"WASHINGTON -- Religious groups -- notably the U.S. Catholic bishops -- felt rebuffed by the Obama administration’s decision not to change a provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires employers to offer contraceptive services in their health care packages without charging copays, coinsurance or deductibles.
Catholic groups, including the bishops, Catholic charities, colleges and universities, and health care institutions, had lobbied hard to have the narrow religious exemption in the rule, which was released last summer, expanded to cover more religious nonprofit agencies.
When the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Jan. 20 that it would not expand the exemption, the U.S. bishops called the decision “literally unconscionable.”
The Health and Human Services rule requires that FDA-approved contraceptive services be included in mandated “preventive services” covered in the basic insurance package of all insurance plans."
But a different voice was that of the president of Catholic Democrats, Patrick Whelan, a doctor and member of the pediatrics faculties at Harvard Medical School in Boston and the Keck School of Medicine of at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, said in a statement that because of the rule “more women will have access to the kind of health care that has been denied to millions over the years because of the high cost.”
Greater access to contraceptives will help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and “correspondingly are likely to further decrease the incidence of abortion,” said Whelan, who is also anNCR board member.
“I am aware that some Catholics will hear this news with mixed or negative emotions, including many bishops. At the same time, we know Catholic women, and by extension their families, use oral contraception at the same rate as the overall population.”
“Catholics and Catholic theologians” have taken issue with the church’s anti-birth-control teaching for more than 50 years, he said.
“Today, many will use this decision to further their own political agenda. The need for the hierarchy, theologians and the laity to come together and discuss these important issues has never been more pressing.”
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