WASHINGTON — Religious groups across the country remain concerned after the Obama administration released its new rules surrounding what has been dubbed the Obamacare abortion pill mandate.
According to the revised regulations, women would still be able to obtain contraceptives at no cost to them. But for-profit companies and other similar organizations that object to personally providing coverage must contact either their insurance company or the federal government and advise of their religious objections. If contacting the government, officials will then contact the business’ insurance company and the insurance company will cover the contraceptives at no cost.
“Women across the country should have access to preventive services, including contraception,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement. “At the same time, we recognize the deeply held views on these issues, and we are committed to securing women’s access to important preventive services at no additional cost under the Affordable Care Act, while respecting religious beliefs.”
But some pro-abortion groups, as well as Democratic members of Congress, such as Sen. Patty Murray, Wash., expressed opposition to the new rules, stating that they give too much “power over the health care decisions of the women they employ.” Murray opined that the regulations demonstrate why “the Supreme Court’s deeply harmful ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby is completely unacceptable.”
According to the Washington Post, Murray plans to introduce a bill in Congress that would override the U.S. Supreme Court decision.
However, while some opined that the new rules give too much freedom to businesses, religious groups said that the regulations still wrongfully force people of faith to be complicit in providing abortifacients to women.
“The government keeps digging the hole deeper,” said Adèle Auxier Keim, legal counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “Just last week, the Supreme Court ordered HHS not to enforce the exact rules they finalized today. But the government still won’t give up on its quest to force … religious employers to distribute contraceptives.”
“Especially after the Supreme Court’s recent King v. Burwell decision allowed the government to expand its healthcare exchanges, there is no reason at all the government needs religious employers to help it distribute these products,” he added.
As previously reported, last week, the Becket Fund, which represented the popular craft chain Hobby Lobby before the high court last year, filed a legal challenge with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Houston Baptist University, East Texas Baptist University and the Pennsylvania-based Westminster Theological Seminary.
The schools had sued the Obama administration in 2013 out of their belief that the government’s attempt at exempting them from the mandate still required them to provide abortion-inducing drugs for staff. The University of Notre Dame had filed a similar lawsuit over the compromise, as did the evangelical Geneva College of Beaver Falls and the Roman Catholic dioceses in Erie and Pittsburgh.
The U.S. Supreme Court remanded Notre Dame’s case back to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, ordering it to reconsider its decision in light of the high court’s 2014 Hobby Lobby opinion. Geneva College and the Roman Catholic dioceses in Erie and Pittsburgh were granted temporary relief in April while their challenge moved forward in court.
“It is all well and good for the government to think it has threaded the needle and found a way for religious nonprofits to comply with the contraceptive mandate without violating their religious beliefs, but ultimately it is for the religious adherent to determine how much facilitation or complicity is too much,” last week’s Becket Fund appeal reads.