A religious charity seeks an exemption from a bill that would require it, and all other employers, to include coverage for prescription contraception in their health insurance plans for employees. An obstetrician, fearing that her patient will choose to have an abortion, refuses to inform her that prenatal tests have revealed a severe anomaly in the fetus she is carrying. A woman who wants to prevent pregnancy following unprotected sex with her husband goes to her local pharmacy to obtain emergency contraception, but the pharmacy refuses to fill her prescription because of a belief that the drug may destroy a fertilized egg.
At its core, religious freedom means that we are all free to make personal decisions based on our own beliefs and according to what is best for our health and the health of our families. It does not mean allowing particular religious groups to impose their religious beliefs and prohibitions on all of us. From insurance plans to pharmacy counters, the ACLU has a long history of protecting religious liberties and reproductive rights.
Religious Interference in Healthcare (2011 resource): Across the country, we are seeing a troubling trend to allow hospitals, insurance plans, pharmacies, and other health care entities to place religious beliefs over patient’s healthcare needs.Lawmakers in Congress, for example, are poised to undo 30 years of federal law protecting patients’ access to emergency care. If they succeed, hospitals could refuse to perform medically necessary abortions for pregnant women in life-threatening situations. That means, a pregnant woman could be left to die in a hospital emergency room because of the religious beliefs of the hospital owners. Already, we’ve seen pharmacies object to filling requests for birth control bills, including emergency contraception, because of their religious beliefs. Such refusals can pose a particular burden on women living in rural areas who may have to drive long distances just to reach another pharmacy. We should not permit institutions to impose religious beliefs on their patients and thus jeopardize our health. Our laws must ensure that a patient’s health is never compromised by the religious objections of some.
Accessing Birth Control at the Pharmacy (2007 PDF)