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Ending Contraceptive Mandate for Religious Employers an Exercise in Common Sense
   Wednesday, May 31, 2017   at   8:21 PM

Earlier this month President Donald Trump signed an executive order to protect religious liberties, and we were cautiously optimistic that the administration would soon follow up with concrete action.

The New York Times reported May 30 that the Office of Management and Budget is reviewing a rule that would exempt religious employers from the Affordable Care Act’s ill–advised mandate to cover 20 types of contraception without cost to covered persons. While we don’t reflexively oppose most types of contraception, we have always opposed the government’s violation of the religious liberties of organizations that find some or all forms of contraception morally unacceptable.

We, in fact, believe this choice should be available to all employers. But this is an important step in the right direction.

The contraceptive mandate, established shortly after the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, has never applied to houses of worship. But it was inexplicably required of church–based employers like religious schools, hospitals and social–service organizations, as well as to other employers. For–profit businesses that objected to the mandate won an important victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014, when a 5–4 majority held that the mandate violated the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The Obama administration later attempted to paper over the problem the mandate posed for religious organizations with an "accommodation" that asked the employers to sign a form stating their objections, and requiring the employer’s insurer to cover the cost of contraception coverage and its administration. But religious organizations, most notably the Catholic order Little Sisters of the Poor, objected to the accommodation as well.

Now, the Trump administration is taking tangible action to fix this problem and let religious organizations cover contraceptives if they wish, and let their employees obtain them themselves if they wish. That’s as it should be. That’s not a commentary on the utility of birth control – it’s a straightforward application of federal law, which the Obama administration chose to run roughshod over to appease its base.

You’ll almost certainly hear complaints that this new rule inappropriately denies "access to contraception." Those complaints are utterly without merit. This issue has never been about access, which hasn’t been affected throughout this process.

The issue is who pays. The Obama administration had the view that employers should pay for birth control for their employees whether they found contraceptives morally permissible or not. Thankfully, the Trump administration disagrees. We applaud this week’s action toward righting this egregious wrong and look forward to its implementation.

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