Cardinal Dolan Criticizes Biden Administration for Trying to Force Employers to Cover Contraception

Biden officials say women need free contraception.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan. (photo: Glynnis Jones / Shutterstock)

The Biden Administration’s proposal to force employers to offer contraception in their health insurance plans even if they have moral objections to it is “disheartening,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan said Wednesday.

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a proposed rule that would leave in place the current exemption for religious employers but take away the exemption based purely on moral grounds.

Cardinal Dolan, reacting two days later, said the Trump-era rule issued in 2018 “provided appropriately clear and robust protections for the exercise of religious beliefs and moral convictions, free from government punishment,” but that the Biden administration’s new proposal wrongly removes at least some of those protections.

“While we are pleased that the proposed regulations appear, at this early stage of review, to retain the bulk of the existing religious exemption, their elimination of protections for moral convictions is disheartening,” said Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York and chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, in a written statement.

“It is past time for HHS to leave well enough alone in this regard,” Cardinal Dolan said.

A spokesman for Health and Human Services could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

The dispute is over regulations connected to the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, commonly known as Obamacare. 

When the law came into effect, the Obama administration sought to force employers to cover the full cost of contraception for their employees through their health insurance plans. Various religious organizations and companies filed suit, leading to a patchwork of court decisions exempting some from the requirement and not exempting others.

The Trump administration’s 2018 rule included carve-outs for religious employers and employers with moral objections to contraception.

Biden officials say women need free contraception.

“Access to contraception is an essential component of women’s health care in part because contraception is effective at reducing unintended pregnancy. Without health insurance or other health coverage for or access to contraception at no cost, contraception can be prohibitively expensive, and the cost may deter individuals from obtaining needed care,” says a written statement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, an agency within the federal Department of Health and Human Services, on Monday.

Contraception has “a heightened importance” now and making it free is “a national imperative,” say Biden administration officials, because women in some states can’t get abortions. Some states have made abortion illegal since June 2022, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that abortion is not a federal constitutional right.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that artificial contraception is immoral because it thwarts what the Church says are the main purposes of sexual intercourse: procreation and the unity of a man and woman in a lifelong commitment to each other. The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls contraception “intrinsically evil.”

Cardinal Dolan rejected the Biden administration’s abortion-policy argument in his statement Wednesday.

“The proper reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs is not, as the proposed regulations claim, to make it free for women to sterilize themselves, but rather to relieve the burdens that our laws and culture place both on mothers and those who may become mothers,” Cardinal Dolan said.

Biden officials want to get rid of the moral exemption and also provide a way for women who work for exempt employers to get contraception free of charge.

The Biden administration’s proposed new rule would create what it calls “an individual contraceptive arrangement” that would allow employees of exempt organizations to get contraception free of charge without their employer paying for it.

The federal government charges health insurers a user fee. (In 2023, it’s 2.75% of premiums for the Federally Facilitated Marketplace and 2.25% of premiums for a State-Based Marketplace using the federal platform.)

In such cases, the proposed rule would allow providers of contraception to apply for an “adjustment” of the user fee based on the costs of providing the products and services, “which would likely be reimbursed and ultimately incurred by the Federal Government.”

Cardinal Dolan said the bishops' conference plans to file comments on the proposed rule with HHS.

The proposed rule is not currently in effect. A 60-day comment period on it begins with its publication in the Federal Register, which is scheduled to occur Thursday, Feb. 2. That gives members of the public until early April to comment on it.

Written comments can be submitted by U.S. mail or online at the following website: