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Catholic Lay Groups Support Contraception Equity Act in Court

February 14, 2001

Amici brief refutes claims made by Catholic Charities of Sacramento

Sacramento, CA—A coalition of progressive Catholic groups has filed an amici curiae brief in Sacramento County challenging a lawsuit by Catholic Charities of Sacramento, Inc. filed against The California Women’s Contraception Equity Act.  The brief maintains that Catholic Charities does not qualify for exemption as a religious institution because it is primarily a welfare agency that employs individuals of different faiths.  “Our objective here is to protect the legal rights of all women—Catholic and non-Catholic alike—to act as moral agents in decisions related to their sexuality and reproductive health without interference from church hierarchy,” states Catholics for a Free Choice President Frances Kissling, who coordinated the brief.  “Polls continue to show that American women strongly believe that insurance policies that cover prescription drugs should also be required to cover birth control pills,” Kissling continued.

The lawsuit charges that the law burdens the agency’s religious freedoms and would force it to violate Catholic teaching.  However, the amici brief provides evidence that challenges the validity of the suit.

The brief—cosigned by California Catholics for a Free Choice, Catholics Speak Out/The Quixote Center, Dignity/USA, Vermont Catholics for a Free Conscience, the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, and the Women’s Ordination Conference—notes that many Catholic hospitals and insurers already cover or provide reproductive health services such as contraception and sterilization.  In a recent survey of Catholic HMOs in the US, CFFC found that 25 Catholic managed care plans—52% of the plans surveyed—cover at least one form of contraception.  “If so many Catholic health plans can find ways to provide access to contraception while protecting their conscience, then Catholic Charities must be expected to do so as well,” stated Kissling.

The brief also argues that Catholic theology does not bar the provision of contraceptives since the teaching prohibiting contraception is not infallible and Catholics are free to dissent.  And dissent they clearly do—96% of all Catholic women who have ever had sex have used modern contraceptive methods at some point in their lives.

“Given the church’s opposition to abortion, it is both ironic and tragic that Catholic service providers want to limit access to contraception when it is proven to be the most effective, least coercive way to reduce the need for abortion,” said Kissling.