Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Breaking News

Heeding Religious Groups, Obama Administration Tweaks Contraception Mandate

The Obama administration simplified its definition of religious groups that would be exempt from allowing staffers contraceptive coverage.

The proposed rule change, posted for comment Friday through April 8, also proposed a mechanism to provide contraceptive coverage for self-insured groups.

The move aims to address two of the reasons religious groups had objected to in an earlier version, which they considered too restrictive because it required an exempt group to primarily employ or serve those who share its faith.

The amended rule proposed Friday hews to the tax code’s definition of a house of worship, which more broadly encompasses all houses of worship and affiliates.

Religiously-run institutions that do not primarily serve spiritual needs – such as universities, hospitals and orphanages – would still be required to provide contraceptive coverage.

Religious groups had also objected to the original proposal because it had required contracted insurers, and not the faith-based employer, to cover contraception and did not adequately take into account the many organizations that self-insure, albeit through third-party administrators.

The new proposal extends the requirement for contraceptive coverage to such third party administrators, mandating that they provide employees with separate contraceptive coverage plans.

A broad array of Jewish groups had welcomed the original proposal, but Orthodox Jewish groups objected – not because they oppose contraception coverage, but because of what they regarded as the government’s unwarranted determination of what is and is not a religious organization.

Conservative Christian groups said that because the “two-tiered” designation remained, the proposal remained flawed.

“Today’s proposed rule does nothing to protect the religious liberty of millions of Americans,” said the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a group that represents a number of plaintiffs challenging the rule in court.

The Orthodox Union tentatively welcomed the changes in the new proposal, pending a full reading.

“We appreciate the Obama Administration’s ongoing effort to resolve this balance properly and, reportedly, its abandonment of what would have been a very harmful precedent,” Nathan Diament, its Washington director, said in a statement. “We look forward to examining the proposal more closely and filing formal comments with the Administration in the coming weeks.”

The National Council of Jewish Women, which has friend of the court briefs attached to some of the legal challenges to the original rule, also welcomed the changes, noting that its protections of contraceptive coverage remained intact.

“We’re pleased that the administration has once again made it clear in pretty strong terms that contraception must be available as part of the wome’s health package to all women if they want it,” NCJW’s Washington director, Sammie Moshenberg, told JTA.

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

    SKY & SCULPTURE

    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.