Healthcare plans are required to cover birth control without charging any co-pays or deductibles starting Aug. 1, President Obama announced on Friday. The announcement comes after federal health officials proposed a similar measure last summer, despite the numerous complains that rolled in from religious groups and Republicans.
This decision was made after very careful consideration, including the important concerns some have raised about religious liberty, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.
Religious institutions, such as Churches, Mosques, and Synagogues, are exempt from the ruling, but religious-affiliated hospitals and Universities only have an extra year; they must comply by Aug. 1, 2013. Congressional Republicans, however, called the decision an assault on religious freedoms.
This ruling forces religious organizations to violate the fundamental tenets of their faith or stop offering health insurance coverage to their employees, said the Republican Policy Committee. Time will tell whether those institutions choose the former or the latter course - but neither option should be necessary, if the administration had not taken such an unbending approach to appease its liberal base.
Pro-choice groups applauded the decision. Birth control is not just basic health care for women, it is an economic concern, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. This common sense decision means that millions of women, who would otherwise pay $15 to $50 a month, will have access to affordable birth control, helping them save hundreds of dollars each year.
Other groups, however, such as Nashville, Tenn. Dominican congregation told The Hill that they would rather close their doors than provide free birth control, which they liken to abortion. What war and disease could not do to the congregation, the government of the United States will do, they said. It will shut them down.
Nancy Keegan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told The Hill that she applauded the administration for standing firm against intensive lobbying efforts from anti-birth-control organizations trying to expand the refusal option even further to allow organizations and corporations to deny their employees contraceptive coverage. As a result, millions will get access to contraception - and they will not have to ask their bosses for permission, she said.