COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has joined an effort to implore the Obama administration to exempt private employers from providing contraceptive coverage if they have religious objections.
DeWine, along with Republican attorneys general from 12 other states, signed a letter this week to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of health and human services, urging that an exemption to the coverage mandate for certain nonprofit religious groups be broadened to include private employers who object to contraception for religious reasons.
“They're being forced to provide insurance coverage that violates their religious beliefs,” DeWine said Friday, according to The Columbus Dispatch, (http://bit.ly/16783Lz). “They're being forced to provide insurance coverage for a form of abortion. To me, it's a religious-freedom issue.”
He pointed to the morning-after pill, for example, which critics say are abortive.
The move drew criticism from pro-abortion groups who say DeWine is misusing his position to interfere with women's private medical decisions.
“If Attorney General DeWine gets his way, Ohio women will have to ask their bosses for permission to get birth control with their health insurance,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio.
She said DeWine's effort will also threaten women's coverage from mammograms and cancer screenings to maternity care.
“No woman should have to get permission from her boss, or for that matter from any politician, to get the basic health care she needs,” she said.
The letter from the attorneys general was in response to Sebelius’ request for comments on proposed amendments to the Affordable Care Act, also known to critics as “Obamacare.” Exemptions were carved out for some nonprofit religious organizations after an outcry from Roman Catholic and evangelical organizations over regulations requiring employers to provide contraceptive coverage.
“The proposed regulations allow an absolute exception for some religious nonprofits and deny that exception to other groups without any compelling reason for distinguishing between the groups,” the letter says.
Under the rules exempting some religious organizations, women still would be able to receive the coverage, but it would be paid for by a third party, such as a health insurer.
DeWine and the other attorneys general said that allowing certain nonprofits to shift costs to insurance companies creates a false impression that contraceptive benefits are provided free.
“It says you don't have to pay for insurance to cover the morning-after pill, but we're going to require the insurance company that provides this to you to pay for this at no charge,” DeWine said. “That's just a shell game because it gets rolled into the costs of the insurance company and the employer ends up paying for that.”
In addition to signing the letter, DeWine said he has filed supporting briefs in two ongoing federal lawsuits that say the government can't force private employers to provide contraceptive coverage if they have religious objections.
The other attorneys generals that signed the letter are from Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com