The new federal rule provides an easy solution that protects the Little Sisters’ and other religious non-profits’ religious freedom and allows the government to offer these services to women who want them. Rather than trying to force religious plans to offer services, the federal government could simply ask insurers to offer independent coverage to any women who want it, or the government could provide coverage through the ACA healthcare exchange to any employees who want the services but can’t get them through employer plans. Giving all women access to contraception through one of the many alternatives would be a simpler and fairer way for the government to provide these services to women in protected religious plans, not to mention the tens of millions of Americans in other government and corporate plans the government has already exempted from the mandate.
At the state level, this fight is even more nonsensical. The states of California and Pennsylvania already have and use programs to provide contraceptives to women who want them. Neither state objected to the Obama Administration’s broad secular exemptions, and neither state has been able to identify a single person who had contraceptive coverage but will now lose it because of the new rule. California even has its own contraceptive mandate already—one that does not apply to the Little Sisters of the Poor.
What it all adds up to is a fight on political and ideological grounds. The Little Sisters are not trying to stop the government from providing these services, but ask that they not be forced to provide them (especially since the government has already refused to ensure that those free services are provided to one in three Americans).
The 17 states in this lawsuit should comply with the new federal rule. Doing so would protect the religious freedom of non-profits nationwide, including the Little Sisters, who never wanted this fight and just want to get back to caring for the elderly in need.