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FFRF blasts phony excuse by state agency to deny contraceptive coverage

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter today to Theodore Nickel, of the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, protesting his decision, as reported by some media outlets, to stop enforcing a state law requiring insurers to cover contraception as part of health plans if they have “religious objections.”

According to a report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, agency spokesperson J.P. Wieske claimed to be “federally pre-empted” by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case.

“If the reports are true, this is a phony excuse, and a decision that Wisconsin women must not tolerate. This state agency most certainly is not ‘federally pre-empted.’ The Hobby Lobby ruling has no bearing on state law. Inviting insurers to violate a state law is not only irresponsible, but is an egregious attack on women’s rights and reproductive health,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel noted in his letter to Nickel that Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., “hinges on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act [and] . . . does not apply to state law and state action.” Seidel further notes, “The Wisconsin legislature mandated contraceptive coverage in June of 2009, before the Affordable Care Act.”

“It is curious, some might even say hypocritical, to claim that there is a federal preemption issue with Wisconsin’s contraception mandate,” Seidel wrote. “Gutting mandatory contraceptive coverage is not required by the Hobby Lobby decision, as any staunch states’ rights defender must know.” FFRF requested that the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance “immediately rescind this misguided action.”

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