The Obama administration announced the final rules under the Affordable Care Act on Friday requiring most employer health insurance plans to cover employees' contraception without a copay.
“The health care law guarantees millions of women access to recommended preventive services at no cost,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a statement. “Today’s announcement reinforces our commitment to respect the concerns of houses of worship and other non-profit religious organizations that object to contraceptive coverage, while helping to ensure that women get the care they need, regardless of where they work.”
The rule, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014, for religious non-profits, completely exempts houses of worship and makes accommodations for many religiously affiliated schools, hospitals and charities. Under the accommodation, religious non-profits can avoid having to pay for contraception directly by having the third-party insurance provider foot the bill for that specific coverage.
A number of for-profit companies that are owned by religious people, including the craft supply chain Hobby Lobby, have sued the administration over the birth control rule, arguing that the accommodation does not go far enough to exempt religious employers from having to pay for services to which they morally object. Hobby Lobby and some other religious employers believe that emergency contraception, which is covered under the rule, induces abortions.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Hobby Lobby on Thursday, ruling that companies shouldn't have to pay millions of dollars in fines while their legal objections to the birth control rule are being considered.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, applauded the final rule in a statement on Friday.
“This means that women will have access to birth control at no cost, no matter where they work," Richards said. "This is a historic moment for women’s health and economic security. Birth control is basic health care for women, and this policy treats it like any other kind of preventive care. Throughout history, birth control has had a transformative impact on women’s health, education, and economic opportunities, and this policy expands access to birth control like never before."
She added, “It’s appalling that we still have to fight for access to birth control in 2013."
CORRECTION: This article previously stated the rule would go into effect for religious non-profits on Aug. 1, the original deadline. That deadline has been extended to Jan. 1, 2014.