Aug 22, 2014
Americans United for Separation of Church and State today expressed support for new regulations issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that are intended to ensure workers’ access to birth control. The Obama administration issued the regulations in response to ongoing legal action by for-profit corporations and religious non-profit groups arguing that they have religiously based objections to contraceptives. Under the new rules, groups that wish to opt-out of providing birth control to their employees must notify HHS via a letter stating their objection. The federal government will then arrange for a third-party insurer to provide birth control coverage at no cost to the employer. The administration is also soliciting comments on how best to deal with ensuring birth control access for people who work at closely-held corporations, such as Hobby Lobby stores. “Americans rely on access to safe and affordable forms of birth control,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “It’s unfortunate that the administration has had to jump through so many hoops to meet the demands of ultra-conservative religious groups that refuse to accept cultural realities.” Lynn said the latest accommodation, while well-intentioned, may not resolve the matter. Some fundamentalist Christian groups and the Roman Catholic bishops, he asserted, are determined to deny access to birth control to as many Americans as possible. “At some point,” Lynn said, “we must face that fact that this debate is not about ‘religious liberty.’ It is about certain religious groups trying to impose their out-of-touch theology on unwilling American workers and students.” Americans United is currently representing three graduate students at the University of Notre Dame whose access to birth control has been threatened because of university policies opposing contraceptives.