November 28, 2011 — A requirement that health plans cover contraceptive services without copayments or deductibles is "one of the [Obama] administration's proud achievements," and [w]eakening it should not even be on President Obama's radar screen," a New York Times editorial states. According to an article in the Times last week, the White House -- under pressure from the Catholic Church -- is considering broadening a religious exemption to the requirement.
The editorial notes, "The new rules already contain an exemption for churches and other houses of worship, similar to provisions upheld by the highest courts in California and New York." The editorial adds, "Moreover, nothing in the rules requires religious objectors to use contraceptives or stands in the way of advocating against their use. By now, some 28 states require employer-provided insurance plans to cover contraception, so the federal policy is hardly a radical departure."
While it was "no surprise" that the Catholic bishops objected to the rules, it is "surprising" and "distressing … that the White House is considering caving to their call for an expansive exemption that would cover employees of hospitals, universities, charitable organizations and other entities that are associated with religious organizations but serve the general public and benefit from public money," the editorial states.
The editorial urges Obama to "stand firm against the church's overreaching." It adds, "Allowing a broad exemption for health plans sponsored by employers that object to contraceptives coverage would amount to imposing church doctrine on millions of women who may differ with the church's stand on birth control and who may not be Catholic. It would deny them coverage for a critical need" (New York Times, 11/24).