New Rule Widens Access to Birth Control Regardless of Employers’ Beliefs
WASHINGTON – The federal government today released a new rule to ensure that women will have birth control coverage in their health insurance, even if they work for closely held for-profit companies that have a religious objection to contraception.
The rule follows the Supreme Court’s decision last year that Hobby Lobby and other closely held corporations could not be required to provide contraceptive coverage to their female employees, even though that coverage is guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act.
“Today’s guidance is a positive development for women denied access to important healthcare in the troubling aftermath of the Hobby Lobby ruling,” said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “Invocations of religion shouldn’t be used as a smokescreen to allow employers to treat their female employees like second-class citizens. That’s why an accommodation was never necessary in the first place.”
The rule allows companies to fill out and send a form stating their religious objection to their insurance company or the federal government. The insurance company can then provide the coverage directly to the employees — a process similar to that already in place for nonprofits with such objections.
The rule, however, makes this accommodation available to an overly broad group of companies, going beyond what was required by the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby. As a result, strong oversight and enforcement is needed to ensure that the many women who are employed by companies that use the accommodation have access to seamless coverage.
“Although we are disappointed that today’s rule opens up the accommodation to even more for-profit organizations, we applaud the federal government for ensuring women receive contraception coverage, regardless of where they work,” Amiri said. “We will continue to advocate for federal legislation that would restore the ACA’s contraceptive coverage guarantee that was weakened by the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby.”
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