Religion may play less of a role in predicting a woman’s positions on reproductive health policy than previously thought.

A new study led by Elizabeth Patton, clinical lecturer of obstetrics and gynecology, randomly selected 2,520 English-speaking women ages 18 to 55 on their views around several policies related to reproductive health. Of those, 1,028 women responded to the survey.

The study found more than 60 percent of women strongly affiliated with Protestant and Catholic religious groups supported employee health insurance plans that cover birth control. Religious affiliation was determined by the women’s self-identification and the frequency of “religious attendance.”

Patton said the study’s authors were motivated in part by the recent controversy around contraception coverage and religious discourse. They noted the recent debate was largely fueled by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell , which challenged an Affordable Care Act provision requiring employer health insurance plans cover contraception. The ruling gave employers the right to deny contraceptive health care coverage to employees if they deemed it against their religious beliefs.

“Common narratives, which have often featured a limited number of voices from within religious groups, have generalized opposition to the ACA’s provisions on reproductive health care across religious affiliations,” the paper stated.

Patton said she hoped to debunk the notion that religious affiliation can be used as a reason for opposing certain types of coverage. She said religion impacts women’s views in complex ways, and it’s important to include the full spectrum of women’s voices on the matter.

“To effectively develop reproductive health policies in this country that serve all women, we need to understand women’s — including religious women’s — perspectives on reproductive health care,” Patton said.

The study reported that those who self-identified as either Protestant or Catholic tended to believe employer health plans should be required to cover contraception. Additionally, 66 percent of Protestant women and 63 percent of Catholic women surveyed supported the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s coverage of reproductive health care in general.

“We found that women had overwhelmingly positive attitudes towards employer coverage of contraception, regardless of religious affiliation,” she said.

According to Benjamin Hawley, priest at St. Mary’s Student Parish in Ann Arbor, the Catholic tradition opposes birth control because it blocks the possibility of new life. Even so, he said he said the issue should rest in the hands of the courts.

“Whether religiously-affiliated organizations in this country may deny birth control options for employees and their families is a legal matter,” Hawley wrote in an e-mail. “Whether birth control could be called a legal right, restricted or open to all, or part of health insurance packages is similarly a matter for our political and legal processes. “

Abagael Adair, a master’s student in the School of Social Work, is the core organizer of Feminist Tables, a campus group that meets regularly to discuss relevant social issues through a feminist lens. Adair said she sees denying birth control and birth control coverage to women is discriminatory.

“All women should have equal access to birth control coverage regardless of others’ religions,” Adair wrote in an e-mail.

Of those surveyed, less than a quarter of women believed that religiously affiliated employers should be exempt from ACA provisions based on their religious beliefs. Adair said exemptions deny women, especially those of lower socioeconomic status, access to basic health care services.

“It is solely the choice of each woman whether she wants to utilize birth control or not,” Adair said. “By denying her coverage, the U.S. government is allowing women to subsidize their employer’s practice of religion.”

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