The Catholic Bishops vs. the Contraceptive Mandate

Document Type


Publication Date



The Roman Catholic bishops of the United States have publicly opposed artificial contraception since they first issued a public statement condemning it in 1919. Thereafter, the bishops were generally unsuccessful in persuading the public that contraceptive access should be restricted. Recently, however, the bishops succeeded in a campaign to restrict access to contraceptives for Catholic and non-Catholic women alike. Their lobbying and public criticism of the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which requires employer health plans to offer preventive reproductive care coverage, forced Obama administration officials into a series of accommodations that gutted portions of the law intended to provide contraception to employees without copayment or cost sharing. In contrast to their earlier efforts to restrict reproductive freedom, the bishops successfully characterized their efforts against the ACA as a battle for religious freedom rather than against reproductive rights. This successful strategy may lead to future setbacks for women’s reproductive liberty.

Publication Citation

6 Religions 1411 (2015).