July 23, 2014 — The Obama administration in a brief filed Tuesday said it was revising the contraceptive coverage accommodation to provide an alternative way for religiously affiliated not-for-profit organizations to object to providing contraceptive coverage to their employees, the Wall Street Journal reports (Radnofsky, Wall Street Journal, 7/22).
Under the federal contraceptive coverage rules, religiously affiliated not-for-profits can fill out a form that enables a third party to arrange and pay for contraceptive coverage (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/7). However, many such organizations argued that filling out the form would itself violate their religious beliefs (Barnes/Somashekhar, Washington Post, 7/22).
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court in a split decision granted an injunction to Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian college in Illinois, that prevents the federal government from enforcing the contraceptive coverage rules for the school while its case is pending in lower courts. The justices said that the college did not have to fill out the form to meet the terms of the injunction but instead could simply inform HHS that it has religious objections (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/7).
In a legal brief filed on Tuesday in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, the Obama administration indicated that it would modify the accommodation for religiously affiliated not-for-profits, the Post reports.
In the brief, the administration said that the modified accommodation would provide a second option for objecting not-for-profits. Federal agencies "intend to augment their regulations to provide an alternative way for objecting nonprofit religious organizations to provide notification," a senior administration official said (Washington Post, 7/22).
The official said the new rule could be expected within a month (Holland, Reuters, 7/22).
The official added that the White House believes the current "accommodation is legally sound" but that it is pursuing the additional alternative option to help ensure "that all women have access to contraception coverage" (Kenen, Politico, 7/22).