Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Atheists Disappointed at HHS Rule Change

February 1, 2013
WASHINGTON, DC---The Secular Coalition for America today expressed its strong disappointment at the proposed rules issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on preventive healthcare services.

In February 2012, HHS announced final rules adopting an exemption to contraception requirements using a new definition of “religious employer.” The Secular Coalition submitted public comments on both the new definition and opposing any attempts to offer conscience protections to entities over individuals.
With today’s rule announcement, HHS rescinded 3 out of 4 requirements needed to comply with its earlier definition of “religious employer” thereby making explicit their intention to broaden the number of exempt organizations. This significantly increases the number of women who will be denied access to no-cost contraceptive services.
In addition to returning to a previous, broader definition of “religious employer”, the new rules create accommodations for non-profit religious organizations (but not churches, houses of worship, or their “integrated auxiliaries”). These accommodations set a terrible precedent for religious interference in individual choice.
“Both the revised definition and the new accommodations are short term solutions that create a long-term problem,” said Executive Director Edwina Rogers. “The Obama Administration’s commitment to ensuring women have access to preventive health services is commendable. But religious groups’ insistence on a new definition of ‘religious freedom’ has only created further bureaucracy for employers, insurers, and the federal government to navigate. These new accommodations signal that religious institutions - particularly those faiths opposed to contraception - should be treated differently. What is to stop these institutions from gaining preferential treatment with respect to any laws with which they disagree?”
The final rules set up a series of accommodations for religiously-affiliated non-profit organizations who object to directly providing contraceptive coverage for women. Once these organizations self-certify that they oppose such coverage, the rules require health insurers to provide separate, individual market contraceptive coverage at no cost to the employee.
“While seeking to strike a balance between religious objections and providing access to contraception, the Obama Administration tilted the scales in favor of religious beliefs over tremendous health benefits for women,” said Ms. Rogers.

CONTACT: Chris Lombardi, Goverment Relations Manager, at chris@secular.org or (202)299-1091 ext. 203, cell 812-391-0286
The Secular Coalition for America is a 501(c)(4) organization that serves as the national lobby for atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and other nontheistic Americans. Composed of 11 diverse member organizations, SCA works to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all. For more information, please visit www.secular.org.


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