It’s been two weeks since President Obama announced a compromise intended to quell outrage over a new rule requiring most employers to include health coverage of contraception for their workers. But conservatives insist on fighting on.
The battle isn’t confined to fiery birth-control rhetoric from GOP presidential rivals like Rick Santorum, either.
Although the right’s focus on long-accepted forms of birth control may well wind up playing to the Democrats’ benefit politically, a prominent conservative legal organization in Washington on Wednesday called on Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to somehow overrule her boss and change the mandate and Obama’s accommodation on contraceptives.
The new mandate, which is to take effect this summer, requires religious-affiliated institutions, such as religious schools and hospitals, to include coverage for contraception for their employees. A number of Catholic leaders, who oppose all forms of birth control, objected.
Under Obama’s compromise, women who work for religiously affilated employers will be able to obtain birth control directly from their insurance companies, which must provide the coverage without additional charge.
Although some Catholic leaders, such as Sister Carol Keehan, who heads the U.S. Catholic Health Association, says she is “very pleased” with the compromise, that’s not good enough for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), the group leaning on Sebelius.
The ACLJ says that it sent her a letter with a nine-page legal analysis to complain that the new rule violates the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
“Whether mandating that religious employers or individuals violate their conscience by directly paying for contraceptives, or by contributing to a health insurance plan that is mandated to provide contraceptives, the comprehensive guidelines violate the First Amendment, and RFRA,” the ACLJ says. “The [Department of Health and Human Services] should revise the comprehensive guidelines and remove the requirement that all insurance companies make contraceptives an obligatory part of every insurance package.”
The ACLJ calls Obama’s compromise position nothing more than “a smoke and mirrors game.”
Never mind the fact that 28 states already have rules similiar to the position Obama laid out earlier this month.
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.