Over the last year, the Affordable Care Act has phased in a requirement that most health insurance plans give women access to FDA-approved contraception methods, including birth control pills and the "morning after pill." The law is right to require this: The Institute of Medicine and common sense say contraception is basic health care for women, and the prevention of unplanned pregnancies can cut abortion rates and give women a better chance at education, work and planning family size.
That said, some faiths oppose all birth control, and others object chiefly to methods such as the morning-after pill, which they say cause the equivalent of abortions.
From the outset, the administration exempted churches from the contraception mandate, acknowledging that government can't compel them to violate their faith. But it did not go far enough. Under huge pressure, the administration belatedly added a workaround for church-affiliated organizations that is still controversial, but which has been accepted by institutions such as Georgetown University and the Catholic Hospital Association.
That's just part of the battle, however. Devoutly religious owners of private businesses also demanded exemptions, and when the administration refused to budge, they went to court. Dozens of lawsuits are pending, and two federal appeals courts have ruled in opposite ways.