Pro-Abortion Governors Demand Contraception Health Care Mandate
A coalition of pro-abortion politicians is urging the federal government to disregard religious liberties and force Americans to fund over-the-counter chemical contraceptives. In a letter dated last week, several state governors asked the federal government to mandate that employers pay for a new over-the-counter (OTC) contraceptive pill for employees’ health care coverage.
Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro (D) wrote to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, “[W]e urge you to take all necessary and available steps to ensure that this non-prescription OTC option will be covered without cost-sharing under private health insurance plans subject to Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulations, Medicare, and Medicaid.”
“The ACA requires insurers to provide coverage for all FDA-approved forms of contraception, without imposing a cost-sharing requirement,” the letter states. “To ensure full compliance with this requirement, we ask that your agency update the Health Resources & Services Administration guidelines to clarify that the ACA’s preventive health mandate includes no-cost coverage of OTC contraceptives without a prescription.”
The letter specifically refers to Opill (norgestrel), which the Food and Drug Administration approved for over-the-counter, non-prescription administration in July. Shapiro was joined by Democratic governors Roy Cooper (N.C.), Michele Lujan Grisham (N.M.), Maura Healy (Mass.), Gavin Newsom (Calif.), and J.B. Pritzker (Ill.). All six are members of the Reproductive Freedom Alliance, a coalition of 22 state governors dedicated to advancing pro-abortion policies across the country. The coalition was founded in February by Newsom.
Arielle Del Turco, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, told The Washington Stand, “This is very revealing about core progressive priorities. When they say that the government must mandate that non-prescription contraceptives be covered by all health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act, they are demanding that the tenants of the Sexual Revolution be reinforced by the government.” She added, “For progressives, the Sexual Revolution is more important than fundamental First Amendment protections, and that’s a shame.”
Religious liberty advocates have warned that mandating coverage for Opill risks violating the First Amendment rights of individuals and groups who conscientiously object on religious grounds to providing pharmaceutical contraceptives to employees or family members. Initially, various religious organizations objected to paying for contraceptives under the ACA’s mandates, resulting in a series of lawsuits. The Catholic religious order Little Sisters of the Poor challenged the contraceptive mandate for years, refusing to comply with government-offered “compromises” which would have still provided contraceptives to the order’s employees but exempt the Little Sisters from paying for them.
In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of an executive order issued by then-president Donald Trump that allowed employers to claim exemption from the contraception mandate on religious grounds. But just last year, the HHS introduced new rule proposals which would potentially dismantle the exemptions allowed in 2020.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) wrote to HHS last year warning against removing religious exemptions. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the archdiocese of New York and archbishops William Lori of the archdiocese of Baltimore, Paul Coakley of the archdiocese of Oklahoma City, and Salvatore Cordileone of the archdiocese of San Francisco wrote, “We are mindful that the Section 1557 regulations promulgated in 2016 (the ‘2016 Rule’) imposed severe burdens on religious liberty, and that HHS may be considering reinstating the provisions in question.” The letter noted that “Catholics have been called to care for the sick since the earliest days of our faith,” clarifying that, for Catholics, “health care is religious exercise.”
The Catholic Church in particular has long been opposed to contraception, as articulated by Pope Pius XI in his 1930 encyclical “Casti Conubii,” a position which Pope Paul VI reiterated in 1968 with his encyclical “Humanae Vitae.”
Del Turco commented, “We’ve seen leftist politicians drag Catholic nuns through lengthy legal battles over their sincerely held religious belief that prevents them from providing contraceptive coverage to employees.” She continued, “Coercing religious believers to fund contraception against their convictions is a clear violation of religious freedom, and yet progressives continue to attempt this. If the Biden administration takes the advice of these 22 governors, we can expect far more of these types of religious freedom court cases.”
S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.