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Prochoice Catholics Applaud Court Victory on Access to Contraception

July 2, 2001

 Call decision an answer to women’s prayers

Washington, DC—Catholics for a Free Choice President Frances Kissling issued the following statement today:

In an opinion published today, the California Court of Appeals unanimously rejected Catholic Charities of Sacramento’s constitutional challenge to the Women’s Contraceptive Equity Act. This decision is an answer to our prayers. Had Catholic Charities been successful in its demand for a broad-based exemption that would permit it to deny its employees insurance coverage for contraceptives, women’s moral right to make reproductive health decisions on their own terms would have been seriously limited. The decision makes clear that the religious beliefs of a social service agency do not make the agency a religion and do not trump the conscience of women who work in such settings.

Catholic Charities is not a religion; it is a social service provider. We believe that agencies that receive government funding, provide social services to the general public, and employ people of all religions are not entitled to religiously based exemptions from providing services mandated by law.

In the face of increasing demands by Catholic hospitals, HMOs and other health care institutions for exemptions from providing services ranging from contraception to sterilization to assisted reproduction, we hope this decision will serve as a precedent in ensuring that it is a patient’s conscience that must be respected above all.