(Bloomberg) Women who work for religious nonprofits will have access to birth control at no cost under a procedure the Obama administration said would also relieve their employers of any moral objections to the coverage.
The nonprofits now only have to notify the U.S. government of their objections in writing, the administration said in a regulatory filing published today. Coverage will be arranged separately by the government through health-benefit managers.
It isnt clear whether the compromise will satisfy the nonprofit groups or the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled earlier this year that those organizations and closely held companies are protected from supplying birth control if they object on religious grounds. In a separate filing, the U.S. said it hasnt yet finished a definition for closely held companies covered by the ruling.
Its a moral question that different people may have different answers on, Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has represented many of the groups, said in a phone interview. I dont think its going to make all the religious ministries cases go away.
Three days after its June 30 decision on behalf of the craft-store chain Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., the Supreme Court issued an order saying Wheaton College, a Christian liberal-arts school outside Chicago, didnt have to fill out a government form to facilitate contraceptive coverage for its employees and students.
The school said that completing the form would make it complicit in the coverage. While Wheaton covers most birth control, it objects to two pills, Teva Pharmaceuticals Plan B One-Step and Actavis Ella, both emergency contraceptives.
Under the new government requirement, religious nonprofits would write a letter to the health department announcing their objections instead of filling out a form. Rienzi said the government should simply exempt religious groups from the requirement entirely.
That would make life a lot easier, he said. The idea the government cant find a way to provide contraceptive coverage without involving nuns is silly.
One of the cases against the government was brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor, a convent based in Baltimore that operates nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
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