Large Catholic Institutions Offered Contraception Even Before Required To Do So

While Republicans and the United Conference of Catholic Bishops claim that the Obama’s contraception regulation represents an “unprecedented” attack on the religious liberties of organizations that oppose the use of birth control, ThinkProgress has chronicled the growing number of institutions that are already providing the benefit as part of their overall health care coverage. For instance, Georgetown University in Washington D.C. and DePaul University in Illinois offer employees the option of receiving contraception and so do Catholic organizations across the country.

For instance, the New York Times reported in 2002 that the Catholic Archdiocese of New York extended contraception coverage before the state passed its requirement. Catholic universities, Marquette and Mount Mary in Wisconsin were also offering the benefit prior to enactment of the state’s contraception equity clause in 2010. “Marquette’s policy recognizes that a significant portion of the university’s employees are non-Catholic and that contraceptives are at times prescribed by physicians for purposes other than birth control, spokeswoman Mary Pat Pfeil said.” She stressed that “the choice to use a contraceptive is both a medical decision and a matter of conscience.”

Once the law passed, Catholics had to provide contraception benefits. But rather than accusing the state of starting a war against religion, the organization left the decision to the consciences of its members:

“Our employees know what church teaching is. And we trust them to use their conscience and do the right thing,” said Brent King, spokesman for the Madison Diocese, which began covering prescription contraception Aug. 1. […]

Diocese of Madison employees, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, sign a document when they’re hired vowing to abide by the laws of both Wisconsin and the church. He said employees would receive “strong pastoral recommendations against” using the contraception benefit, but that the diocese has no intention of policing it.

Significantly, the Obama regulation exempts churches from including the birth control benefits in their plans and would provide an a new layer of conscience protections for the state. But since most Catholic women rely on contraception, it’s likely that many may still offer the benefit.