Obama administration releases final rules on contraception mandate for religious organizations

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The Obama administration released its final rules Friday on the religious exemption from the contraception coverage requirement under Obamacare.

Under the final rule, houses of worship are exempt from the mandate requiring their health plans cover birth control for their female employees and dependents.

The final rule lays out an accommodation of other religious nonprofit organizations such as hospitals and schools that object to providing contraception.

Under the accommodation the religious nonprofits may tell their insurance provider they object and the insurance provider may provide contraception coverage separately to the women at no charge.

“Today’s announcement reinforces our commitment to respect the concerns of houses of worship and other non-profit religious organizations that object to contraceptive coverage, while helping to ensure that women get the care they need, regardless of where they work,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.

One of the major critics of the mandate was quick to rebuke the final rule, saying that they will have to decide the issue in court.

“Unfortunately the final rule announced today is the same old, same old. As we said when the proposed rule was issued, this doesn’t solve the religious conscience problem because it still makes our non-profit clients the gatekeepers to abortion and provides no protection to religious businesses,” Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said in a statement. “The easy way to resolve this would have been to exempt sincere religious employers completely, as the Constitution requires.”

Planned Parenthood cheered the final rule.

“This means that women will have access to birth control at no cost, no matter where they work. This is a historic moment for women’s health and economic security,” Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said in a statement. “Birth control is basic health care for women, and this policy treats it like any other kind of preventive care. Throughout history, birth control has had a transformative impact on women’s health, education, and economic opportunities, and this policy expands access to birth control like never before.”

The contraception mandate in Obamacare has already been the subject of a number lawsuits from religious organizations that see compliance with the mandate as violating their religious beliefs.

The Becket Fund has represented many groups in lawsuits against the regulation including the Hobby Lobby, which Thursday scored a victory when a federal appeals court ruled that the craft business would not have to start paying fines for failing complying with the mandate as their case moves forward.

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