President Obama made a statement this morning on the modification to the federal rule on contraception coverage that has caused such a stir. CSPAN has the video here.
The new policy states that organizations operated by religious institutions will not have to directly provide their employees with insurance that covers contraception. Rather, it shifts responsibility for the coverage to insurance companies.
An earlier proposed rule required institutions like hospitals and universities that are religiously affiliated to provide coverage for contraception, just as non-religious employers are required to do. Religious groups, however, have strongly protested that change.
So will this placate those who didn't like the original rule? One early indication, from Doug Sovern of KCBS:
Update 11:50 a.m. From AP: "US Bishops: Too soon to tell if Obama's revamped birth control rule addresses core concerns"
Barbara Boxer, at least, likes the policy. We received a statement from her office about 30 seconds into Obama's address:
The President has made clear that we can – and must – protect women’s health and the religious freedom of all. The fact that groups from Planned Parenthood to the Catholic Health Association support this policy should put an end to the vicious political attacks and allow us all to focus on providing these critical health benefits to millions of American women and families.
Yesterday we posted Stephanie Martin's interview with San Francisco Archbishop George H. Niederauer, who publicized a letter that was going to be distributed at Mass this weekend calling on parishioners to protest the rule change. An archdiocese spokesperson told Stephanie this morning that the archdiocese is reviewing the new rule to see if it's satisfactory.
And for a little perspective on this issue, take a look at this post on NPR's Shots blog, called "Rules Requiring Contraceptive Coverage Have Been In Force For Years."
The only truly novel part of the plan is the "no cost" bit. The rule would mean, for the first time, that women won't have to pay a deductible or copayment to get prescription contraceptives...
employers have pretty much been required to provide contraceptive coverage as part of their health plans since December 2000. That's when the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that failure to provide such coverage violates the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act. That law is, in turn, an amendment to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which outlaws, among other things, discrimination based on gender.
California, by the way, already has a law along these lines, which the Shots post addresses:
In 2004, the California Supreme Court upheld that state's law, in a suit brought by Catholic Charities, on a vote of 6-1.
The court ruled that Catholic Charities didn't qualify as a "religious employer" because it didn't meet each of four key criteria (which, by the way, are the same as those in the new federal regulation):
- The organization's primary purpose is "the inculcation of religious values."
- It primarily employs people of that religion.
- It primarily serves people of that religion.
- It's a registered nonprofit organization.