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Supreme Court to consider if Catholic group must cover contraception

By David Kravets Associated Press Writer
Thursday September 27, 2001

By David Kravets 

Associated Press Writer 


SAN FRANCISCO — The California Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to review an appeals court decision requiring a Catholic charity to comply with a state law demanding employers include contraception in health plans that cover prescription drugs. 

Without comment, the high court’s six judges voted in private to review the July decision by the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento. Catholic Charities of Sacramento argued in a lawsuit filed in 2000 that the law should be set aside because it violates the group’s religious freedom. 

But the appellate panel thought otherwise in the first challenge to the law. 

The 1999 law “was enacted to eliminate discriminatory insurance practices that had undermined the health and economic well being of women,” the appeals court said in its July ruling, and “does not advance or inhibit religion.” 

The Roman Catholic Church considers contraception wrong. After the decision, Catholic Charities said the decision is forcing it “to act in direct contradiction of its religious, moral and ethical beliefs and any people of faith should be deeply disturbed.” 

The appellate court said the decision does not constrain Catholic Charities from advising employees and the public that it opposes contraceptives. 

Weeks before the decision, a Seattle federal judge ruled that federal anti-discrimination laws required employers to provide contraceptives to women if their health plans include prescription drugs. That case has been appealed. 

California’s law was adopted in 1999 and signed by Gov. Gray Davis. Former Gov. Pete Wilson had vetoed the measure three times. 

Catholic Charities spends about $80 million a year on California social services. It employs and serves mostly non-Catholics. 

The case is Catholic Charities v. Superior Court, S099822