Referendum is ‘all about nothing’

By Catholic New World
Sunday, June 15, 2014

Illinois voters who go to the polls on Nov. 4 could be forgiven for scratching their heads when it comes to this referendum question:

“Shall any health insurance plan in Illinois that provides prescription drug coverage be required to include prescription birth control as part of that coverage?”

After all, the state has had a law requiring nearly all insurance plans to cover contraceptive drugs since 2003, and “there’s this little thing called the Affordable Care Act” that requires health plans nationwide to cover contraceptives, the morning-after pill and sterilizations at no additional cost, said Bob Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois.

“The only exceptions to the combined effect of these mandates have been health insurance plans provided by religious organizations who object to paying for contraceptives, abortifacients or sterilizations,” such as Catholic dioceses or parishes, according to a statement from the conference. “In fact, the constitutional questions of whether corporations owned by religious objectors or religiously sponsored organizations (such as Catholic hospitals) are exempt from the ACA mandate due to its infringement on their First Amendment rights are before the United States Supreme Court.”

So the issue the referendum asks about is already covered by both state and federal laws. What’s more, Gilligan said, the referendum itself is advisory, meaning that it will have no effect no matter what the result is.

“It’s like an episode of ‘Seinfeld,’” he said. “It’s all about nothing.”

It appears that the referendum — whose placement on the ballot was approved May 28, three days before the end of the legislative session — might be intended to help bring voters out to vote, Gilligan said.

But other referenda on the ballot will have some effect, so the fact that this one doesn’t could get confusing, Gilligan said.


  • healthcare
  • referendum

Related Articles