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Court Nixes Church Plan; Afghan Women Denied Care

Saturday, March 6, 2004

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(WOMENSENEWS)--


Cheers

The California Supreme Court ruled this week that Catholic Charities of Sacramento must offer health care coverage that includes contraception for its workers, despite objections based on religious beliefs raised by the organization.

The court ruled 6-1 in favor of applying the California Contraceptive Equity Act that requires California businesses to cover contraception within their healthcare plans, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. This was the third attempt Catholic Charities of Sacramento has made in three years to gain legal permission to deny its 138 workers coverage for contraception.

The Equity Act went into effect in January 2000 in response to studies revealing to the California Legislature that women pay more than men for health care. According to release this week from Family Planning Advocates of New York, studies show that in general women pay as much as 68 percent more for out-of-pocket medical care than men.

Though the act exempts religious organizations, the California court stated that the Catholic Charities of Sacramento operates as a business--their hiring practices are not based on religion and their services extend to clients outside the Catholic religion--and therefore should not be included in the exemption.

A similar ruling was reached in November last year in New York regarding a suit filed by Catholic Charities of Albany. Judge Dan Lamont upheld New York's Women's Health and Wellness Act stating that the charity organization was subject to public rules as it operated as a business, separate from its religious ties, and is supported largely by public funding.

Both of the organizations are appealing the rulings.



Jeers

Medical officials at one of the most sophisticated trauma unit in Afghanistan say that, despite efforts and promises to promote the freedom of Afghan women, many men do not allow their wives or sisters to visit or be treated by a male doctor.

This, no matter whether the woman's injury is minor or life threatening.

Staff at the U.S.-run Combat Support Hospital at the Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, say that of the 600 patients treated there since June 2003, very few are women brought in by men, reports Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Women come in on their own for care but typically do so without the knowledge of their family, doctors say.

In addition, women who are seriously injured often do not speak about their experiences, especially in front of Afghan men. In a recent case, a woman who appears to have been burned alive was brought to the hospital by Afghan officials who suspected she had attempted suicide. Her family, however, refused to give details about the woman or her life and the woman was too injured to reveal her experience.

If her injuries were the result of a suicide attempt, the hospital says, she is one among a growing number of women in Afghanistan attempting to escape abusive marriages via death.

Captain Michael Moyle, the hospital's public affairs officer, told the radio news agency, an independent news service funded by the U.S. congress, that Afghan men are worried that women will be "corrupted" if left in the hands of male medical staff.

-- Emma Pearse.