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Contraception Controversy Overblown: States settled issue, ACA just follows suit

The recent controversy over whether entities owned by religious organizations that serve the broader public – like hospitals and universities – can deny contraceptive coverage to their employees is simply political grandstanding.  In fact, we dealt easily with this issue in North Carolina many years ago.

North Carolina mandated that all insurance plans provide contraceptive coverage back in the 1990s.  Churches were clearly exempted, but not entities like hospitals and schools that employ and educate many women –even a majority of women – who are not affiliated with the religion of the organization that started the institution and who deserve the same health coverage as all other women in the United States.

Why was this not a major issue in NC?

1.  It’s a justice issue.  Covering birth control as part of preventive coverage saves families $26 a month on average, helping families in tough economic times.

2.  Birth control is basic preventive care – it respects others to make important life decisions and gives people more options over when and whether to have child.

3.  Coverage of birth control services with no co-pay helps prevent unintended pregnancies and reduces the need for abortions.

The federal Affordable Care Act looked to many states and followed NC’s commonsense exemption of churches and primarily religious institutions almost exactly.

Here’s the federal Affordable Care Act’s definition of a “religious employer” who would be exempt from the mandate to offer contraceptive coverage to employees:

A religious employer is one that:  (1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization under Internal Revenue Code section 6033(a)(1) and section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii).  45 C.F.R. §147.130(a)(1)(iv)(B)

Here’s North Carolina’s definition of a “religious employer” who would be exempt from the mandate to offer contraceptive coverage to employees:

(e)        …As used in this subsection, the term “religious employer” means an entity for which all of the following are true:

(1)        The entity is organized and operated for religious purposes and is tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.

(2)        The inculcation of religious values is one of the primary purposes of the entity.

(3)        The entity employs primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the entity. (1999?231, s. 1; 1999?456, s. 15(a).)

9 Comments

  1. [...] by then President Richard Nixon and it’s sponsor, George HW Bush. North Carolina has had its own birth control parity law for years with no noticeable protest. This sudden controversy is surprising and [...]

  2. Frances Jenkins

    February 10, 2012 at 6:15 am

    Damn, Catholics have no right to have a belief. Shut down all those organizations that help the poor in Amercia. You will do as Planned Parenthood directs policy in this country. Your efforts to help the poor does not count.

  3. Mary P.

    February 10, 2012 at 7:18 am

    As I understand it, the dioceses can avoid the state mandates by self insuring and declining to offer contraceptive coverage. Some do some may not. It would be interesting to know what the NC dioceses do. The federal mandate does not offer that “out” hence the objection, it is mandatory. I am not taking a position on the issue just pointing out it is not as clear cut as the post would imply. Also many of the state mandates have a more broadly worded exemption than NC.

  4. Suzanne

    February 10, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Obama now bending on contraception rule- disses the power hungry Sebelius !

  5. Adam Searing

    February 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Let’s just be clear here. No one is saying anyone has to take birth control pills. All that is required is that insurance plans at all major employers in this country treat all women’s health needs to the same extent we treat male health needs. Right now women are charged more than men for the same health coverage. Right now women are denied coverage for contraceptives while men rush to the pharmacy for covered Viagra and similar drugs. Our country does not stand for denial of equal treatment for men and women. A church should not be interfered with, but if you are a multimillion dollar hospital system employing thousands of people in a state, then you ought to be required to treat men and women in the same way.

  6. frances

    February 10, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    Religion be damned because it has no place in American society and is not protected by the First Amendment.! Correct Adam?

  7. david esmay

    February 10, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    No Frances, religion be out of government, you be crazy.

  8. Frances Jenkins

    February 10, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Is religion protected by the government?

  9. Ricky Leung

    February 13, 2012 at 10:02 am

    No, religion itself should not technically be protected by the government. The text of the first amendment reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” It means that the government should not favor or disfavor any religion. Your personal freedom to practice your own religion should be protected. And someone else’s personal freedom to not practice your religion should also be protected. The tricky part, similar to the case of freedom of speech, is when your freedom intrudes onto the rights and freedoms of others, such as access to healthcare.