Contraception Coverage Debate Resumes in NH

Wednesday, 18 Apr 2012 02:48 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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A controversial bill that would exempt employers who object on religious or moral grounds from providing birth control services as part of their healthcare plans is headed for a vote in the New Hampshire state Senate next week.

According to the New Hampshire Union Leader, opponents are already lining up against the Republican measure, arguing that it would exempt not only churches and other religious-affialiated employers but open the way for just about any employer to quit providing contraception coverage.

The law requiring employers to pay for birth control services as part of employee healthcare benefits has been in place in New Hampshire for more than 12 years. But Republicans are seeking changes because they say it discriminates against religion by forcing Catholic or other church institutions to go against their principles.

The arguments are similar to those that unfolded on the national stage just weeks ago over the Obama administration’s requirement that religious-affiliated organizations provide contraception coverage to their employees. The policy, which was later modified, ignited a firestorm of criticism from religous groups and prompted charges that the president was stomping on religious freedom.

In defense of the New Hampshire bill, state House Deputy Speaker Pamela Tucker insisted Tuesday that it is not the job of government “to force people to pay for something they don’t want, so people who do want it don’t have to pay for it.”

She disputed claims the bill is designed to lower to lower health care costs to employers and to prevent women from getting contraceptives.

“This stands up for our religious institutions under assault for their religious liberties that have long-held principles and teachings,” Tucker said. “Imposing anti-religious regulations on churches achieves no reduction of costs or availability of services; it only serves to please those pushing a political agenda.”

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