As the Supreme Court’s recent ruling continues to skirt the issue of whether or not religious institutions should be forced to pay for free birth control for employees, both sides claim they’ve won. If this situation wasn’t confusing before, it is now.
An evenly divided Supreme Court skirted the major legal questions arising from a dispute over President Obama’s healthcare program and instead announced a compromise Monday designed to clear the way for women working for religious organizations to receive the free birth control promised under the Affordable Care Act.
In a short, unanimous decision, the justices said that the Catholic charities who filed the suits and the Obama administration – at the high court’s strong urging — had agreed in recent weeks that the female workers may “receive cost-free contraceptive coverage” without infringing on the religious rights of the church-based employers.
Okay, that sounds fine as wine, but what does that really mean?
Under Monday’s decision, at least a dozen lawsuits challenging the administration’s policy will be sent back to lower courts to work out the details of providing the required coverage under the proposed new compromise.
What exactly is this compromise?
From the start, the administration had agreed that churches and other houses of worship were exempt from the requirements of the federal law and its promise of the full range of contraceptives. It also adopted an “accommodation” that said church-affiliated employers, including colleges and charities, need not pay for this coverage if they had religious objections to doing so. Their insurers could be called upon to provide the contraceptives at no cost to the employer or the employee.
So does this mean that the employee has to go directly to the insurance company to negotiate birth control coverage so that religious employers’ conscience’s aren’t tainted by knowledge that they may be paying for birth control methods, some of which may actually kill a fertilized embryo?
But that did not resolve the matter because lawyers for some Catholic charities and colleges said their officials objected to signing the required notification of their objection to the government or their insurers, which would trigger the insurers to provide the coverage. Some religious employers argued even the notification would make them “complicit in sin,” because they consider some of required contraceptives to cause early abortions.
I guess not.
So despite the Supreme Court ruling on this issue, it’s clearly still not resolved despite both sides claiming victory.