Legislation introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to reverse the Obama administration’s birth control rule would effectively permit any employer to deny contraception coverage in their employee health plans, critics note.
“Any employer could deny birth control coverage under Rubio’s bill and all the employer would have to do is say it’s for a religious reason,” said Jessica Arons, Director of the Women’s Health and Rights Program at the liberal Center for American Progress. “There is no test to prove eligibility. It’s a loophole you could drive a truck through.”
The Rubio bill, The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, comes in response to a Catholic firestorm over the fact that the administration’s exemption on its birth control rule does not include religious hospitals and universities along with churches. But this bill appears to go far beyond that, permitting any employer to claim the religious exemption without a criteria.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters Thursday the measure would grant the exemption to “not just Catholic employers — to all employers.”
Rubio’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. His bill has 26 GOP cosponsors and the support of Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (WV).
The relevant section of the bill, under the title “Conscience Protections,” is below.
`(1) IN GENERAL- No guideline or regulation issued pursuant to subsection (a)(4), or any other provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, or the amendments made by that Act (Public Law 110-148), shall—
`(A) require any individual or entity to offer, provide, or purchase coverage for a contraceptive or sterilization service, or related education or counseling, to which that individual or entity is opposed on the basis of religious belief; or
`(B) require any individual or entity opposed by reason of religious belief to provide coverage of a contraceptive or sterilization service or to engage in government-mandated speech regarding such a service.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.