Legal Scholars Urge Obama Administration to Limit Exemptions to ACA's Contraception Requirement

More than 60 Corporate Law and Law and Religion Scholars Say Administration Should Impose Strong Monitoring and Enforcement Requirements and Limit Religious Accommodation to Small Businesses with Shared Religious Values

New York, October 21, 2014—More than 40 corporate law scholars today strongly urged the Obama administration to restrict the for-profit entities eligible for a religious exemption to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraception coverage requirement to entities of a limited size that can provide evidence of religious mission and whose owners unanimously agree to seek the accommodation.The scholars made their views known in comments to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on regulations issued to govern the ACA accommodation process. 

In addition, more than 20 law and religion scholars warned in comments to HHS and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that the Obama administration could be vulnerable to lawsuits if it does not create stringent monitoring and enforcement procedures to ensure seamless access to contraception for women whose health insurance is provided by employers who seek exemptions to the contraception requirements of the ACA.
The comments, issued by scholars from 41 schools across the country, are being spearheaded by The Public Rights / Private Conscience Project in the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. The project is a unique law and policy think tank that conceptualizes and operationalizes new ways of understanding religious exemptions and their relationship to reproductive and sexual liberty and equality rights.
The regulations are the Obama administration’s response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision and Wheaton College order.
"The Supreme Court's decision in Hobby Lobby left many questions about the scope of religious exemptions unanswered," said Katherine Franke, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law. "The Public Rights / Private Conscience Project has brought together leading legal scholars to help clarify who should be able to claim a religion-based exemption from the law and how to preserve continuity of insurance coverage for reproductive health care."
The project’s executive director, Kara Loewentheil said “the views of these scholars provide responsible counsel to HHS and DOL as they consider how to revamp the accommodation process in light of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Hobby Lobby and order in Wheaton College and to balance the competing rights involved.”