Healthcare Mandate on Contraceptives Creates Outrage

by on December 6th, 2010
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COMMENTARY | A new healthcare law provision requires most U.S. employers to provide contraceptives to employees. Some church-affiliated organizations are demanding exemption. The new law doesn’t mean that employers have to leave condom-filled candy jars in their break rooms. It doesn’t insist that birth-control pills be placed in dispensers in the restrooms. It also doesn’t require that the morning after pill be placed in petty cash drawers. It simply means insurance companies are going to have to foot the bill for FDA-approved contraceptives — with no co-pays. The controversial RU-486 pill that induces chemical abortions isn’t included as a contraceptive that must be covered.

Still, many Catholic leaders are outraged. The L.A. Times reports that lawyers representing the groups who want to fight this mandate are referring to some contraceptives as “abortion-inducing drugs.” The inclusion of the morning-after pill is drawing the most ire, but there would likely be objections even if it were not on the list. The Catholic Church does not want to pay for something to which it is staunchly opposed. Two colleges have already sued, according to the L.A. Times, but the Catholic Conference hasn’t joined them yet. It will likely follow suit, though. The Times also points out that if the case makes it to the Supreme Court, it will be decided by “a tribunal with six Catholics among the nine justices.”

There appears to be a fuzzy dividing line in this case between the separation of church and state. Hypothetically, the like-minded employees of these church-affiliated organizations wouldn’t take advantage of the free contraceptives, anyway. But of those employees who aren’t like-minded, many certainly will. USA Today points to a government study which indicates that “birth control use is virtually universal in the United States.” But the Catholic church disapproves. The Catholic Letter defines contraceptives in general as “intentionally impeding the procreative aspect of sex” and thus calls their use a “mortal sin.” There is a clause in the law that will allow exemptions. The church itself, for example, wouldn’t have to cover its employees. The reason that the line isn’t so clear is that a church-run hospital or other social entity would have to pay if it serves the general public.

For religious groups who do sincerely believe that the use of contraception is wrong, perhaps they have a good case for not wanting to foot the bill for it. Then again, the whole of society pays a price when teen pregnancies occur or when people who couldn’t afford a small co-pay for contraception are faced with the costs associated with raising a child. If someone chooses to risk pregnancy each time that individual has intercourse, it’s within their rights to do so. But for individuals who choose to prevent unwanted pregnancy by using contraceptives, even if they are employed by a church-affiliated institution, it seems well within their rights to take the pill. The issue comes down to a matter of free will. If the case reaches the Supreme Court, it doesn’t seem likely that the fact that two-thirds of the justices are Catholic will matter much. If they were that biased in their decision-making, Roe vs. Wade would’ve likely been long overturned.

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