NOW Condemns New HHS Rules on Birth Control Coverage, Calls for Congressional Action to Recognize Women’s Basic Rights

WASHINGTON – Caving to pressure from well-funded extremists, the Department of Health and Human Services today announced expanded “accommodations” that coddle corporate CEOs who wish to impose their religious beliefs on their employees.  The new proposed rule, which will be open for comment for 60 days, allows closely-held for-profit corporations to exclude contraception from their employees’ health plans; those plans’ insurers would then absorb the cost of birth control coverage.

“Nothing in the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision mandates this new rule,” said NOW President Terry O’Neill.

Birth control is basic, life-saving health care for women.  Unintended pregnancy is deadly.  It is highly correlated with infant and maternal mortality, and is a significant risk factor for domestic violence homicide.  Ninety-nine percent of sexually active women in the U.S. have used birth control at some point, including 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women.  Cost is a significant factor in women’s inability to use birth control consistently and correctly.

“Withholding basic health care from women is gender bigotry, plain and simple,” O’Neill said.  “Democratic governments no longer recognize religious beliefs that amount to bigotry, like the religious belief in apartheid in South Africa, or the Southern Baptist Convention’s religious belief in slavery and segregation.  No employer should be allowed to withhold birth control from women, whether that employer is a bishop, a mother superior, or a seller of knick-knacks.”

NOW calls on Congress to take swift action to pass legislation specifying that, notwithstanding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, all employers must following the law requiring the inclusion of birth control in employer-based health plans, with no special rules for religious organizations, religiously affiliated organizations, or companies owned by religious fundamentalists.

Contact: Elise Coletta,, 202-628-8669 ext. 115