A businesswoman who has filed the most recent lawsuit against the federal contraception mandate believes that the government must respect her identity as a Catholic woman as well as a business owner.
“I’m a total integrated person,” said Mary Anne Yep, co-founder and vice president of Triune Health Group.
Yep told CNA on Aug. 23 that she cannot separate her identity as a woman, a business owner and a Catholic. The government cannot expect her to “carve out a portion” of herself during working hours, she said.
Yep helped found Triune Health Group in 1990, along with her husband, Christopher, who serves as the company’s president and CEO.
The company was recently named the Best Place to Work for Women in the Chicago metro area by Crain’s Chicago Business.
Yep said that the award, based on an anonymous employee survey, is a testimony that her employees are happy.
“They feel cared about,” she said. “They know their dignity is respected.”
The Yeps and their business are suing both the federal government and the state of Illinois for infringing upon their religious freedom in their business decisions.
An Aug. 23 statement announcing the lawsuit explained that the Yeps “view business as a form of religious stewardship and an integral part of their lives as faithful Roman Catholics.”
However, they feel that their ability to live out their faith in their business is compromised by a controversial mandate that requires employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and early abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
The mandate has been challenged by nearly 60 plaintiffs, including dioceses, religious charities and for-profit businesses.
While certain religious organizations have been granted a one-year “safe harbor” from the regulation, for-profit businesses do not qualify for the temporary exemption and are required to comply with the mandate as soon as they begin or renew their health insurance policy.
The Yeps and Triune are being represented in their case by the Chicago-based Thomas More Society and Jubilee Campaign’s Law of Life Project.
Tom Brejcha, president of the Thomas More Society, explained that the Yeps are challenging not only the federal mandate but also a similar state mandate in Illinois that has been in place for years.
Heated debate over the federal mandate brought the issue to their attention, and they checked their policy, discovering “to their chagrin” that their health coverage had included the objectionable elements without their knowledge, he said.
Now, the Yeps are seeking to correct this oversight and ensure that their company is run in accordance with their religious values.
Yep disagreed with the characterization of those who oppose the mandate as waging a war on women.
“My stance on this issue is that we’re fighting for religious liberty for men and women,” she said.
She explained that it is “unfortunate” that the debate has been framed as a women’s rights issue when “it is definitely an issue of religious freedom.”
Yep asserted that she should be free to live out her faith, not only through her worship, but by answering “the calling to engage in serving our fellow men and women.”
“And that’s what was guaranteed to me as a woman in the Constitution,” she added.
Yep said that she cannot separate the business and personal aspects of her life. Rather, she seeks to live according to the same principles whether she is at home with the family, working at the company or praying in church.
“I’ve worked all my life to become this one, integrated person,” she said.