Sen. Hatch: Religious Freedom, Not Birth Control, Is The Real Issue

By Matt Cover | March 6, 2012 | 10:09 PM EST

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). ( Starr)

( – Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said that religious freedom, not the cost of contraceptives, was the real issue behind the controversy surrounding activist Sandra Fluke, who testified before a Democrat House panel that birth control can cost more than $3,000 for a woman in law school.

Fluke, a 30-year-old student at Georgetown Law school, testified before the House Democratic Steering Committee on Feb. 23 in favor of an Obamacare regulation that requires all health insurers to offer abortifacients, contraceptives, and sterilizations free of charge. She also spoke about the apparent high cost of birth control pills for some women who attend the three-year law school.

At the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, asked Sen. Hatch, “Sandra Fluke told Congress that birth control can cost more than $3,000 during law school for a woman whose insurance doesn’t cover it. Yet the Target [store] just three miles from Georgetown’s campus offers a month’s supply of birth control pills for $9 even for women whose insurance doesn’t cover it. Was her testimony accurate, do you think?”

Hatch said, “I’m not an authority on it [but] all I can say is that I haven’t met many women who have had difficulty getting birth control medications. And that’s not the issue. I don’t know anybody who really wants to make that the issue, except the Democrats.”

“The issue is can you impose upon religious institutions, who have very deep-felt moral issues, an obligation to violate their moral consciences?” said Hatch.  “That’s the real issue here.”

Sandra Fluke spoke at a hearing on Feb. 23, 2012 about how fellow students cannot afford contraceptives. ( Starr)

Hatch said that President Barack Obama’s purported compromise on the contraception issue – Obama promised on Feb. 10 that the government would make insurance companies cover the entire cost of birth control, if religious employers did not want to provide it – was inadequate.

“There are lots of ways they could solve that problem without forcing – and you know the president’s suggestion doesn’t solve the problem either because a lot of these religious institutions are self-insured,” said Hatch.

Georgetown Law school is a Catholic, Jesuit-run institution in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has said that forcing Catholics and Catholic institutions to provide insurance coverage for sterilizations, contraceptive and abortifacients forces Catholics to violate Catholic teaching and is a violation of the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment.

In her testimony – she was the only witness – Fluke, a past president of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice, said, ““Without insurance coverage, contraception can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school. For a lot of students who, like me, are on public interest scholarships, that’s practically an entire summer’s salary. Forty percent of female students at Georgetown Law report struggling financially as a result of this policy.”

“One student told us of how embarrassed and powerless she felt when she was standing at the pharmacy counter, learning for the first time that contraception wasn’t covered, and had to walk away because she couldn’t afford it," said Fluke. "Women like her have no choice but to go without contraception."

However, as has reported, a Target store 3 miles from the Georgetown Law school campus sells a month’s supply of birth control pills for $9 for people without health insurance. The Target store, at 3100 14th Street, NW, offers Tri-Sprintec, the generic form of the birth-control pill Ortho Tri-Cyclen.

A CVS pharmacy only two blocks from the Georgetown Law campus also sells a month's supply of the same generic birth control pills for $33.