Obama Administration Unveils New Regulations On Birth Control Access

The Obama Administration recently issued the latest in a series of regulations designed to ensure that Americans have access to affordable birth control, but the move is unlikely to resolve litigation over the matter, says Americans United.

The new regulations, issued July 10, accommodate religious objections advanced by certain closely held for-profit corporations; they also finalize previous accommodations made available to religious non-profit entities, such as religiously affiliated colleges and universities. The new rules go beyond what is required by court decisions, but that’s unlikely to placate bosses who are determined to curtail women’s access to birth control.

“I blame this mess on the Supreme Court,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, in a press statement. “Although these accommodations preserve women’s access to contraception, the definition of religious freedom adopted by the high court in the Hobby Lobby case has spawned new legal challenges that put American women at risk.”

The Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling, issued in 2014, permits certain for-profit businesses to refuse to include contraceptives in employee health-care plans if employers disagree with it on religious grounds. The case concerned a chain of craft stores whose fundamentalist owners insist, incorrectly, that certain types of birth control cause abortion.

“The administration had to respond to this ruling, and today’s regulations are a good-faith effort to protect women,” Lynn said. “Although I hope I’m proven wrong, I fear that the Religious Right and its allies, the Catholic bishops, won’t stop until they have denied access to safe and affordable birth control to as many women as possible.”

Indeed, the Becket Fund, a Religious Right legal group that has been a leading critic of the administration’s birth control policy, wasted no time blasting the new regulations. The group represents the Little Sisters of the Poor, an organization of Roman Catholic nuns who run nursing homes for the elderly.

Most of the employees who work at the Little Sisters’ nursing homes are not nuns, and they come from various religious backgrounds. Nevertheless, the nuns objected to filling out a short form stating their objection to contraceptives. (Once that form is submitted, the government takes care of the rest in order to make contraceptives available to the nonprofit’s employees).