Contraceptive Mandate and Rights of Conscience Drive a Political Wedge that Harms Families

The Regent University Federalist Society hosted Professor Robin Fretwell Wilson of Washington and Lee University School of Law on Monday, March 19 for a special event to discuss "The Contraceptive Mandate and Rights of Conscience." Professor Wilson is the Class of 1958 Law Alumni Professor of Law, and has been focusing her recent scholarship on providing accommodations for religious organizations on social issues that seem publicly divisive, but about which reasonable people, particularly people of faith, may have valid objections.

As part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act citizens and employers in the United States will be forced to pay to make contraceptives available free of charge to any consumers who wish to use them. Being made to participate in the reproductive health care of others is not something Americans expected in health care reform. In light of discussions on this matter over the past two weeks, this issue is most controversial for those of faith, but it is not unreasonable to think that some Americans may have objections to such provisions not necessarily based on faith, but simply based on liberty. See the rise of the Catholic Church on this issue at The Daily Caller, and USA Today's recent discussion of government sponsored accommodations for religious objectors.

Professor Wilson argued that being made to participate in the reproductive health of others appears to be a neutral rule with a disproportionate effect on religious institutions and organizations, and therefore argues for carving out accommodations that honor religious objectives yet still comply with the law. She also discussed the concerns over contraceptives and sterilization generally, as well as concerns over contragestives (often labeled as contraceptives) particularly, noting their abortive qualities. Responses were offered by Regent Law Professors David Wagner, Lynne Marie Kohm, and Thomas Folsom for a lively discussion. The Federalist Society sponsored a vibrant, sprite, timely and well received event on this important issue.

Forced payment of contraception not only harms religious employers, but it drives a political wedge into the fabric of American liberty. That liberty generally protects individuals and families to make their own reproductive health care choices, rather than being coerced to be a funding party to anyone else's sexual choices. Contraceptive mandates violate rights of conscience for individuals, families, religious employers, and many other Americans, and in no way foster family restoration.

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