Center for Reproductive Rights Resources and Materials on Refusal Laws


Primary Content

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other reproductive right opponents regularly proclaim that respect for religious liberty requires "conscience provisions," also known as refusal clauses, to be built into our nation's laws. Many of these provisions apply to individual conscience rights. But the expansive refusal clauses that the Bishops want to implement under the Affordable Care Act would allow not just individual medical providers, but entire institutions—hospitals, insurance companies, even employers—to opt out of providing any service to which they have a moral objection.

The Bishops and their colleagues try to claim moral high ground even as they place institutional conscience above women's health and rights. The refusal laws they champion are damaging and even dangerous. The Center for Reproductive Rights fights to ensure that all women have access to affordable reproductive health care, including contraception, obstetric and prenatal care, and safe abortion, regardless of their employer or health care provider. Institutions may not abridge the rights and beliefs of their employees or patients in the name of religious liberty.

Below is a list of resources on refusal laws from the Center for Reproductive Rights, including legal analyses, legal briefs, and opinion pieces that have appeared in the press.


Legal Analyses:

Comments on the Preventive Services Rule

Supplemental Comments on the Preventive Services Rule

Chart of Case Law Related to Religious Exemption

Questions and Answers on Right to Conscience Laws

Background: The Religious Exemption and Religious Freedom

"The Contraception Controversy: A Comprehensive Reply" Debunker Report

Comments on the Obama administration's accommodation 


Past Cases:

Catholic Charities of Sacramento v. Superior Court of Sacramento County (CA)

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany, et al. v. Serio (NY)


Op-eds and Letters to the Editor:

"All Heat and No Light: The Contraception Kerfuffle, The Hill Congress Blog, March 5, 2012 <,  /p>,

Letter to the Editor, Washington Post, January 24, 2012

Letter to the editor, The New York Times, November 12, 2011

"Administration should deny bishops\' request for a veto over women's healthcare," The Hill Congress Blog, September 30, 2011

"Debunking the Hysteria Over Birth Control," CBS News, July 29, 2011

"Put Emergency Care Ahead of Religious Beliefs," The Hill Congress Blog, May 6, 2011

"New Bill Would Allow Religious Hospitals to Deny Life-Saving Emergency Care," Huffington Post, February 15, 2011

"Should the Church Control Access to Health Care?" Washington Post On Faith Blog, June 21, 2010

NPR Interview with Nancy Northup on Obama's rescinding of provider conscience regulation, February 4, 2010

"Because of, Not in Spite of, My Faith," RH Reality Check, October 14, 2008