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Should Catholic agencies have to pay for employees' birth control?

February 2, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
Should church-affiliated employers like hospitals or social service agencies be required to pay for insurance plans that cover birth control? Under the new health care plan that is about to go into effect, most insurance plans will have to cover preventative birth control free of charge for women. Churches and other houses of worship will not have to do so, but the government has said Catholic-affiliated agencies such as hospitals and charities will have to provide the coverage as well.

The Roman Catholic Church officially forbids the use of artificial contraception and asserts that being forced to pay for birth control for employees would violate its constitutional rights.

The leader of the House of Representatives is calling the requirement unconstitutional and demanding it be reconsidered, but I think there could be a good argument for requiring that church-affiliated agencies do fund birth control.

Should an organization that receives government funding be free to ignore rules that apply to every other organization that provides health insurance on the basis that it interferes with religious freedom? If it is allowed to do, that seems to trample on other rights. What of the non-Catholic employee who doesn't agree with the church teaching and has no other option to obtain insurance coverage for birth control?

For that matter, the vast majority of individual American Catholics also ignore the Catholic teaching and do make use of birth control, so they would also be denied coverage that they probably want. In the case of a Catholic hospital that refuses to do a vasectomy or perform an abortion, it is usually possible for the patient to get a referral to a health care provider that will provide that service. It isn't as easy to get an insurance plan from someone other than your employer.

It will be interesting to see whether this decision stands.


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