Women Get Free Contraception, Religious Groups Get Mad

The Affordable Care Act gives women access to birth control, but lawsuits seek to block it.

Under the Affordable Care Act women will have free access to a number of services, including contraception. But some religious groups aren't happy with the law. (Photo: Jonathan Nourok/Getty Images)

Aug 1, 2012
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

Today kicks off the start of women’s free access to contraception and other healthcare services, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. But not everyone is happy about the new mandates, as groups file dozens of suits against the law.

The new rules require most health insurance plans to cover a number of preventive services for women, including contraception, without requiring a copay or deductible, according to the White House Office of the Press Secretary.

Religious institutions and houses of worship can opt out, and have a year “transition period” while the policy takes effect. But if a religious group does decide not to provide contraception, a woman’s insurance company will then have to offer it free, leaving faith-based institutions out of the equation.

MORE: 120 Million More Women Are About to Get Access to Birth Control

That still doesn’t sit well with some religious organizations, which are discontinuing health insurance coverage or filing lawsuits, claiming the government is infringing upon their religious freedom.

Those who oppose the law, a Reuters story reports, say it doesn’t do enough to allow religious groups such as charities and schools to opt out.

“This is not something you want to be doing, suing your own federal government, but we simply have no choice,” John Hunt, executive director of Legatus, a Catholic business leader organization, said in a Washington Times story. “If it’s a choice between being a faithful Catholic and a faithful citizen, we’re Catholic first.”

Some lawsuits have gotten a push-back: Last month a Nebraska federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Republican attorneys general of seven states that tried to stop the part of the law mandating birth control coverage, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

The controversy surrounding the law kicked off in January when the administration announced the plan. Religious groups wanted a broader exemption and criticized the government for attacking religion.

MORE: Common Contraceptive Doubles HIV Risk

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius threw her support behind the coverage in a blog post: “Women deserve to have control over their health care,” she wrote. “Too often, they have gone without preventive services, worrying about what even a $20 insurance copay would mean to their families’ budgets and choosing to pay for groceries or rent instead.”

Also covered under the mandate are services such as HPV DNA testing, breastfeeding support and counseling and screening for gestational diabetes and HIV.

Have you been denied birth control by a faith-based employer? Let us know in the comments.

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