Today, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced a compromise on the contraception mandate. The proposal lets religious organizations opt out of directly providing women with birth control, while still ensuring that women get contraception at no extra charge from health insurance providers. The work-around basically grants certain religious organizations an exception from the birth-control mandate due to their moral objections. But women employed by these groups would still get contraception without extra co-pays. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement that the deal will give "women across the nation with coverage of recommended preventive care at no cost, while respecting religious concerns."
This controversy first broke in late 2011 and early 2012 amidst debate over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Obama administration's health-care reforms require religious organizations to provide contraception as part of the health insurance packages their employees receive. The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne summed up objections from Catholics and others in the religious right pretty well when he wrote:
I think the Church's leaders had a right to ask for broader relief from a contraception mandate that would require it to act against its own teachings. The administration should have done more to balance the competing liberty interests here.
Well, the new compromise reconciles those competing liberty interests pretty well, doesn't it? Everyone wins in this birth-control middle-man scenario: Women's health-care provisions remain in tact, and churches aren't required to do anything they find immoral. But if you think everyone's happy with today's contraception compromise, you underestimate the fury of the religious right:
Dear Carney: Women already have ACCESS to birth control pills. Stop using language to twist. What you're talking about is who pays for it.— Jedediah Bila (@JedediahBila) February 1, 2013
We just posted: Revised HHS birth control mandate continues to violate religious freedom bit.ly/Xd5pPx— Bound4LIFE (@Bound4LIFE) February 1, 2013
Obama administration issues bogus compromise on contraception mandate ow.ly/hl0vN— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) February 1, 2013
ObamaCare still mandates contraception coverage, but here's the White House's latest attempt to pretend it doesn't bit.ly/UKhQ8s— Herman Cain (@THEHermanCain) February 1, 2013
It seems as though nothing short of stripping contraception from health-care plans entirely will satisfy certain members of this debate. In any case, it's weird to see so many tempers flare over this move just now, because—as noted by Slate's Amanda Marcotte—the Department of Health and Human Services reached a pretty similar compromise a year ago anyway. Back then, the Catholic Health Association was happy with the solution, saying, "A resolution has been reached that protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions."