Religion and the American Experience
Congress: Religion and the Law

Health Insurance and Birth Control

Congressional and White House Action
During the 112th Congress (2011-2012)

In January 2012, the Obama administration announced that religious-affiliated employers (excluding churches and other places of worship) must offer their employees access to health insurance that covers birth control, as preventive care for women, free of charge.  Such organizations—including hospitals, schools, and charities—were given until August 2013 to comply.

Many Catholic organizations and other religious-affiliated groups strenuously opposed this policy.  Women’s rights groups and liberal religious organizations supported the new rule.

In February 2012, President Obama announced a compromise.  Religious-affiliated organizations would not be required to pay for health insurance covering birth control, nor would they have to refer their employees to such insurance plans.  Instead, their workers would be able to obtain free birth control coverage directly from health insurance companies.

In response to the Obama Administration’s policy, a number of Republicans in the Senate and the House of Representatives introduced legislation to prevent the new rule from taking effect.  These bills complimented previous resolutions introduced in 2011 (before the Obama Administration announced its policy) to exempt religious organizations from health insurance mandates and other government regulations. 

On March 1, 2012, the Senate defeated a measure introduced by Senator Roy Blunt that would have permitted employers to refuse to offer health coverage they find objectionable for religious or moral reasons.  This measure, introduced as an amendment to the federal highway funding bill, was defeated by a vote of 51 to 48, largely along party lines.  The vote effectively upheld the Obama Administration’s policy on health insurance coverage and contraceptives.

Legislation in the House of Representatives:

  •  H.R.3982: Religious Liberty Protection Act of 2012
    Sponsor: Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer
    Introduced on February 8, 2012
  • H.R.3897: Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012
    Sponsor: Representative Steve Chabot
    Introduced on February 3, 2012
  • H.R.1179: Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011
    Sponsor: Representative Jeff Fortenberry
    Introduced on March 17, 2011

Legislation in the Senate

  • S.2092: Religious Freedom Protection Act of 2012
    Sponsor: Senator Joe Manchin, III
    Introduced on February 9, 2012
  • S.2043: Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012
    Sponsor: Senator Marco Rubio
    Introduced on January 30, 2012
  • S.1467: Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011
    Sponsor: Senator Roy Blunt
    Introduced on August 2, 2011

Information on proposed legislation can be found on the Library of Congress website: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php

Congressional Committee Hearings