Why Religious Exemptions Matter
In the main, reproductive rights organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America have praised the new rule. As I reported earlier, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is studying the rule, and I wouldn’t read that as a tacit endorsement. Studying a document like that before offering comment is the way the USCCB operates; rarely if ever does it issue an off-the-cuff assessment.
But the USCCB’s allies — other groups that oppose the contraception mandate — have wasted no time in lambasting the new rule as an inadequate protection of their constitutional rights. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a legal group that has led the charge of litigation against the rule, claimed that the rule “leaves religious Americans at risk.” Becket claims the rule fails to protect for-profit businesses and their owners; that the expansion of the exemption beyond houses of worship was inadequate; and that the accommodation to provide coverage to employees of religious organizations that were not entitled to an exemption was “convoluted’ and “may not resolve religious organizations’ objections to being coerced into providing contraceptives and abortifacients to their employees.” (When Becket refers to abortifacients, it’s referring to ella and Plan B, drugs that are emergency contraception, not abortifacients, according to the medical community and the Food and Drug Administration.) Other organizations raising similar objections include Concerned Women for American, Americans United for Life, and the American Center for Law and Justice.
As to private employers, the proposed rule takes note of the fact that private employers are not entitled to religious exemptions under other federal laws, such as Title VII, prohibiting discrimination in employment. Based on that precedent, the administration declined to extend an exemption to private employers here.