The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has formally lambasted the contraception mandate in President Obama’s health care law as a violation of American freedoms that employs a “religious gerrymander” to avoid the objections of faith-based nonprofits and business owners.
The bishops outlined their objections this week in written comments to the Department of Health and Human Services, offering their most detailed thoughts to date on the provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires many employers to insure contraception, including morning-after pills that religious objectors equate with abortion.
Actual houses of worship are exempted from the mandate, but corporations with religiously devout owners are not.
The Obama administration proposed an accommodation for faith-based nonprofits like universities and hospitals, which would require insurers or third-party administrators to set up a firewall between the institutions and separate policies that cover contraception.
In comments on the accommodation, the bishops accused the administration of failing to provide an exemption to “a wide array of employers that are undeniably religious.”
“Generally the nonprofit religious organizations that fall on the ‘non-exempt’ side of this religious gerrymander include those organizations that contribute most visibly to the common good through the provision of health, educational, and social services,” they said.
The bishops also found fault with the proposed accommodation itself.
“Even if all of those assumptions were sound, the ‘accommodation’ still requires the objecting religious organization to fund or otherwise facilitate the morally objectionable coverage,” they said.
HHS and defenders of the mandate say almost all women depend on contraception at some point in their lives, and many struggle to afford it. As a legal matter, they said employers should not be allowed to impose their beliefs on their employees.