Catholic Groups Must Pay for Birth Control, Abortion Could be Next

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 4, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Groups Must Pay for Birth Control, Abortion Could be Next

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 4, 2004

Washington, DC ( — The U.S. Supreme Court turned back an appeal of a California Supreme Court decision in March that a Catholic group must provide coverage for birth control in its health insurance plan, regardless of the fact that contraception is contrary to teachings of the Catholic Church.

The decision sets the stage for possibly forcing Catholic and other Christian groups to pay for other immoral activities such as abortion or assisted suicides, if legalized.

Some 20 states, including California, require employers that have prescription drug benefit plans to also cover birth control pills and other forms of contraception. Such laws typically exempt churches but not church-affiliated organizations or hospitals.

The California Catholic Conference challenged California law on that point and appealed a 6-1 decision by the state’s high court saying the group is not able to opt-out of providing coverage.

"If the state of California can coerce Catholic agencies to pay for contraceptives, it can force them to pay for abortions,” attorney Kevin Baine told justices in an appeal for the Catholic group.

The only way the Catholic organization can get around the California requirement would be by not offering any insurance coverage to California employees.

Writing for the California Supreme Court last Spring, Justice Kathryn Werdegar said that Catholic Charities is not exempt because the majority of the people it serves are not Catholic.

The decision could open the door for mandatory coverage of abortion in health insurance plans, warns Carol Hogan of the California Catholic Conference. Hogan said the decision "shows no respect" for the rights of religious groups to be conscientious objectors when it comes to funding such practices.

Pro-life advocates worry the ruling could affect church-backed schools and other institutions in California and elsewhere.

"California is just one court case away from requiring employers, even churches to cover abortions in their health insurance policies," Jan Carroll, of the California Pro-Life Council, told

Justice Janice Rogers Brown, who President Bush has nominated for a federal appeals court position, was the lone dissenter. She argued that the legislature’s definition of "religious employer" was too narrow.

The California Supreme Court previously ruled that abortions may be paid for with state taxpayer funds, overturning legislation passed by the state legislature.

According to information in the legal case, other states that require birth control and contraception coverage in employee health plans includes: Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont and Washington.

Related web sites:
California Catholic Conference –
California Pro-Life Council –