July 25, 2002
I am writing to you concerning S. 104, the "Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage Act of 2001" (EPICC). The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops strongly opposes this bill. EPICC would require prescription drug benefits in all health plans to cover contraceptive drugs and devices. Therefore, the bill would require coverage for the birth control pill, intrauterine devices, Norplant, Depo-Provera, diaphragms and so-called "emergency contraception."
While leaving tens of millions of people in the United States without access to basic health care, this bill would impose a nationwide mandate on the inclusion of purely elective drugs and devices in existing health plans. Pregnancy is not a disease, and interventions to stop the healthy functioning of healthy women's reproductive systems are not basic health care. We support universal health care coverage, but we must oppose efforts to federalize the forced provision of non-therapeutic drugs, devices and services, especially considering the inequity in the delivery of health care to the poor.
Additionally, as Catholics we are uniquely affected by this legislation. The Catholic Church serves as an employer in dioceses, schools, charities, and hospitals across the country and is committed to ensuring just wages, which include providing comprehensive health care benefits to its employees. EPICC would force Church entities to end all prescription drug benefits if they are to avoid violating their fundamental moral and religious teaching on the dignity of human procreation. Moreover, Catholics who serve as employers and employees outside of Church institutions will be similarly affected. Indeed, the bill's preemption clause seems designed to ensure that this bill will override any state laws that respect the right of conscientious objection, by exempting from federal preemption only state laws that are even broader in their "protections" for access to contraceptives and abortifacients.
We urge the Senate not to approve this misguided legislation.