The Obama administration has filed a document for publication in the Federal Register that requests comments about making rules to accommodate “religious organizations” that have religious objections to providing insurance coverage for surgical sterilization, contraceptives and embryocides. Among the points of interest:
- The rules for accommodation may not be finalized until ten months after the November, 2012 presidential election.
- “Religious employer” continues to be defined to exclude individual religious believers and most of the social, educational and charitable organizations operated by religious believers.
- Protection against enforcement (“safe harbour”) is offered only to non-profit organizations, not to individual religious believers or businesses run by them.
- “Accommodation” is said to be the equivalent of exemption, which raises the question of why broader exemption was not offered to begin with.
- The new term, “religious organization,” is undefined. The Departments ask which of these undefined entities should be accommodated.
- In several places later in the document, statements are made that appear to contradict earlier assertions that providing contraceptive coverage is cost-neutral or may save money.
- Public funding of surgical sterilization, contraceptives and embryocides is proposed as an acceptable alternative.