On Friday, the Obama Administration announced updated regulations for its birth control rule that requires employer-based insurance plans to offer contraceptive services without a co-pay. The new rules address concerns from both Catholic groups and women’s health organizations — clarifying that women who work for religious employers will still be able to access no-cost birth control, while those religious nonprofit groups won’t have to directly finance the cost of contraceptives they oppose.
According to the updated regulation, insurers will provide separate, individual birth control coverage for the women who work at religiously-affiliated organizations, like Catholic hospitals and universities. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a statement to say they “welcome” the new Obamacare regulations, and plan to comment further after a more thorough review of the rules. Other Catholic groups and theologians — including the right-leaning Catholic League — have already come out in support of the compromise, celebrating the new rules as an effective balance between religious concerns about contraception and women’s preventative health care:
— Bill Donahue, President of The Catholic League: “The rules proposed today by HHS appear to go a long way toward rectifying the most problematic provisions of the mandate… The decision to expand religious exemptions, and to adopt the IRS definition of a religious institution, is a sign of goodwill by the Obama administration toward the Catholic community.”
— James Salt, Executive Director of Catholics United: “This is a victory not only for the Obama Administration, but for the Catholic Church. As Catholics United said from the very beginning, reasonable people knew it was right to be patient and hopeful that all sides could come together to solve this complex issue. The White House deserves praise in alleviating the Church’s concerns.”
— Steve Schneck, Director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at Catholic University: The proposed rules are “an important win for religious institutions.”
— Thomas Reese, Senior Fellow at Georgetown University’s Woodstock Theological Center: “HHS and the administration have gone out of their way to resolve the concerns of religious institutions that object to covering contraceptives in their insurance programs.”
— John Gehring, Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life: “This is a strong signal that the administration is responsive to the concerns of Catholic institutions. The values of protecting women’s health and the conscience rights of religious employers should not be in conflict. Those who demonize this president for being hostile to religion should drop the reckless rhetoric.”
Nonetheless, far-right critics of the birth control measure have shown no signs of ceasing their war against Obamacare, even though a majority of Americans — including Catholics — support eliminating the cost barriers to contraceptive coverage. Right-wing opponents have already blasted the compromise, saying “no amount of revisions will ever render the HHS mandate acceptable. “