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Implications of Mandatory Insurance Coverage of Contraceptives for Catholic Colleges and Universities

Implications of Mandatory Insurance Coverage of Contraceptives for Catholic Colleges and Universities

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Published by: Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Ed on Oct 27, 2009
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About the Author
The Becket Fund or Religious Liberty is a Washington, D.C.-based pub-lic interest law frm protecting the ree expression o all religious traditionsthrough litigation, media outreach and scholarship. Since 1994, Chairmanand President Kevin J. Hasson and The Becket Fund have successully repre-sented clients rom nearly every aith tradition, earning the praise o leaders rom Pope John Paul II to Elie Wiesel. As both primary counsel and amicuscuriae, in ederal and state trial and appellate courts, The Becket Fund hasdeveloped expertise in all areas o religious reedom law, but especially un-der the Free Speech, Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses o the First  Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It has been a steadast advocate or laws that protect the conscience rights o individuals and institutions.
 
Executive Summary
The trajectory of state law and the Equal Employment Op-portunity Commission’s (EEOC) recent interpretations of TitleVII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) pose seriousthreats to the conscience rights of Catholic institutions that be-lieve that they cannot cover prescription contraceptives in stu-dent and employee insurance plans without contradicting fun-damental tenets of their faith. Catholic institutions might becompelled to suspend, or significantly restrict, the prescriptionhealth care benefits available to their students and employees.Colleges may have recourse to state constitutional languageand the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Catholicinstitutions can also raise various statutory defenses includ-ing federal and state “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts”and various anti-discrimination statutes. These protectionsare subject to the requirement that claims be sincere, or “bonafide;” courts are competent to judge whether a religious beliefis “sincerely held.”Depending on new legal developments, objecting Catholicinstitutions may have to resort to creative arrangements to bal-ance treating their students and employees justly and remain-ing faithful to their principles. Some possible courses of actionand recommendations are outlined.
Implications of Mandatory Insurance Coverageof Contraceptives for Catholic Colleges and Universities
by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
October 2009
 A Policy Series Guided by the Principles of Ex Corde Ecclesiae
STUDIES IN CATHOLIC
 HIGHER EDUCATION
Center Leadership
David B. House, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow & Interim Director
Center Advisory Board
William H. Dempsey, Esq.
President, Project Sycamore
 John P. Hittinger, Ph.D.
Professor of PhilosophyCenter for Thomistic StudiesUniversity of St. Thomas (Houston)
Rev. Leonard A. Kennedy C.S.B., Ph.D.
Former President, Assumption College,Univ. of Windsor; and St. Thomas MoreCollege, Univ. of Saskatchewan
Rev. Joseph Koterski, S.J., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Philosophy,Fordham University
Msgr. Stuart W. Swetland, S.T.D.
Vice President for Catholic Identityand Mission, Mount St. Mary’s University
Hon. Kenneth D. Whitehead
Former Assistant Secretary for PostsecondaryEducation, U.S. Department of Education
Cardinal Newman SocietyExecutive Staf 
Patrick J. Reilly
President and CEO
Thomas W. Mead
Executive Vice President
9415 West StreetManassas, Virginia 20110703-367-0333
www.CatholicHigherEd.org
 
Implications of Mandatory Insurance Coverage of Contraceptivesfor Catholic Colleges and Universitiesby The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
October 2009Copyright © 2009 The Cardinal Newman Society. All Rights Reserved.
Permission to reprint is hereby granted provided no modications are made to the text and it is identied as a
product of The Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education, The Cardinal Newman Society or both.
Note: the views expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Center for the Study
of Catholic Higher Education or The Cardinal Newman Society.This paper is available online at The Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education’s website,www.CatholicHigherEd.org
 About The Center
The Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education is the research division of The Cardinal Newman Society.Its mission is to promote the ongoing renewal of Catholic higher education by researching and analyzing criticalissues facing Catholic colleges and universities, and sharing best practices. The Center’s work is guided by theprinciples of 
Ex corde Ecclesiae 
and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
 
Implications of Mandatory InsuranceCoverage of Contraceptivesfor Catholic Colleges and Universities
Implications of Mandatory Insurance Coverage of Contraceptivesfor Catholic Colleges and Universities
Y
ou have asked us to describe some of the current issues surrounding conscientiousobjections to the funding of contraceptives through employee and student healthinsurance benefit plans. In particular, you have asked us to describe the generalconsiderations confronting Catholic institutions that seek to comply with their under-standing of their obligations under
Ex corde Ecclesiae
and Roman Catholicism generally.We emphasize at the outset that this is not legal advice, and no one should treat it assuch. Nor are we presuming to give religious or theological advice.We also note that it is not only those Catholic institutions that conform in all respects tothe most obvious reading of
Ex corde Ecclesiae
 , canon law, or any other source of churchauthority that enjoy religious liberty under the law. At least since
Thomas
v.
Review Board
 ,450 U.S. 707 (1981), it has been clear that it is the specific religious beliefs of the person orinstitution before the Court that determine the extent of conscience protection afforded by civil courts. The legal analysis that follows is therefore belief-neutral.
Introduction
The issue of contraceptive mandates is a new one for most Catholic institutions. Thetrend toward state-mandated contraceptive coverage in employee health insurance plans began in the mid-1990s
1
and was accelerated by the decision of Congress in 1998 to guar-antee contraceptive coverage to employees of the federal government through the Feder-al Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP).
After FEHBP—the largest employer-in-surance benefits program in the country—set this precedent, the private sector followedsuit, and state legislatures began to make such coverage mandatory.
 The trajectory of state law and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s(EEOC) recent interpretations of Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)pose serious threats to the conscience rights of Catholic employers who believe that theycannot fund employee prescription contraceptives without contradicting fundamentaltenets of their faith. Should this trend continue, many Catholic institutions will not beable to comply with state law and the PDA while remaining true to their religious convic-tions. As a result, Catholic institutions might be compelled to suspend, or significantlyrestrict, the prescription health care benefits available to their employees.
1
. See
The Guttmacher Institute,
The Cost of Contraceptive Insurance Coverage
 , at 1 (00),
available at
http:// www.guttmacher.org/pubs/ib_4-0/pdf (“[H]alf of all traditional indemnity plans in 199 did not cover any reversibleprescription methods of contraception, and only 15% covered all of the five leading methods.”) (also citing 001Kaiser Family Foundation findings that only 41% of insured employees had coverage of all reversible contracep-tives while “virtually all employees” had coverage of prescription drugs in general).. Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act of 1999, Pub. L. No. 105-77, 11 Stat.681.
. See
The Guttmacher Institute,
State Contraceptive Coverage Laws: Creative Responses to Questions of ‘Conscience’
 , at1 (Aug. 1999) [hereinafter
State Contraceptive Coverage Laws
],
available at
http://alanguttmacherinstitute.org/pubs/tgr/0/4/gr00401.pdf (last visited Oct. , 009). According to studies, contraceptive coverage does not tend toincrease the cost to an employer of providing prescription coverage. To the contrary, an employer that is willingto extend coverage to new members of a growing family rather than paying for contraception would undertakegreater expenses.
See
 
The Cost of Contraceptive Insurance Coverage
 ,
supra
note  (citing numerous findings demon-strating that providing contraceptive coverage reduces costs to employer).

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