Catholic Bishops Still Object to Contraception Coverage Rules

May 18, 2012 ( – The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) says the exemptions put into the new health law’s contraception coverage rules are not enough.

Religious employers and other stakeholders would still have their employee health insurance plans and premiums used for services they find morally objectionable, even under future government accommodations, according to comments submitted by the General Counsel of USCCB to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The comments outlined USCCB’s continued objections to the HHS “preventive services” mandate and urged the administration to resolve these issues “in favor of more, not less, religious freedom.”  

In February, President Barack Obama announced a change to the rules that would exempt certain religious organizations from providing contraception coverage to employees (see “Religious Employers Will Not Be Required to Provide Employees Contraception”). The USCCB comments noted that such an accommodation would only apply to some religious organizations and that it “would still leave their premiums or plans (or both) as the source or conduit for the objectionable ‘services.’ But the use of premiums and plans for that purpose is precisely what is morally objectionable, and having an insurer or third party administer the payments does not overcome the moral objection.”   

The organization concluded that, “under the terms set out in the ANPRM [Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking], the ‘accommodation’ cannot provide effective relief even for those few stakeholders that qualify for it.”  

The comments were submitted in response to an HHS ANPRM (see “Officials Issue Draft Proposals about Contraception Coverage”), which expressed the administration’s intention to propose additional regulations in order to establish alternative ways of ensuring contraceptive coverage for employees enrolled in health plans of religious organizations not exempted from the HHS mandate while still “accommodating” such organizations.  

The organization’s comment letter is here.