W&L Law Professor Robin Fretwell Wilson recently spoke at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs as part of a conference on Contraception and Conscience: A Symposium on Religious Liberty, Women’s Health, and the HHS Rule on Provision of Birth Control Coverage for Employees. Specifically, her talk focused on religious objections to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. The discussion focused on the true mechanism of action of emergency contraceptives such as Plan B and Ella, how there is at times unclarity with respect to whether they act before or after fertilization, and how that complicates the debate, since studies show that many women, whether religious believers or not, have concerns about using such drugs if they work after fertilization or implantation.
Professor Wilson goes on to discuss how failing to be generous with religious exemptions has unintended consequences. Religious employers who object to certain coverage have other more extreme remedies available to them, what Professor Wilson calls the “nuclear option”: the complete withdrawal of health care coverage for their employees, forcing those employees onto the public health insurance exchanges. This could be a more economically beneficial option for some employers, depending on their circumstances.
Regarding the position of individual objectors, whose situation has been almost entirely overlooked, their options are much more limited. The individual mandate forces individual religious objectors to solve the collision between their religious consciences and the demands of civil law at great costs to themselves. Professor Wilson argues that the Obama Administration should grant these objectors a less extreme way out and has a ready vehicle for doing so, the hardship exemption, for which regulations have yet to be released.
To view Professor Wilson’s remarks in their entirety, click here.