The move sparked massive displays of protest from religious organizations that have moral objections to the new requirements.
Although the mandate includes a religious exemption it has been heavily criticized for its narrow scope. The exemption excludes the vast majority of religious groups because it applies only to organizations that primarily restrict their employment and services to members of their own faith.
In her article, Sebelius defended free coverage of “preventive services” as “one of the key benefits of the 2010 health care law.”
She argued that “virtually all American women use contraception at some point in their lives” and that contraception has health benefits but is often prohibitively expensive.
USA Today responded in its editorial that good medical intentions “are not sufficient grounds to override religious freedom.”
It noted that the government is free to – and in fact, already does – promote contraception in other ways that do not coerce religious organizations to violate their teachings.
Sebelius said that the administration recognized that “many religious organizations have deeply held beliefs” opposing the requirements of the mandate, and has provided an exemption for “religious organizations that primarily employ people of their own faith.”
The editorial acknowledged that an exemption exists for many “churches and other houses of worship,” but observed that this exemption does not extend to “organizations that employ or serve large numbers of people of different faiths,” which is a defining element “of many Catholic colleges, hospitals and charities.”
Sebelius also justified the mandate by arguing that 28 states already “require contraception to be covered by insurance,” and eight of these states do not allow for a religious exemption.
The editorial responded by pointing out that the majority of these states have even “broader exemptions” than that offered by the federal mandate, and several others that do not have an explicit exemption still provide ways for organizations with moral objections to “get around the mandate.”
“The First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom deserves more weight than the administration allowed,” the editorial said.
It added that individuals freely choose employers and should therefore be able to choose to work for an institution that does not offer free contraception coverage.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
The board argued that the government “should never try to force a religiously affiliated institution to violate a central tenet of its faith.”
USA Today editors urged the Obama administration to “reopen discussion with those affected” negatively by the mandate and seek a compromise that will “widen the exemption in a suitable way.”