Details of the White House "Accommodation" on Birth Control Rule

| Fri Feb. 10, 2012 12:25 PM EST

The White House will change its policy requiring employers to offer health insurance coverage to their employees that covers birth control at no cost. Previously, religiously affiliated employers other than churches—such as Catholic universities and hospitals—would have been required to offer the insurance to their employees. Now, according to senior White House officials, if a religious employer has a religious objection to providing birth control coverage, insurance companies will be required to offer the insurance featuring free birth control directly to the employees.

Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, the two most important reproductive rights organizations in the US, both support the White House's compromise, which ensures that women who work for religious organizations other than churches will have access to birth control without a copay. Sister Carol Keehan, the head of the Catholic Health Association, the main Catholic hospitals group, also supports the deal. Keehan and the CHA were key supporters of Obama's health care reform legislation, which the US Conference of Catholic Bishops opposed as written. 

Obama's plan is unlikely to win the support of the bishops. In September 2010, when the policy was first being developed, the USCCB wrote a letter opposing requiring any employer—not just religious ones—to offer birth control coverage. Anthony Picarello, the USCCB general counsel who signed the letter, told USA Today on Wednesday that the bishops still oppose the entire policy.

Picarello told USA Today the bishops are worried about the problems the law creates for "good Catholic business people who can't in good conscience cooperate with this," and noted that if he opened a Taco Bell, he'd be forced to offer birth control to his employees. Only something like Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) "Religious Freedom Restoration Act"—which would allow any employer, not just religious ones, to cite a religious objection and thereby avoid covering birth control—is likely to satisfy the bishops on this front.

Here's the full text of the White House's fact sheet on its decision:

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