CONTRACEPTIVE COVERAGE: Does Conscience Clause Threaten Measure’s Survival?
Surrounding the recent passage of contraceptive coverage companion bills is "a simmering battle" over a conscience clause to exempt religious organizations that oppose covering contraception, the San Jose Mercury News reports. State Sen. Jackie Speier's (D-San Mateo) SB 41 and Assemblyman Bob Hertzberg's (D-Sherman) AB 39, "could be derailed" if legislators and religious groups fall short of a compromise. Although the bills each cleared their respective chambers, "several members who voted yes said they expected to see a religious exemption before they would give their final approval." Speier and Hertzberg this week met with Ned Dolejsi, director of the California Catholic Conference, to hash out a compromise. Planned Parenthood, which sponsored the bills, said it is not "opposed to a narrowly drawn exemption" provided that employees who "don't share their employer's religious beliefs have access to contraception." Kathy Kneer, CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said, "We're comfortable that the exemption applies to a church, but Catholic hospital mergers are rapidly expanding" (Ostrom, 4/21).
Davis should "remember his campaign pledge" and sign the legislation if it comes across his desk, an editorial in the San Jose Mercury News urges. The exemption issue "is a murky area. Not everyone who works for the Roman Catholic church is a member. And not every member of the church believes contraception is sinful," the Mercury News argues. "Beyond that, do legislators have a duty to write exemptions for religious groups? After all, the legislation would not force Roman Catholic women to use birth control," the editorial concludes (4/21).