The Clash of Rights: Explaining Attitudes toward a Religious Exemption to the HHS Contraception Mandate
by Kate Garand Holmes, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and National Network of Public Health Institutes, and James C. Garand, Louisiana State University
In recent years, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) contraception mandate associated with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been a contentious issue that has created clash-of-rights claims between advocates of reproductive freedom and advocates of religious freedom. Americans differ considerably in their views toward whether religiously affiliated institutions that object to the use of contraceptives should be granted an exemption to the HHS contraception mandate. This article explores the determinants of Americans’ support for or opposition to the religious exemption. We focus particularly on the effects of individuals’ religious orientations, gender, and political attitudes that generate support for competing rights claims. Using data from a 2012 Pew Research Center survey, we (surprisingly) find little evidence of a gender effect. Rather, we find that support for the religious exemption is driven largely by church attendance and moral conservatism, with adherence to specific religious traditions having relatively minor effects. We also find that support for the religious exemption to the HHS contraception mandate is influenced by political variables (i.e., partisanship and ideology, attitudes toward President Obama, and Tea Party support) and demographic attributes (i.e., number of children in a given household, racial/ethnic identity, education, and age). We conclude that the clash of values over the contraception mandate is driven largely by religion and political attitudes.