CONTRACEPTIVE COVERAGE: Wilson Vetoes Bill
"For the second time in three years" Gov. Pete Wilson yesterday vetoed a bill that would have required insurers to provide contraceptive coverage for employee-sponsored health plans, the Sacramento Bee reports (Bernstein, 2/12). "Despite intense daylong negotiations," Wilson and the bill's sponsor, state Assemblyman Bob Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles), were unable to reach a compromise over "a 'conscience clause' allowing employers to opt out of such coverage on moral or religious grounds," the Los Angeles Times reports. Wilson had demanded the clause as a condition for signing the bill. Hertzberg drafted amendments in an attempt to allay the governor's concerns, but he said that in the end, "it just wasn't good enough" (Vanzi, 2/12). The Sacramento Bee reports that Hertzberg "submitted to Wilson a proposal to limit the religious exemption to 'church-controlled organizations' as defined by the federal tax code" (2/12). However, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports that Wilson rejected the "last-minute amendments proposed by Hertzberg" on grounds they were "too narrow and would have eliminated from the exemption many legitimate religious entities and organizations" that could not, consistent with their beliefs, offer contraceptive coverage to employees (2/12).
Room For Compromise?
The Sacramento Bee reports that "in a conciliatory move, Wilson said he was willing to negotiate a provision ... exempting employers from providing coverage because of a religious objection." He said, "Honoring my commitment to assure that all women have access to family planning and contraceptive services, I will sign legislation similar to this bill if it exempts religious employers and organizations based on their religious beliefs." Kathy Kneer, CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, "said she is optimistic that a compromise can be worked out." She said, "I think the governor really does want this. We just have to find a way to write it so both sides can feel they have won something" (2/12). Ned Dolejsi, executive director of California Catholic Conference, said Wilson's veto was "consistent with the governor's belief in expanding contraceptive services ... but in a way that is respectful of the religious freedom of people who do not share that view." Wilson has asked the state Legislature to draft a similar bill that would meet constitutional guidelines and encompass the needs of religious employers (Los Angles Times, 2/12). And according to the AP/Contra Costa Times, a Hertzberg spokesperson said the assemblyman also hopes "to negotiate a revised bill with a religious beliefs exemption that Wilson would sign" (2/12).