February 28, 2024

California court forces religious charity to offer contraceptives


In a test case watched closely by women’s groups across the US, the California Supreme Court has ordered a Catholic employer to include contraceptives, including the morning-after pill, in its employee prescription drug coverage, despite the Church’s opposition to birth control. California is one of 20 states which require employers to provide coverage for contraceptives if they offer pharmaceutical benefits to their employees. Until now Catholic Charities had argued that it was exempt as a religious organisation.

Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar wrote for the court in the 6-1 decision that the main issue was “the inequitable burden of health care on women, without regard to any religious dispute over the propriety of artificial contraception”. Catholic Charities was breaching the Women’s Contraceptive Equity Act, a law which was intended to eliminate discrimination against women, who spend as much as 68% more than men in out-of-pocket health costs, mostly on contraceptives. Margaret Crosby, of the American Civil Liberties Union, described the decision as a “shining example of Californian leadership in reproductive freedom”.