American Catholic Nuns Circulate Petition, Prepare To Protest In Favor Of Birth Control Coverage

Catholic nuns speak out in favor of mandatory birth control coverage.

A group of nuns is speaking out in favor of mandatory birth control coverage just as the Supreme Court is ready to hear oral arguments on two lawsuits. Image Credit: Will O’Neill via Flickr



At a time when some Catholic organizations are joining other religious groups in challenging the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in court, a group of nuns has added an important voice to the debate. The National Coalition of American Nuns (NCAN) came out in support of the law’s provision mandating birth control coverage.

The nuns accuse religious organizations of holding women hostage.

The group of 2,000 sisters released a statement that said, in part:

NCAN is dismayed that the Little Sisters of the Poor, the University of Notre Dame and other Catholic organizations are challenging the Affordable Care Act. Spurred on by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops these organizations are attempting to hold hostage all women by refusing insurance to them for contraceptives.

The head of NCAN, Sister Donna Quinn, expanded on the organization’s stance in an interview with Religion Dispatches:

This has gotten out of hand. It isn’t ‘faith and freedom’ when reproductive autonomy isn’t extended by the Catholic Church to women. Now we have other Christian religions seeing what the bishops are doing and saying we will do likewise. It isn’t freedom when a woman can be held hostage by the owner of a business.

On March 25th, the Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments on lawsuits brought by two companies — Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood — that are challenging the mandate to provide birth control coverage in their health insurance plans for employees. The business owners claim that their religious beliefs should dictate whether they provide such insurance coverage. It doesn’t matter to them whether their employees share those beliefs or not.

A petition is support of the nuns’ efforts is circulation online.

The nuns are undertaking two major projects to let the Supreme Court justices know that Catholics aren’t a unified voice on birth control. They especially want it known that the bishops don’t speak for the women of the church. The nuns’ first task is an online petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. The petition is being circulated with the cooperation of The Rev. Debra Haffner of the Religious Institute. It says:

As people of faith, we stand with the Sisters as they speak out for family planning services and real religious freedom. We join them in asking the Supreme Court to protect women’s access to basic health care and contraception when they hear two cases this March.

The petition’s goal is at least 6,000 signatures. It can be seen and signed here. The accompanying statement makes it clear that “the sin is not a person using birth control. The sin is denying women the right and the means to plan their families.”

A Faith Rally in front of the Supreme Court will be held on March 25th

The second undertaking of these brave nuns is a Faith Rally at the Supreme Court on March 25th, the day of oral arguments. Again, the support of all available women is welcome in Washington, D.C. that day. This is far from being a Catholic issue. According to Rev. Haffner, access to birth control is supported by more than fourteen religious denominations — to say nothing of all the women who are not religiously affiliated.

If Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood are allowed to imposes their religious beliefs on their employees, the door is open to all kinds of control in the name of religion. Even Arizona’s infamously conservative governer, Jan Brewer, recently accepted the negative, unintended consequences of imposing one version of ‘morality’ on the population as a whole. Brewer vetoed a bill that would have allowed business owners to refuse service to gays if to do so would conflict with their ‘sincerely held’ religious beliefs.

The implications for any oppressed group are horrifying if the lawsuits to block birth control coverage succeed. The nuns need an outpouring of support to be heard across the nation — not for their sake, but for our own.