In implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) issued its mandate requiring health plans to cover contraceptives (including abortifacient contraceptives) and sterilization procedures. Religious nonprofit organizations engaged in charitable ministry are not exempt from the mandate.
The Little Sisters of the Poor, and other religious organizations objecting to the mandate brought a series of federal lawsuits that reached the Supreme Court. In March 2016, the Court heard oral arguments in the set of cases known collectively as Zubik v. Burwell. On May 16, the Court issued a decision which overturned the lower court decisions and sent those cases back with instructions that:
…the parties on remand should be afforded an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans “receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.”
Subsequent to the Court’s decision, HHS opened a 60-day period of public comment on this matter. On September 9, 2016, the USCCB Office of General Counsel submitted comments calling for a solution truly respecting religious liberty:
This latest round of rulemaking represents a promising opportunity for the Administration to bring to an end years of church-state litigation and, in turn, to avoid a legacy of ongoing and unnecessary conflict with substantial portions of the religious community in the United States.
… And so once again, we urge the Administration, in the strongest possible terms, to do its part to end this well, by choosing to pursue its policy goals in a way that fully respects—rather than knowingly disregards—the sincerely held and repeatedly stated religious objections of a substantial minority of our civil society.
For a USCCB press release see: http://www.usccb.org/news/16-116.cfm
The HHS public comment period closed on September 20, 2016.