(EWTN) The editorial board of USA Today believes that the Obama administration’s attempt to “accommodate” religious freedom within it its contraception mandate has failed to address concerns that were raised.
“Obama's contraception retreat is not enough,” said the editorial board in a Feb. 12 article, which argued that the new policy “leaves some knotty questions to be resolved.” The editorial pointed out that although many Catholics violate Church teaching on contraception, “church doctrine isn't set by opinion poll, or even by lay members of the faith.” It further observed that “the Constitution draws a bright line against government meddling in church affairs.”
On Feb. 10, President Barack Obama announced an “accommodation” to his administration's contraception mandate. Under the new rule, many religious employers will be required to purchase health care plans from insurance companies that provide contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs free of charge.
The new policy revises the original mandate, which would have required the employers to purchase the coverage of these products directly. However, critics have argued that the cost of the “free” contraception will be factored into the price of the health care plans, effectively still forcing religious employers to pay for products in violation of their conscience.
The USA Today editorial applauded Obama for taking into consideration the concerns of religious schools, hospitals and charities in addition to merely those of churches. However, it added, several important questions remain unanswered by the new policy. The editorial said that the so-called “accommodation” fails to take into account Catholic organizations that self-insure, “spending their own money for treatment and hiring insurance companies only to administer their plans.”
It pointed out that New York state exempts such organizations and suggested that a similar solution may work for the federal mandate and raised the question of private, for-profit employers with strong Catholic beliefs.
The editorial also asked whether it was fair to require health insurance companies to provide free birth control “to employees of faith-based institutions without raising those institutions’ premiums.”
If this is indeed the case, it said, premiums for non-Catholic institutions may be increased in order to subsidize Catholic organizations.
The editorial argued that the Obama administration’s first step should have been to work through concerns “with the groups affected.”
A statement by the U.S. bishops revealed that the White House had not reached out to them in discussions preceding the announcement of the new policy, despite the fact that they had been some of the most vocal critics of the original mandate.
Noting that the details of the new policy have still not all emerged, the USA Today editorial board called on the Obama administration to assume “a bias towards religious freedom” while working to “bridge the differences” that still surround the mandate.