[RCRC] The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice – a national body of major Christian, Jewish and other denominations supporting reproductive health care for women – has submitted official comments to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stating its rule on coverage of contraception under the Affordable Care Act is fair to religiously affiliated institutions and “a reasonable approach” to protecting individual religious freedom. The HHS comment period closes June 19.
“In our pluralistic democracy, a fundamental role of government is to protect the ability of individuals to follow their own conscience in decisions regarding sexuality and reproduction. In RCRC’s view, the proposed religious exemption [to the rule] protects the right of individuals to follow their own conscience and religious views on contraception and gives fair treatment to religiously affiliated institutions that employ and serve the general public,” the Rev. Dr. Alethea Smith-Withers, chair of the RCRC board of directors, stated in the submitted comments.
The rule, under which health insurance plans at religiously affiliated institutions that serve the public would cover women’s contraceptive methods, reaffirms the critical need for contraceptive coverage. It limits the types of institutions that can refuse to offer these services to a narrow group whose purpose is the inculcation of religious beliefs, the RCRC comments said. RCRC opposes broad exemptions for public institutions as a violation of both the separation of religion and state and the exercise of individual conscience.
RCRC’s interest in comprehensive insurance coverage of contraception is based on the its mission: to ensure individuals can follow the dictates of their conscience and/or religious principles in making decisions about reproduction, including decisions about the use of contraception, birth control and family planning.
“Our members recognize that the decision to become pregnant and have children is one of the most important decisions couples and individuals can make. As this decision affects women’s health and the overall interests of society, it requires responsible policies including policies that foster comprehensive access to birth control,” Smith-Withers stated.
RCRC members, emanating from diverse faith traditions, hold that our society has a responsibility to ensure that all people have access to the family planning they need, as well as access to the means and ability to raise children in a healthy environment. Individuals have the right to legal health services including contraception and their access to these services must not be limited or denied by institutions that object to them. As well, health care providers must not be prohibited from providing services that are legal, including contraception.
RCRC member organizations are the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, Women’s Division of the United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist Association, the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements of Judaism, and religious and religiously affiliated organizations including American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, Anti-Defamation League, Catholics for Choice, Hadassah, Jewish Women International, NA’AMAT USA, National Council of Jewish Women, Women’s American ORT, and the American Ethical Union.
The Rev. Harry Knox, interim executive director of Integrity USA, will become president and chief executive officer of RCRC on July 16.
The Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton of Delaware, outgoing convener of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus, and canonically resident in the Diocese of Newark, serves on the board.