Birth control rule: Obama makes change to accommodate religious groups

The Obama administration announced on Friday a change to the new rule requiring employers to offer health insurance that fully covers birth control, in an attempt to accommodate religious groups opposed to the rule, ABC News reported.

The rule, which required all employers to offer coverage for contraception to employees will now give religious organizations a way to opt out. Instead, employees will now have the option to receive free contraception through insurers, not their employees, the Associated Press reported. Sources told ABC News the change would be respectful of religious groups while not backing away from the goal.

“The new policy ensures women can get contraception without paying a co-pay and addresses important concerns raised by religious groups,” the White House said in a statement, the Washington Post reported. 

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The change means those organizations won’t have to provide the coverage themselves, pay for it or refer their employees to it, USA Today reported. While officials said they had originally planned to make changes, they sped up the process due to the strong objection from the Catholic church and other religious groups.

“This is a tough issue,” an administration official said, the Washington Post reported. “I think what we’re doing today is a very, very common-sense, responsible way forward.”

The change will be loosely based on a rule already in effect in Hawaii, where an employer who morally objects to contraception could opt out and tell female employees where they can get coverage outside of the employee health plan, USA Today reported.

One official described the change as an "accommodation" to the church, the AP reported. The change has already been given support by the Catholic Health Association.

"The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed," CHA president Sr. Carol Keehan said in a statement, the AP reported. "We are pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished."

Catholic leaders have already said they oppose this option, saying that referring women to low-cost contraception is still as immoral as distributing the drugs and devices first-hand, Reuters reported.

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