TribLIVE

| News

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Obama rule change would accommodate objection to mandate

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, 1:00 p.m.
 

Religious organizations opposed to President Obama's requirements that they cover birth control in their employee health insurance plans said they need more time to decide whether proposed rule changes announced on Friday will ease their objections.

Facing a wave of lawsuits, including one from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, over what government can tell religious groups to do, the Obama administration said it is opening a way for faith-based and religious institutions to avoid a mandate in the Affordable Health Care Act that requires health insurance programs to cover contraception.

“Today the administration is taking the next step in providing women across the nation with coverage of recommended preventive care at no cost, while respecting religious concerns,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “We will continue to work with faith-based organizations, women's organizations, insurers and others to achieve these goals.”

Bishop David Zubik of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh said it would be “premature for me to celebrate, negotiate or condemn the proposed new mandate.”

“There have been conflicting reports about whether or not our religious freedom concerns have been addressed adequately, so we need to study this carefully and thoroughly,” Zubik said. “I can only hope that this has become for everyone a lesson in what religious freedom — and religious expression — truly means to all of us.”

In May, the diocese, Catholic Charities and the Catholic Cemeteries Association of Pittsburgh filed one of about 40 cases brought nationwide seeking to declare unconstitutional the portion of the federal health care mandate requiring them to pay for contraception.

The Catholic diocese argued that the government infringed on its religious freedom by demanding that it facilitate and, in some cases, pay for abortion-inducing drugs, birth control and other services that violate its beliefs.

U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry dismissed the lawsuit in November. His decision is under appeal in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Bridget Fare, a spokeswoman for Duquesne University, said its legal team is reviewing the changes that were announced. The Catholic school was among the institutions that criticized the initial mandate.

“We're hopeful that the changes that have been proposed will allow us to provide insurance without compromising our religious beliefs,” Fare said.

The university will submit comments to the Department of Health and Human Services.The public comment period for the proposed changes is open through April 8.

Some women's advocates were pleased with the proposed changes.

“The important thing for us is that women employees can count on getting insurance that meets their needs, even if they're working for a religiously affiliated employer,” said Cindy Pearson, executive director of the National Women's Health Network.

Dr. David Stevens of the Christian Medical Association called the revised version of the law unacceptable because it “still flouts the First Amendment.”

“Since when does the government get to pick and choose which groups will get to enjoy First Amendment protections?” Stevens wrote in a statement. “It would appear that the administration is trying to diffuse the pressure from federal courts around the country by throwing a sop to religious groups.”

Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt of the Diocese of Greensburg issued a statement saying that although U.S. bishops are “closely studying the revised regulations,” concerns he raised in a pastoral letter in October have not changed.

“My concern remains the same, that the government not be allowed to force the Catholic Church and its affiliated institutions to furnish its employees with health insurance coverage that is morally and religiously objectionable,” Brandt said.

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or tlarussa@tribweb.com. Staff writer Salena Zito and The Associated Press contributedto this report.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Ejections, heated moments mark Pirates’ win over Reds
  2. Zimbabwe alleges Murrysville doctor illegally killed lion
  3. New Steeler Boykin clarifies remarks about former coach
  4. Pirates notebook: Burnett says ‘surgery is not an option’
  5. After early criticism, Haley has Steelers offense poised to be even better
  6. Making environmentalism divisive
  7. County council candidates chosen for District 11 ballot
  8. Rossi: Looking at the next great Steeler
  9. Penguins not alone in top-heavy approach to salary cap
  10. Former Lincoln Park star Rowan chooses N.C. State
  11. Steelers swap draft pick for Eagles cornerback