What began as a rule to mandate contraceptive coverage through workplace health care plans has become a national conversation on religious freedom, the Constitutionality of health care reform, and the right for women to have access to birth control.
On January 31, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a final rule that would give nonprofit organizations until August 1, 2013 to comply with a new law requiring most health insurance plans to cover contraceptive services as part of preventive care for women, without charging a co-pay, co-insurance or a deductible. This includes employer-provided plans, even from organizations such as the Catholic Church, whose tenets expressly forbid the use of birth control.
The final rule would have no impact on the protections that existing conscience laws and regulations give to health care providers themselves, but this did not prevent Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from strongly criticizing called the decision, noting that now sterilization, abortifacients and contraception are to be included in virtually all health plans.
“In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” Dolan said.