Americans United for Life (AUL) filed a comment in partial support and partial opposition to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Proposed Rules, “Coverage of Certain Preventive Services Under the Affordable Care Act.” Although AUL takes no stance on the underlying issue of contraceptive use, AUL defends conscientious objections to insurance coverage of contraceptives. As our comment detailed, religious exemptions have been prevalent in the rule of law since the time of our nation’s founding and exist throughout bioethics and issues involving human life. The Proposed Rules recognize a religious exemption, and HHS should maintain this protection within the Final Rules. 

Although the Proposed Rules recognize a religious exemption, they would make a health insurance issuer’s religious exemption contingent upon whether a covered entity or individuals shares that conviction. This contradicts case law and legal tradition. The law views conscientious objections from the perspective of the objector, and it is immaterial whether a covered entity or individual shares that belief. Likewise, conscience protections for health plan issuers throughout federal law protect health plan issuers’ conscience rights regardless of the convictions of the covered entity or individual. HHS should recognize that conscientious objections are from the health insurance issuer’s perspective, not contingent upon the beliefs of another. 

The Proposed Rules also remove the moral exemption to the contraceptive insurance mandate. This subverts the United States’ rich legal tradition of protecting moral conscientious objections. Moral exemptions exist throughout the law, such as in issues involving capital punishment, military conscription, abortion, and assisted suicide. HHS should acknowledge this legal tradition and reinstate the moral exemption. 

“Conscientious objections raise grave issues of religion, morality, and ethics,” describes Carolyn McDonnell, AUL Litigation Counsel. “Because of this, the United States has a long history of establishing exemptions within contentious issues involving human life and bioethics. HHS should respect this legal tradition, and vigorously defend the religious and moral conscience rights of health insurance issuers.”