California Supremes To Review Contraception Ruling

October 1, 2001 ( ? The California Supreme Court has agreed to review a lower court decision that would require Catholic Charities of Sacramento to offer its employees contraception coverage.

In July, the Court of Appeals for the Third District ruled unanimously that even though Catholic Charities of Sacramento is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, it is nonetheless engaged in secular services.

Drug Benefit

As a consequence, the appellate justices held that it cannot be exempted from the Women’s Contraception Equity Act, a state law that mandates prescription drug benefits for contraceptives (see Catholic Charities Must Offer Contraception Coverage ).

The ruling affirmed the conclusions of the trial court.

The Women’s Contraception Equity Act requires that California employers offering prescription drug benefits to employees include contraceptives in their coverage. The law does provide an exemption for “religious employers” who:

  • seek to inculcate religious values
  • primarily employ those who share their religious beliefs
  • primarily serve people with the same religious beliefs; and
  • are nonprofit corporations under federal law.

“Intrinsically Evil”

Catholic Charities, which has acknowledged it does not fit the exemption, has sought alternate considerations. The organization has argued that since the religious tenets of Catholicism find contraception intrinsically evil and a grave sin, “providing employee health insurance coverage that includes prescription contraceptive methods would facilitate financially the sin of contraception by employees who use the prescription drug benefit to obtain contraception.”

However, the appeals court found that the statutes have a secular purpose and did not “foster excessive government entanglement with religion.” Consequently, the court ruled that the “incidental effect” on religious beliefs did not violate religious protections of either the US or state constitutions.

– Nevin Adams