On May 16, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Zubik v. Burwell and related cases challenging the Health and Human Services (“HHS”) mandate. The HHS mandate requires health plans to cover contraceptives (including abortifacient contraceptives) and sterilization procedures. Religious nonprofit organizations engaged in charitable ministry are not exempt from the mandate. In a set of cases involving the Little Sisters of the Poor and a number of other religious organizations, the Supreme Court overturned the lower court decisions that it had taken up for review and sent those cases back to the lower courts.
The Court stated:
Given the gravity of the dispute and the substantial clarification and refinement in the positions of the parties, the parties on remand should be afforded an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans “receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.”
The Department of Health and Human Services, (HHS), has asked for comments from the public on how best to accommodate stakeholders who have religious objections to contraceptive and sterilization coverage, while assuring that people with no religious objection to such coverage can still obtain it.
Recommended Actions to Take Immediately:
- Please send your written comments to HHS on or before September 20.
- Your comments can be filed electronically here.
- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has also commented on this issue. Read the Bishops’ comments here.
- Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates on this alert @HumanLifeAction.
It is bad public policy to require health plans to cover contraceptives and sterilization procedures, but if the government decides to pursue that policy, it should not coerce anyone, over their religious objection, to issue, sponsor, administer, purchase, or otherwise arrange for or facilitate such coverage.
Any coverage of contraceptives or sterilization procedures that the government mandates should be truly independent of plans that do not include such coverage. To be truly independent, contraceptive and sterilization coverage should be provided through a separate policy, with a separate enrollment process, a separate insurance card, and a separate payment source, and offered to individuals through a separate communication. No further involvement should be required of any individual or organization with a religious objection to contraceptive or sterilization coverage.
People should not be “automatically” (or without regard to their religious objections) enrolled in a plan with contraceptive or sterilization coverage. No individual or organization with a religious objection should be required to participate, directly or indirectly, in arranging for or facilitating contraceptive or sterilization coverage.