(HealthDay News) – The Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) provision of preventive services, including contraceptive methods, has raised religious objections and complex legal issues for secular employers, according to a perspective piece published online Dec. 19 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Noting that the ACA requires health plans and insurers to cover preventive services, including all U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, Timothy Stoltzfus Jost, JD, from the Washington and Lee University School of Law in Lexington, VA, discusses the legal issues surrounding requiring contraception coverage, given some religious objections to contraceptives.

According to the report, in February 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognized the religious concerns, excused religious employers from compliance, and imposed a moratorium on the application to religious organizations until Aug 1, 2013. The Department of Health and Human Services remains committed to finding a solution that allows contraception cover without requiring the religious organization to cover the costs, although those who object to contraception are not satisfied with this approach. In addition, some secular employers have raised objections, and various problematic issues are still unresolved: whether a private, secular, for-profit corporation can hold religious beliefs; whether the contraception requirement furthers a compelling governmental interest; and whether the requirement (provision of a benefit which employees decide whether to use) substantially burdens the religious beliefs of employers.

“The question of whose interests and beliefs – those of the employer or those of the employee – ought to determine access to contraception benefits is one that the courts, and no doubt ultimately the Supreme Court, will have to decide,” the author writes.

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