Orthodox groups protest decision on contraception

Two Orthodox groups protested the Obama administration’s decision to require some religiously affiliated institutions to cover contraception as part of their employee health plans.

The Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel of America released statements criticizing the Jan. 20 announcement by the secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius.

Under the Affordable Care Act, employer-provided health insurance plans are required to include contraception and related “preventive” services for employees.

Catholic Church leaders had urged that an exemption for religious institutions include a broad range of religiously affiliated institutions. But the Department of Health and Human Services defined the religious exemption more narrowly, excluding religiously affiliated institutions that serve wider constituencies such as hospitals, social service agencies and colleges.

Catholic religious leaders sharply criticized the department’s decision, and the two Orthodox Jewish groups said it harms religious freedom. — jta