The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has reportedly rejected a proposed compromise with the Obama Administration on birth control access rules for religiously affiliated institutions.
The working assumption was that the “Hawaii compromise” would come into play. Under this regime, any exempt religious organization would have to tell enrollees how they could directly access contraceptive services from their insurance company. The religious institution wouldn’t be paying for insurance on contraception, then, but access would be ensured.
But according to the National Catholic Register this would not be acceptable to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has been among the key groups opposed to the new universal access rules for birth control.
[A] key official in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says the Hawaii bill — repeatedly cited in media commentary — would not resolve the conference’s concerns and would, in any case, be overridden by the federal rule.
“I’ve reviewed the Hawaii law, and it’s not much of a compromise,” said Richard Doerflinger of the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities and the bishops’ chief lobbyist on life issues in the nation’s capital. “The Hawaii contraceptive mandate has many of the same features as the new federal mandate.”
Like the federal rule, he said, the Hawaii bill “covers all FDA-approved ‘contraceptives’ (including drugs that can cause an abortion); and the religious exemption is very narrow (though it does not include the requirement that the religious organization serve only people of its own faith to be eligible).
On the flip side, reproductive health advocates aren’t thrilled with the Hawaii compromise, either. Sarah Posner quotes Jon O’Brien of Catholics for Choice as saying that the Hawaii law “puts the onus on employees to jump through hoops” to get contraceptive coverage.
“It may seem reasonable on the surface,” said O’Brien, “but it sends the wrong message, namely: that an employer’s personal beliefs may interfere with an employee’s conscience and therefore make it more difficult for him/her to access the healthcare coverage that he or she needs.”
In New York, which allows for this “self-insurance,” O’Brien said, “we have heard horror stories” of how it operates in practice. Imagine, he said, working at a Catholic school and going to your employer to request this special coverage. “We’ve heard anecdotal evidence that some workers at certain religious institutions have had to sign testimonials stating that they understand that contraception is against their employers’ beliefs, thereby bullying them into either not seeking insurance that covers contraception or into jumping through hoops to try to access it,” O’Brien said.
If that compromise doesn’t hold for either side, it’s hard to say how a compromise could be reached.
Meanwhile, the push-back that started this morning with Planned Parenthood, as reproductive choice and women’s rights groups enter the playing field on this issue, continues. The National Nurses Alliance of SEIU has sent a message to supporters, urging that the current regulations stand.
99% of women in the U.S. rely on contraception at some point in their lives. In August, the Affordable Care Act will require most health insurance plans to provide contraception at no cost to employees who use it. This is a historic victory for women’s health.
But now women’s healthcare is under attack. Some would even deny women access to this vital healthcare service. They are calling on the White House and Health and Human Services (HHS) to roll back this milestone.
Tell your friends and family to stand up to protect women’s access to contraception and the healthcare law.
If these extremist voices succeed, Americans will lose the freedom to make personal health decisions about their families and their future with their doctor and care team.
In addition, Sen. Chuck Schumer has a petition asking supporters to “stand one million strong for women”:
The next battle over the Obama administration’s decision to make contraception more affordable under the new health care law is already underway. It’s hard to believe that in the 21st century we have to fight for access to birth control, but that is the fact — and there will be many more fights in the weeks ahead.
We need you, and hundreds of thousands more Americans like you, right now.
While the Administration searches for a compromise, both sides are gearing up for a battle where the public generally stands on the side of greater access to birth control.