On Friday, January 20, 2012, the Obama administration announced that it would not expand exemptions for religious institutions under the guidelines of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that require health insurance benefits to cover contraceptives.
In its statement, however, the Department of Health and Human Services did grant an extra year for compliance to become mandatory for nonprofit employers, pushing their deadline from August 1 of this year to August 1, 2013.
Organizations that are pro-life and that support religious freedom said the one-year delay does not address their serious concerns about being forced to comply with a position to which their faith is opposed.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that the administration’s approach “strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.” The department’s decision came after months of heated protest about the health care law provision.
In response, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said in a statement, “Secretary Sebelius is stating that people who have religious convictions against contraceptives or particular types of contraceptives that are abortifacients will have a one-year reprieve before they will be forced to pay for health insurance for that which they find unconscionable.”
Land’s remarks are representative of the objections of many conservatives in America, and this aspect of what detractors label as “Obamacare” will be another portion of the president’s health care reform package sure to be a point of hot political debate in the 2010 presidential elections.