Coalition urging the federal government to ensure contraceptives

Some 52 members of the Coalition for Liberty & Justice sent letters urging the federal government to ensure access to contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act in the wake of recent Supreme Court cases.

The letters, sent to Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez and Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Marilyn Tavenner, can be found below and are available as PDFs here (Perez) and here (Tavenner).

The text of the letters also appears below:

 

Submitted Electronically

Office of Health Plan Standards and Compliance Assistance
Employee Benefits Security Administration
Room N-5653
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20210
Attention: Preventive Services

Dear Secretary Perez,

We, the undersigned members of the Coalition for Liberty & Justice, express our support for the right of all workers and their dependents to access contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act and to make personal decisions about using contraception based on their own beliefs. We represent a diverse cross-section of communities,including faith-based and secular organizations that are dedicated to LGBT rights;women’s rights;the separation of church and state; civil rights; and reproductive health, rights and justice.Though we bring distinct and diverse perspectives to these comments, we are united in our belief that public policies should both respect religious liberty and protect against the use of religious beliefs to discriminate or undermine equality. We believe that true religious liberty respects individuals, supports the common good and reflects the foundational principles of our nation.We ask that these interim final rules, which go above and beyond to satisfy the Supreme Court’s concerns outlined in Wheaton College v. Burwell, are indeed final-for the sake of religious liberty and public health.

We are a pluralistic coalition, and we live in a pluralistic society. The beauty of true religious liberty, a reflection of our democratic ideals,is that it protects freedom of religion and freedom from religion.It does not allow either to trample upon the other.lt protects each individual’s liberty,but it does not grant permission for employers to demand concessions from the government to allow the use of religion to discriminate against their employees.

While we acknowledge that the Departments,in creating this interim final rule,are seeking to address the Supreme Court’s direction in the Wheaton College v. Burwell case, we believe that there has to come a point when “accommodation” stops and common sense begins. It is therefore incumbent upon the Departments to draw a line that protects the religious liberty rights of women workers and dependents, who deserve the right to follow their own consciences, moral codes and beliefs when making decisions about contraception.

We deeply value religious liberty, and we recognize contraceptive coverage as part of this commitment. We know that religious liberty is upheld when each person is able to follow their own conscience,beliefs, and moral codes regarding contraception.The same cannot be said when an employer is allowed to interfere with that process by trumping employees’ personal beliefs through the denial of insurance coverage for contraception.The Departments must therefore view and implement these interim final rules, above all, as a safety net to protect contraceptive coverage and workers’ religious liberty.We therefore strongly request that the Departments exercise thorough oversight to ensure that these new rules guarantee seamless contraceptive coverage for workers and dependents.We strongly urge the Departments to ensure that coercion and interference are prevented when administering the accommodation for non-profit employers.

Respecting religious liberty and protecting public health is indeed the job of the government. Ceding ground to discriminatory and unreasonable demands made in the name of “religious liberty,” however,is not-and,indeed,it could undermine both. The issues raised by the Wheaton College case are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to attempts to allow the use of religion to discriminate today.How the Departments respond will be a critical determinant of the extent of that ruling’s damage to workers and dependents, and to our core American value of religious liberty and justice for all. We urge the Departments to side with common sense.

Sincerely,

Abortion Care Network
Advocates for Youth
American Civil Liberties Union
American Humanist Association
Americans for Religious Liberty
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Association of Reproductive Health Professionals
Call To Action Catholics for Choice Center for Inquiry
Center for Reproductive Rights
Coalition of Labor Union Women Concerned Clergy for Choice CORPUS
DignityUSA Faith Aloud GetEQUAL
Hadassah,The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.
Ibis Reproductive Health
Institute for Science and Human Values
Integrity USA Interfaith Alliance Keshet
Law Students for Reproductive Justice
Medical Students for Choice
MergerWatch
Methodist Federation for Social Action
Metropolitan Community Churches
Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers
Muslims for Progressive Values
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of Women’s Organizations
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
National Organization for Women
National Women’s Health Network
Nehirim
New Ways Ministry
Nursing Students for Choice
Political Research Associates
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Religious Institute
Reproductive Health Technologies Project
Republicans for Choice
Secular Coalition for America
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S.(SIECUS)
Society for Humanistic Judaism
United Church of Christ,Justice and Witness Ministries
Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual
Women’s Ordination Conference


 

Submitted Electronically

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Department of Health and Human Services
Attention: CMS-9940-P
Mail Stop C4-26-05
7500 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21244-1850

Dear Administrator Tavenner,

We, the undersigned members of the Coalition for Liberty & Justice, express our support for the right of all workers and their dependents to access contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act and to make personal decisions about using contraception based on their own beliefs. We represent a diverse cross-section of communities,including faith-based and secular organizations that are dedicated to LGBT rights;women’s rights;the separation of church and state; civil rights;and reproductive health, rights and justice. Though we bring distinct and diverse perspectives to these comments, we are united in our belief that public policies should both respect religious liberty and protect against the use of religious beliefs to discriminate or undermine equality. We believe that true religious liberty respects individuals, supports the common good and reflects the foundational principles of our nation.

We are a pluralistic coalition, and we live in a pluralistic society. The beauty of true religious liberty, a reflection of our democratic ideals, is that it protects freedom of religion and freedom from religion.It does not allow either to trample upon the other.We therefore support the right of workers and their dependents to follow their own consciences,moral codes and beliefs when making decisions about contraception, and we oppose attempts to allow corporations to interfere with this personal decision­ making. Such interference jeopardizes religious liberty by eroding the balance between freedom of and from religion, which we hold dear.

We therefore strongly disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v.Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and the related case of Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Burwell Corporations should not be permitted to impose their owners’ religious views on their employees.While we acknowledge that the Departments are seeking to address the Supreme Court’s decision in those cases,we are deeply concerned about the potential harm that an accommodation for certain for-profit corporations could have on women workers’ and dependents’ religious liberty and health needs.

We ask that the Departments consider, above all else,the effect that any definition of a “closely-held” corporation will have on workers’ abilities to follow their own consciences, moral codes, and beliefs regarding contraceptive coverage.The court’s opinion in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties cases, after all, asserted that an accommodation should have “zero” impact upon women workers and dependents, and “zero” impact should be the Departments’ goal.

We also ask that the Departments,in creating any accommodation, ensure that it has thorough and transparent oversight and an enforcement mechanism in place. Corporations seeking to discriminate in healthcare coverage against their employees should be required to provide ample and transparent corporate documentation of their decision so as to provide their employees clear information about employee benefits and health plans.

Most importantly, this accommodation must also guarantee that women workers and dependents will have seamless access to the no-copay contraceptive coverage benefit guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act to other private sector workers. One woman left without contraceptive coverage because of her boss’s beliefs or due to lack of oversight would be one woman too many.The Departments must guarantee that this rule does not lead to this type of discrimination.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores,Inc. is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to attempts to allow the use of religion to discriminate today. How the Departments respond will be a critical determinant of the extent of that ruling’s damage to women workers and dependents, and to our core American value of religious liberty and justice for all.

Sincerely,

Abortion Care Network
Advocates for Youth
American Civil Liberties Union
American Humanist Association
Americans for Religious Liberty
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Association of Reproductive Health Professionals
Call To Action Catholics for Choice Center for Inquiry
Center for Reproductive Rights
Coalition of Labor Union Women Concerned Clergy for Choice CORPUS
DignityUSA Faith Aloud GetEQUAL
Hadassah,The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.
Ibis Reproductive Health
Institute for Science and Human Values
Integrity USA Interfaith Alliance Keshet
Law Students for Reproductive Justice
Medical Students for Choice
MergerWatch
Methodist Federation for Social Action
Metropolitan Community Churches
Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers
Muslims for Progressive Values
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of Women’s Organizations
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
National Organization for Women
National Women’s Health Network
Nehirim
New Ways Ministry
Nursing Students for Choice
Political Research Associates
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Religious Institute
Reproductive Health Technologies Project
Republicans for Choice
Secular Coalition for America
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S.(SIECUS)
Society for Humanistic Judaism
United Church of Christ,Justice and Witness Ministries
Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual
Women’s Ordination Conference


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