Government Drafting Birth Control Accommodation

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is developing a new way for religious nonprofits that object to paying for contraceptives in their health plans to opt out, without submitting a form they say violates their religious beliefs.

The government has been searching for solutions since the Supreme Court decided an evangelical college in Illinois can avoid filling out the form while the case is being appealed. That move undercut the accommodation the Obama administration had devised in hopes of resolving religious group’s objections without shifting the cost for birth control to employees.

The document, known as Form 700, lets faith-affiliated groups transfer responsibility for paying for birth control to insurers or third-party administrators. But Wheaton College said just filling out that form makes it complicit by forcing it to participate in a system that subsidizes coverage they oppose.

Aiming to address that concern, the federal government will release new regulations within one month that establish an alternative way for religious groups to indicate their objection, without filling out the form, the administration said. Form 700 will remain an option for groups willing to use it.

Officials said they’re still developing the alternative and couldn’t provide any details about what it would entail, so it’s unclear whether it will be any less objectionable to Wheaton and other faith-affiliated groups than the original Form 700. The administration said the new alternative won’t involve shifting the costs to employees.

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