Mainstream religious leaders voice support for contraception coverage

The Religious Institute features the statement by twenty-three major mainstream religious leaders in support of the Department of Health and Human Services that contraception services must be covered by most health insurances.

Together, the leaders of these Christian, Jewish and Muslim national organizations affirmed:
"We stand with President Obama and Secretary Sebelius in their decision to reaffirm the importance of contraceptive services as essential preventive care for women under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and to assure access under the law to American women, regardless of religious affiliation. We respect individuals’ moral agency to make decisions about their sexuality and reproductive health without governmental interference or legal restrictions. We do not believe that specific religious doctrine belongs in health care reform – as we value our nation’s commitment to church-state separation. We believe that women and men have the right to decide whether or not to apply the principles of their faith to family planning decisions, and to do so they must have access to services. The Administration was correct in requiring institutions that do not have purely sectarian goals to offer comprehensive preventive health care. Our leaders have the responsibility to safeguard individual religious liberty and to help improve the health of women, their children, and families. Hospitals and universities across the religious spectrum have an obligation to assure that individuals’ conscience and decisions are respected and that their students and employees have access to this basic health care service. We invite other religious leaders to speak out with us for universal coverage of contraception."

Signers include The Very Reverend Dr. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, President of The Episcopal Divinity School, and The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton, Convener of the Episcopal Women's Caucus. The Episcopal Church is also part of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

Comments (8)

There's been a huge outcry over this from even many liberal Catholics.

Here's another point of view, a discussion of a nun who helped get President Obama's Affordable Care Act passed who is, some think, now being "thrown under the bus." The article also speculates that "failure to expand the conscience exemption turns the entire Affordable Care Act into a more ripe target for judicial or political overturning."

Some people even think that Obama will lose the Catholic vote in the fall....

There certainly has been a lot of reaction Barbara!

The most helpful opinion piece I've seen was written by Jonathan Cohn.

http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-cohn/100521/contraception-obamacare-catholic-religious-institutions#.TzPkG_lHnOg.facebook

His article concludes:

"Religious institutions matter, yes, but so do the people who work for them. It's about time this debate focused on both."

Thanks for the link - I agree it's a good article.

Sounds like there will eventually be some sort of compromise on this....

The way this debate has been framed in the media has been driving me NUTS.

It OUGHT not be "Obama's making religious institutions violate their consciences!", but "HOW LARGE A CARVE-OUT to equal health care coverage for women shall we endure?"

Under the "Obamacare" provisions, religious groups (churches, temples, mosques and such) receive this exemption (which is already more than 28 states grant!).

If it's granted to hospitals and universities (because they have the "Catholic" or "St Joseph's" etc brandname on them), then why not to Dagostino's Market or Murphy's Pub? If employed by Meyer Jewelers, should THEY be able to say "You can't get covered for a pig-ingredient heart valve"? Etc, etc, etc?

Where does it end? Will EVERYONE be at the mercy of the belief-system of their boss?! [And what if the next "conscientious objection" is to minimum wage laws?]

Hospitals and schools are BUSINESSES. They have business licenses, and state certifications.

They should comply w/ health care laws, too! "Equal Protection Under the Law"

JC Fisher

The hospitals are run by the Church - which by definition operates according to a set of beliefs. They are UNLIKE the businesses you mention in that they are not operating on the profit motive. They also offer their product free to people who can't afford it -also very unlike any other sort of business. So I don't think that particular argument holds.

I understand they'll also be required to pay for an abortifactant drug. Are you really surprised that they object to that?

I 'm actually rather happy there's a group of people who think their own beliefs are more important than those of the State. They are like conscientious objectors in wartime, so I'll offer that as my own "slippery slope " argument: who can know what the State will get up to next? Will it decide what universities can and cannot teach, for instance?

(Of course, the hospitals could just shut down, and avoid the issue that way. There are, apparently, 600+ Catholic hospitals in the country.

Or, maybe, they could stop providing prescription drug coverage at all (not sure if this is an option, though) - but they don't want to do this, either.

It will definitely be interesting to see how this all works itself out. Perhaps a compromise can be for the hospitals to increase all employees ' salaries by the cost of contraception....)

I don't think you're really addressing my points, Barbara. Large not-for-profits have all the State involvement and complexities that for-profits do---if not moreso.

Should EVERYONE who works at a nonprof be subject to ***The Boss's*** ethical belief-system?

I see this as a *workers rights* issue first, a *women's rights* issue second, and a Church/State involvement issue third.

What I *don't* see it as, is a "Let's privilege Vatican ethics FIRST" issue (as if, "If we don't let RC hospitals have their way re contraception, they won't treat indigent patients." Ethics that are CONTIGENT aren't ethics at all!)

Will it decide what universities can and cannot teach, for instance?

Nevermind universities, there are public schools! Have you not noticed the Creationism controversies of the last 20+ years?

ANY school, any level, that receives PUBLIC tax $ (as most if not all "private" universities do) ABSOLUTELY should be held to *certification* requirements. If your Biology department teaches Creationism, then you should be denied certification.

As they say, this ain't brain surgery. [But don't you want your brain surgeon certified, by State *scientific* standards? :-X]

JC Fisher

Ethics that are CONTIGENT aren't ethics at all!

Exactly. So how can an organization that is stringently pro-life be compelled to provide the morning-after pill for its employees? I mean, they've left abortion out of the Health Care Plan for this very reason, too; why this is so different, I really don't understand.

The fact is that the church ISN'T "a business like any other" - even other nonprofits. As I said, the thing that makes a church a church is its "beliefs" - so I'm not sure why you're arguing that these should have no bearing on its actions.

Church-run hospitals are part of the ministry of that church; they just aren't comparable to jewelry stores - or fundraising organizations. No fund-raising organization has special protections built into the Bill of Rights, either: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...."

So, yes: I'm in favor of allowing reasonable exclusions so that the Church won't have to violate its own basic beliefs, in its own ministries. Especially on "big questions," and especially when, as we've just seen, it's not very difficult to do this.

Add your comments

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Reminder: At Episcopal Café, we hope to establish an ethic of transparency by requiring all contributors and commentators to make submissions under their real names. For more details see our Feedback Policy.

Advertising Space