Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Religious Insurance Exemptions for Contraceptives: What's the Fuss?

What’s the big fuss about President Obama wanting to give free contraceptive services to all female employees at religious organizations?

After objections from Catholics, evangelical Christians, Republicans and even some Democrats, Obama has changed his requirement. He now says that insurance companies, not religious organizations offering insurance coverage to their employees, must dole out contraceptive drugs and devices free of charge to all female employees.

Even if you’re not against contraceptives – here’s a clarification: Religious institutions are not “trying to forbid women’s rights” as accused. The issue is being forced to offer the services against their beliefs.

First, let’s talk finances: Religion aside, this isn’t just a provision to poor women. Across the board, Obamacare gives the services free to every single woman in the U.S., even if she can well afford her insurance co-payments.

Whether this burden is placed on employers or their insurance companies, employees’ insurance rates will surely increase to make up the cost. So women are paying for the items one way or another! 

Now, for the denied religious exemption: Does the president’s new rule make any difference? Of course not. It still makes faith-based employers a partner to something they may not believe in. For example, most morning-after pills can be taken up to 72 hours after intercourse. Since conception can occur just a few hours after intercourse, the pills might interrupt the beginning of a human life.

Democrats including Joe Lieberman (Conn.) who is Jewish, Joe Manchin (W. Va.), and Bob Casey (Penn.) have all come out against the mandatory HHS requirement and called for religious freedom from the regulation. Joining them in dissent is Tim Kaine, Obama’s former DNC chairman (sources: Politico & Fox News). 

Florida’s Republican U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio, has proposed The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012. He has 20 co-sponsors.

This bill includes the following (paraphrased from public document):

* Religious freedom and liberty of conscience are inalienable rights protected by the Declaration of Independence and the First Amendment of the Constitution.

* Conscience Protection clause: No guideline, regulation, or amendment to the Healthcare Act shall require any individual or entity to offer, provide, or purchase coverage for contraceptives, sterilization or related education if that individual or entity is opposed in their religious belief.

* The Healthcare Act shall not impose a fine, penalty, or other sanction, or otherwise disadvantage anyone because of a religiously-based decision not to offer or purchase coverage for  contraception or sterilization, or to engage in government-mandated speech regarding such services.

Following the president’s new decision, Rubio said in a CPAC speech:
“This is a constitutional issue… I know what the U.S. Constitution says about it. And what it is says is that federal government does not have the power to force religious organizations to pay for things that organization thinks is wrong.”


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