- Texas man arrested for powder-letter hoax
- Islamic State opens ‘marriage bureau’ for single jihadists
- Drone almost blocks California firefighting planes
- Tornado rips off roofs, downs trees near Boston
- GOP: Environmental rules keeping agents from accessing border
- John Kerry: Millions displaced by religious fighting in 2013
- Federal appeals court rules against Virginia’s gay marriage ban
- White House says Russia ‘losing’ war in Ukraine
- Hamas turns to North Korea for weapons deal, Iran for money
- Syrian casualties surge as jihadis consolidate
Free birth control rules to be finalized
Public comment period ends
Question of the Day
President Obama’s top health official said Monday the administration will finalize its new rules granting free birth control, saying the controversial policy will go into effect in August.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius‘ comments came the same day that the public comment period for the contraception mandate ended, and even as a bevy of nonprofit groups and companies are fighting in court to overturn it.
“As of Aug. 1, 2013, every employee who doesn’t work directly for a church or a diocese will be included in the benefit package,” Mrs. Sebelius said at a forum moderated by Reuters that was held at the Harvard School of Public Health.
The contraception policy, which the administration issued as part of the new health care law, requires employers to provide health insurance that covers birth control, such as oral contraceptives and sterilization, without charging a copay.
Churches, temples and mosques were not affected, but religiously affiliated nonprofits such as Catholic schools and hospitals were required to comply.
After a backlash, the administration offered an accommodation in February to employers who object. Under that policy, religious-affiliated organizations who object to contraceptive care could provide contraception through insurers and third-party administrators, without having to pay for the drugs or manage the coverage.
Ms. Sebelius called that sufficient deference to religious liberty and a necessary public-health measure, but it has done little to quell complaints.
“The proposed ‘accommodation’ does nothing to assuage the consciences of people of faith who object to the government deciding who is religious enough to be granted an exemption to this violation of religious freedom,” Maureen Ferguson, senior policy adviser for the Catholic Association, said Monday. “The current proposal still leaves these employers with an impossible choice: follow the law or follow their conscience and be subject to draconian fines.”
HHS hasn’t posted any of the public comments submitted on the rule on its website, but the Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group said Monday the proposal has been the subject of more than 147,000 comments, or more input “than any other regulatory proposal on any subject government-wide.”
On Monday morning, the National Women’s Law Center and Planned Parenthood Federation of America said they had increased that number significantly by submitting nearly 350,000 comments from a coalition that supports the mandate.
The agency said it will review the comments before it issues a final rule, but Mrs. Sebelius‘ remarks Monday signal which direction the agency is headed.
“We think [the proposal] upholds the religious beliefs of some, but does not impose religious views on an employee who may or may not share those religious beliefs,” she said. “Having said that, we’re being sued.”
Dozens of nonprofits and more than 20 corporations have sought relief in federal court from the contraception mandate within the Affordable Care Act. They’ve obtained mixed results at the appellate level, a scenario that leads many to believe the issue will land before the Supreme Court.
On Monday, Archbishop William E. Lori, of Baltimore, cheered those who are challenging the mandate, saying they were taking a “courageous” stand.
“Their actions have been a source of encouragement,” he said, “particularly because of their high rate of success in obtaining early injunctions to block the mandate.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Tom Howell Jr. covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
- Medicare trust fund to last 4 years longer: Obama administration
- ACLU: Unprecedented U.S. spying has chilling effect on reporters and sources, weakens accountability
- Rep. Mike Rogers: Lock Israel-Palestine negotiators in a room
- Conservative group warns Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe not to go it alone on Medicaid expansion
- Number-crunchers put GOP chances of retaking Senate at 60 percent: report
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By Scott Pinsker
- D.C. seeks to stay judge's order allowing gun owners to carry in public
- Illegal immigrants demand representation in White House meetings
- Hillary Clinton: Forget Obama, George W. Bush made her 'proud to be an American'
- Babson College, BYU win top spots in Money magazine's college rankings
- Iraqi Christians rally at White House: 'Obama, Obama, where are you?'
- White House defends Kerry failure to broker Middle East cease-fire
- Romney would win popular vote in rematch against Obama: CNN poll
- D.C. seeks stay in order striking down ban on handguns in public
- Tennessee Gov. Haslam slams White House for secret dump of illegals in his state
- Computer glitch caused odd Saturday release of D.C. guns ruling
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq