Few people were surprised last week when the Trump administration issued a rule to make it easier for some religious employers to opt out of offering no-cost prescription birth control to their female employees under the Affordable Care Act.
But a separate regulation issued at the same time raised eyebrows. It creates a new exemption from the requirement that most employers offer contraceptive coverage. This one is for “non-religious organizations with sincerely held moral convictions inconsistent with providing coverage for some or all contraceptive services.”
So what’s the difference between religious beliefs and moral convictions?
“Theoretically, it would be someone who says ‘I don’t have a belief in God,’ but ‘I oppose contraception for reasons that have nothing to do with religion or God,’ ” said Mark Rienzi, a senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented many of the organizations that sued the Obama administration over the contraceptive mandate.
Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan, said it would apply to “an organization that has strong moral convictions but does not associate itself with any particular religion.”
What kind of an organization would that be? It turns out not to be such a mystery, Rienzi and Bagley agreed.
Among the hundreds of organizations that sued over the mandate, two — the Washington, DC-based March for Life and the Pennsylvania-based Real Alternatives — are anti-abortion groups that do not qualify for religious exemptions. While their employees may be religious, the groups themselves are not.
March for Life argued that the ACA requirement to cover all contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration includes methods that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman’s uterus and therefore are a type of abortion. Real Alternatives opposes the use of all contraceptives.
March for Life, which coordinates an annual abortion protest each year, won its suit before a…