WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration issued its final compromise Friday for religiously affiliated charities, hospitals and other nonprofits that object to covering birth control in their employee health plans.
The Health and Human Services Department said the final plan simplifies how insurers provide the coverage separately from faith-based groups and gives religious nonprofits more time to comply. However, the changes are unlikely to resolve objections from faith groups that the requirement violates their religious freedom.
More than 60 lawsuits have been filed challenging the rule. The cases are expected to reach the Supreme Court. Similarly, more than 400,000 comments were submitted on the rule over the last several months, the agency said.
Judy Waxman of the National Women’s Law Center, a women’s advocacy group based in Washington, said her organization could accept the final plan. “It’s fair,” she said.
However, Eric Rassbach, an attorney with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a public interest law firm challenging the contraception coverage rule, said “it doesn’t really change the overall way they’re trying to do this.” The Becket Fund represents many of organizations challenging the regulation in federal court.
The lawsuits are split almost evenly between nonprofit plaintiffs — including several Roman Catholic dioceses — and for-profit businesses who say the rules go against their religious beliefs. For-profit businesses are not included in the accommodation released Friday and were not eligible for a delay, offered to faith-based nonprofits, before having to comply.