in no way violates religious liberty; and argue that adopted changes to the rule must not make it any harder for women employees to access birth control. As we write:

“We believe that there is no need for — and no constructive point to — further discussion. This prolonged debate, over something as fundamental as birth control, is a perfect example of the harmful influence sectarian religious institutions have on public policy. It’s time for us to move past them, for the common good.” 

You can read the letter in its entirety here.