Obama 'accommodation' offers no fundamental change, USCCB attorneys say
Published: May 15, 2012
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Although the Obama administration's proposed "accommodation" for religious employers to the mandate that contraceptives and sterilization be included in most health plans "may create an appearance of moderation and compromise," it does not change the administration's fundamental position, attorneys for the U.S. bishops said in comments filed May 15. "We are convinced that no public good is served by this unprecedented nationwide mandate, and that forcing individual and institutional stakeholders to sponsor and subsidize an otherwise widely available product over their religious and moral objections serves no legitimate, let alone compelling, government interest," said the comments filed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Signed by Anthony R. Picarello and Michael F. Moses, general counsel and associate general counsel, respectively, for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the 21-page comments were in response to the administration's "advance notice of proposed rulemaking" published March 16 in the Federal Register, which proposed new ways for religious organizations that have moral objections to providing free contraceptives to their employees to comply with the requirement. Among the administration's suggestions are having the costs covered by a "third-party administrator" of a health plan or "independent agency" that receive funds from other sources, such as rebates from drug makers. The USCCB comments said the proposed changes would still require "conscientiously objecting nonexempt religious organizations ... to provide plans that serve as a conduit for contraceptives and sterilization procedures to their own employees, and their premiums will help pay for those items."
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