EDGARTOWN, Mass. — The Obama administration on Friday proposed new regulations intended to address the religious objections that some nonprofit organizations and private companies have to providing contraceptive coverage for employees.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this summer that the government could not force a private, closely held company to pay for insurance coverage for contraceptive services at no cost to their employees if the owners of the company expressed religious objections. In a separate decision, the court sided with Wheaton College, which argued that religious accommodations for some nonprofit organizations did not go far enough.
For President Obama’s administration, the court rulings presented a dilemma: how to stand by its insistence that all women should have easy access to contraceptive services at no cost, while also recognizing the religious objections of organizations and companies as determined by the court.
On Friday, the administration proposed a rule, which would go into effect immediately, allowing a religious college or other nonprofit group to inform the Department of Health and Human Services of its religious objections. The department would then contact insurance companies and arrange the birth-control coverage at no cost to the employer or its employees.
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Previously, the organizations were required to notify insurance companies directly, a step some organizations said still made them complicit in providing drugs they objected to.
The government also proposed a rule that would provide accommodations for a business if it met the definition of a small, privately held company as defined by the Supreme Court in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores. According to the rule, such a company would be defined as having a small number of owners or a minimum percentage of ownership concentrated among a small number of people. The company could not be publicly traded.
Under the proposed rule for the private companies, owners with religious objections to providing birth control would also be able to contact the government to express their concerns.
The rule for private companies will be open to public comment for 60 days and could still change, officials said.
After the 60-day period, the government will decide whether to make the rule final.
The accommodations may not satisfy religious groups and nonprofits that oppose any system that makes them complicit in providing health coverage they believe is immoral.
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.