Catholic health care leaders are asking Gov. Jerry Brown to veto Senate Bill SB 1053, the “Contraceptive Coverage Equity Act,” for its discriminatory legislation which would force many religious entities like hospitals, schools and charities to go against the conscience of their members and provide insurance coverage for contraception and abortion.
In his Sept. 2 letter sent to Gov. Jerry Brown, William J. Cox, president and CEO of the Alliance of Catholic Health Care representing 54 Catholic and community-based affiliated hospitals in California, noted that SB 1053 contraceptive coverage requirements are broader than the federal contraceptive mandate under the federal Public Health Service Act, as amended by the Affordable Care Act.
Both the federal contraceptive mandate and SB 1053 require that all non-grandfathered health plans provide coverage for contraceptive drugs, devices and products as well as sterilization procedures, contraceptive education and counseling. In addition, the federal law and proposed provisions of SB 1053 would require these contraceptive methods and supplies be provided without any cost sharing requirement, deductible, coinsurance or copayment.
However, Cox pointed out in his letter, there are significant differences between the federal contraceptive mandate and the proposed measure.
SB 1053, he noted, does not conform the state definition of religious employer with federal regulations. The bill retains current California law that exempts a religious employer defined as one whose purpose is the inculcation of religious values; primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets; primarily serves persons who share the religious tenets of the entity; and is a nonprofit.
Under the federal contraceptive mandate, the definition of religious employer is less narrowly defined, and the federal exemption recognizes that churches should not be excluded because they provide charitable social services to, or employ, persons of different religious faiths. The definition also includes schools below college level affiliated with a church or operated by a religious order, as well as exclusively religious activity of any religious order.
Another difference between SB 1053 and federal regulations, said Cox, is that the bill does not provide an accommodation for non-profit religious organizations. The federal regulation provides for an accommodation for non-exempt, nonprofit religious organizations, such as faith-based hospitals, that object to contraceptive coverage on religious grounds.
Cox also notes that SB 1053 expands the coverage required by federal law: “This bill requires, with some minor exceptions, coverage of FDA approved contraceptive methods and includes non-prescribed, over-the-counter contraceptive drugs, devices and supplies; and, would require that the enrollee’s outpatient drug benefits be equally provided to the enrollee’s covered spouse and dependents. In contrast,” wrote Cox, “the federal contraceptive mandate is limited to all prescribed FDA approved contraceptive methods.”
“For these reasons, we must oppose SB 1053, and we respectfully urge that you veto the bill,” said Cox in his letter to Gov. Brown.
In efforts to reduce pressure upon low-income women to obtain an abortion, The California Catholic Conference is asking voters to urge the governor to sign AB 1579, offering CalWORKs cash assistance to a needy pregnant woman earlier in her pregnancy during the second trimester.
Under current law, a pregnant woman with no other eligible children in the household is not eligible for basic needs cash assistance through CalWORKs until the third trimester of her pregnancy, with exceptions for pregnant mothers who are 18 years of age or younger.
“This delayed eligibility rule is over two decades old and fails to take into account the many academic studies showing that instability and stress felt by a pregnant woman can have long-lasting impacts on the health of infants and children,” say CCC officials.
Allowing a needy pregnant women to receive CalWORKs benefits in the second trimester of her pregnancy “may eliminate potential undue pressure on [her] to seek to abort her new baby to protect the well-being of her family,” said CCC in its recent Action Alert.
For more information on CCC Action Alerts, visit http://capwiz.com/cacatholic/home/.