Scope of existing state employer-contraceptive mandates

It has been asserted in various outlets that many states already mandate contraceptive coverage, that the Catholic church has been content to live with those mandates, and so that the current firestorm over the ObamaCare provision must just be something cooked up by Republican consultants. Here is a response from the National Council of Catholic Bishops via NR’s Kathryn Lopez:

6. The federal mandate is much stricter than existing state mandates. HHS chose the narrowest state-level religious exemption as the model for its own. That exemption was drafted by the ACLU and exists in only 3 states (New York, California, Oregon). Even without a religious exemption, religious employers can already avoid the contraceptive mandates in 28 states by self-insuring their prescription drug coverage, dropping that coverage altogether, or opting for regulation under a federal law (ERISA) that pre-empts state law. The HHS mandate closes off all these avenues of relief.

More on the controversy from my Cato colleague Roger Pilon and from Jonathan Rauch. And: John Cochrane on the wider folly of letting the feds mandate contraceptive coverage in the first place: “Sure, churches should be exempt. We should all be exempt.”


  • Ah, yes. For years we hear about how Republicans want states to be “laboratories of democracy”, but when the federal government actually assumes a couple of the successful laboratory experiments (Obamacare, this particular regulation), suddenly they don’t want that anymore.

    There is a reason we want our federal government to look more like California, New York, and Oregon — it’s because those are among the most successful states. If Louisiana had had a good idea in the last century, we might be looking to it instead.

  • I don’t know about New York and Oregon, but California is in a huge budgetary problem. But then, so is the Federal Government. Is this the “laboratory of democracy” to follow?

  • There is a reason we want our federal government to look more like California, New York….

    If these are the successes, I’d hate to see the failures.

    And by the way Nicholas, the vote of a majority does not overrule the rights of a single person.

  • Gitarcarver is absolutely right. We have to be careful about what is truly a right (and where it was granted), and what is considered by some/many as just or fair.

  • Besides, ‘laboratory of democracy’ is predicated on the states, not individuals and certainly not the federal government. The idea is that each state could try its own solutions to problems. Other states would have the chance to see 49 different essays and chose among them for what best works. It is certainly not that the federal government comes up with a unitary solution and imposes it on all. Even if Congress, the Courts, and the Commerce Clause get contorted in arguing otherwise.

  • Nicholas evidently does not live in CA.

    and OR is no great shakes either

    And laboratories of democracy doesn’t include violating Constitutional rights.

  • Nicholas,

    With absolutely no respect for your comments re: Louisiana, we have the best food, the best music and the best government that money can buy. And because of Tulane and LSU we have an abundance of Damn Yankees who came for the education, got it, but won’t go home.

    Not to belabor you choices for the pedestal, but California is broke, out of money, has been ruined by Democrats and their labor unions and they aren’t doing a thing to resolve the problems. Which interestingly is pretty much what Obama is doing with the same sad results.

  • […] schools and hospitals) to cover contraceptives and certain abortifacients. First, as a commentator notes, it’s not true that states in general already require such coverage:HHS chose the narrowest […]