Having failed to convince Catholics in the pews to follow their hard-line ban on all contraception, the bishops seek loopholes to the HHS mandate that would allow them to violate the consciences of those who work for them—Catholic or otherwise. This tramples on the rights of those whose faith and right to religious freedom leads them to make decisions about family planning or sexual activity. “Sandra” is a science teacher at a Catholic school in the Midwest; she is Catholic. As with almost all Catholic schools, her employers follow diocesan rules regarding employees’ insurance—meaning no contraceptive coverage, regardless of medical necessity. Sandra related her discovery of the exclusion. “I went to fill my birth control prescription like I always do. I say ‘Here’s my new insurance card,’ and they say I’m not covered,” she recounted. “They said, ‘Oh, 99 percent of Catholic schools will not cover it.’”
Sandra had taken a salary reduction to work at the school. She and her husband didn’t bargain for paying out of pocket for her birth control prescription, but she also objects to the principle. “I don’t like being told by some guy that I’ve never met that I can’t use it,” she says. “The bishops are not even having sex in the first place. How are they supposed to know how to tell me what to do in that situation?”
The teacher spoke under condition of anonymity for a reason. “Most of the girls, the first thing they complain about is the lack of birth control coverage. It’s one of those unspoken things that no one talks about, because no one wants to risk their job.” Nevertheless, she felt it important to speak up because she knows it’s wrong to allow her employer to exclude this basic, preventive women’s healthcare. We think it important that government listen. Should the bishops get their wish for an unnecessary, expansive refusal clause, many more people will be in Sandra’s position. They won’t be happy, and they will vote.
Jon O’Brien is the President of Catholics for Choice.