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Poll: Most back exemption to HHS mandate

WASHINGTON (BP) — A majority of Americans say religiously affiliated organizations — such as hospitals and universities — should be exempt from the Obama administration’s abortion/contraceptive mandate, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll.

The survey found that by a 57-36 percent margin, U.S. adults believe religious organizations should be allowed to “opt out” of covering birth control for their female employees. The poll did not use the word “abortion,” although Christian leaders say the mandate would require them to cover contraceptives that can cause chemical abortions.

The poll also found that 51 percent of adults believe that any employer — and not just the ones with religious ties — should be able to opt out if they find such coverage objectionable based on religious or moral beliefs. Forty percent disagree.

Under the mandate announced by the Department of Health and Human Services, employers must offer employees health insurance covering all FDA-approved contraceptives for free — including ones such as Plan B and “ella” that can act after fertilization, causing a chemical abortion. President Obama announced a compromise that he said protects religious organizations, although it was widely criticized. Under his compromise, the insurance plans of religious organizations still would cover all contraceptives, although the insurance companies — and not the religious organization, he said — would be responsible for offering the employees the free contraceptives. Many Christian leaders called it an accounting gimmick, since the contraceptives would remain covered under the plan, with the religious organizations likely picking up the tab via higher premiums.

The CBS/New York Times poll first asked adults about the mandate: “Do you think health insurance plans for all employers should have to cover the full cost of birth control for their female employees, or should employers be allowed to opt out of covering that based on religious or moral objections?” Fifty-one percent said employers should be allowed to opt out.

The poll then asked, “What about for religiously-affiliated employers, such as a hospital or university? Do you think their health insurance plans should have to cover the full costs of birth control for their female employees, or should they be allowed to opt out of covering that based on religious or moral objections?” Fifty-seven percent chose the second option.

The survey was conducted March 7-11 among 1,009 adults.
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.

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