Bill On Religious Exemptions From Birth Control Coverage Draws Crowd At Capitol


A lawmaker wants to shift the cost of abortions and contraceptives from insurers to individuals.

Catholic organizations say they shouldn’t have to pay for an employee’s birth control. A hearing for a bill that would expand Wisconsin’s exemption for such employers attracted a standing-room-only crowd at the State Capitol today.

Federal officials overseeing health care reform are still formulating exemptions for religious employers who do not believe in birth control and don’t want insurance to cover it. In Wisconsin, the exemption is much narrower.

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All employers in Wisconsin have to cover birth control unless they self-insure. Four dioceses in Wisconsin fall in that category. A bill by Rep. Andre Jacque (R-De Pere) would exempt religious employers. It’s supported by the Wisconsin Catholic Conference and Wisconsin Family Action. The group’s director, Julaine Appling says the bill preserves religious freedom and won’t reduce access to birth control.

“If the benefit package that is afforded employees does not cover abortion and contraception I know that going in. I can ether take the job or not take the job.”

Those opposed to the bill say some women can’t afford $60 a month cost for birth control pills and that the medication can be prescribed for medical reasons other than avoiding pregnancy. Lisa Subeck of Madison noted that religious organizations employ people with different views.

“As a woman I question why is it any of my employer’s business what health care services I partake in once they’ve paid for my insurance.”

The bill also would prevent state health insurance plans from covering abortion except in the cases of incest, rape or to save the life of the mother.