Exactly one year ago, I wrote an editorial that generated much conversation entitled: Let The Bishops Have Their Bottle. The industry and the country alike were in the middle of the debate over the Patient Protection and Affordable (PPACA) and the implications that the law would have for religious organizations that objected to providing contraceptive care on the basis that it flew in the face of their religious beliefs.
Now, one year later, after a contentious Supreme Court hearing that consumed the attention of the country, PPACA is the law of the land. And yet, as employers are poised for implementation, debate is still raging and there is a strong possibility that aspects of the law might once again be thrust onto the highest court for reinterpretation if not resolution.
But first, let’s go back to last January. I contended that Catholic organizations, like hospitals and schools, should be exempt from providing contraceptive care. Religious institutions themselves had already had an exemption carved out for them but, organizations, because they employ non-Catholics, were not afforded that pardon.
I argued that people who were employed by religious institutions should not be surprised when they find religious undertones permeating the workplace: The janitor at a Catholic hospital should not expect steak to be served in the cafeteria on Fridays.
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Well, I am a year older and maybe a smidge wiser, and at this point I disagree with my initial position. Contraceptives, which are widely used for many other purposes, are not steak.
The current battle over the provision is not just being waged by religious institutions but also by private companies who are run by individuals morally opposed to contraception.
It has been widely documented that 99 percent of women use contraceptives at some point in their lives. Adolescent girls and young women are often prescribed birth control pills for irregular menstruation cycles, menstrual cramps, endometriosis and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, an endocrine disorder. I don’t think that one could argue that just because a woman works for a religiously-affiliated organization—or any other employer who is morally opposed to contraceptives—that they should be denied access to these drugs.
But private employers and religious organizations alike are digging in their heels, and many are girding for long, extended battles that will very likely wind up back at the Supreme Court.