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Health & Wellness

YouSpeak: Birth Control

Allow employers to deny coverage on religious/moral grounds?

11

Last month, the Obama administration announced that health insurance plans would be required to offer coverage for free birth control for women—a policy that angered many officials in the Roman Catholic Church and led one U.S. senator, Mike Johanns (R-Nebr.), to accuse the president of “trampling on religious freedom.”

Earlier this month, the Senate narrowly voted (51-48) to block a Republican proposal allowing employers and health insurance companies to deny coverage for contraceptives on religious or moral grounds.

The issue of contraception coverage is sure to remain part of the political debate in the months leading up to the November presidential election.

So, in this week’s “YouSpeak,” we ask: “Should employers be able to deny coverage of contraceptives?”

YouSpeak” typically appears each Monday.

If you have a suggestion for a question we should ask, post it in the comments section below.

11 Comments
Nicolae Ciorogan

Nicolae Ciorogan can be reached at ciorogan@bu.edu.

11 Comments on YouSpeak: Birth Control

  • Ny Martin on 03.19.2012 at 7:52 am

    If the question did not concern birth control, but instead, say, whether or not employers whose religions forbid them meat could require employees not to buy meat with their paychecks, we would see it for the ridiculousness it is.

    • Allison on 03.19.2012 at 10:27 am

      The concern is not over employees being allowed to spend their own paychecks on contraceptives. Religious organizations are not telling their employees how to spend their money. If you want to use the meat example, it would be more accurate to say, “should a Jewish organization be forced to provide non-Kosher meals to employees who don’t keep Kosher?” The organizations are not saying employees can’t take birth control, they’re saying that they don’t want to violate their morals to pay for it. An employee can choose if they want to work at one of these organizations. If you want birth control, don’t work for a Catholic charity, and if you want to eat anything you want while you’re at work, don’t work for Hillel.

      • Paul on 03.19.2012 at 1:13 pm

        Going on this metaphor, I do not think it would be right for the government to force a jewish organization to provide non-kosher meals to those who don’t keep kosher. Likewise, I don’t think the government should be able to mandate a religious organization to provide contraceptives if it breaks a religious belief.

  • andrew bogaard on 03.19.2012 at 10:11 am

    I agree this debate is ridiculous, but your analogy is a little off. It’s not that empoyees are told how to spend their own money, but rather how religious orgs. are forced to spend theirs. And what makes this topic so serious is that we’re talking about healthcare.

    But I can’t believe there is much opposition to this campus. The point is, the government can’t help a religious group enforce its agenda. I mean, what is ‘doing the moral thing’ anyways if you don’t have a choice? And furthermore. Contraceptives! Really!? It’s basic healthcare! It’s not a bandaid – its a long standing approach to do a little family planning and practice safe sex.

    I’m real glad the government is enforcing standards in health care, because my boss doesn’t believe in blood transfusions. Catch my drift?

    • Allison on 03.19.2012 at 10:31 am

      1) Blood transfusions are life-saving, emergency treatment. Contraceptives are preventative.

      2) Your boss isn’t a religious organization. One Catholic man who is the CEO of a PC company cannot opt out of providing birth control. Only religious organizations can. And if you don’t like it, you can find a different company to work for, one that better represents your moral decisions. The choice remains with the people.

      • What do you mean? on 03.19.2012 at 11:55 am

        Are you saying preventative medicine is not a priority? LOL

        • Allison on 03.19.2012 at 1:31 pm

          Absolutely not. They are a priority. I’m just saying the examples are not comparable.

      • andrew bogaard on 03.19.2012 at 1:49 pm

        Allison,

        1. Any argument prioritizing one medical service for another seems silly to me.

        2. I don’t care if my employer is a religious institution or not (but by the way, I WAS alluding to a religious institution that employs people). An extension of the Bishops’ case here is that any employer can object to healthcare services on moral grounds. Whether or not you believe an employer’s moral convictions are arbitrary doesn’t matter. Clearly, there must be standards in place. We’re not demanding assisted suicide here, we’re talking about contraception.

        • David on 03.19.2012 at 2:24 pm

          Actually hormonally altering a healthy body to keep it from doing what it is supposed to do is not healthcare it is the opposite of healthcare. Artificially altering a healthy body this way has plenty of negative side effects. Increased risk of blood clots is just one.

          Before someone brings up the pill for actual medical reasons such as regulating an irregular menstrual cycle etc. there is no controversy here since most Catholic employers will cover it for medical reasons.

          Why force companies to pay for something that must be offered for free? You would think breast cancer drugs or heart meds would take a priority if the government is going to force companies to pay for something. I want my asthma medication for free. Why am I being denied equal access?

          Also, this entire issue is ridiculous because Title X already solves the problem. The real issue has always been about violating First Amendment rights. There was no access issue. It is unconstitutional for the government to force anyone to pay for other people’s contraception, abortifacient drugs and sterilization.

          It is heartbreaking that women feel they have to pollute their bodies with pharmaceuticals to be free. What has this freedom given us? Pharmaceutical companies exploiting women and two generations of irresponsible “men” exploiting women and vastly increaded STD’s that the pill does not prevent.

          Thankfully the green sex movement is growing. It is about treating your body like you want the planet to be treated.

  • Erin L on 03.19.2012 at 2:12 pm

    This requirement was essentially already in place for more than a decade, just perhaps not uniformly enforced. In Dec. 2000 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn’t provide birth control were violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents DISCRIMINATION ON THE BASIS OF SEX. The George W. Bush Administration didn’t challenge this ruling, and it is still in effect today. Religious employers with 15+ employees were and are not exempt. (http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/decision-contraception.html)

    Having a baby is a big deal and does a toll on a woman’s body. Women can and have died from childbirth complications, and as such it is important that they have a say in their own personal health. If a hospital pays for male employees’ sexual healthcare but not for female employees’ birth control, then yes I would say that is discrimination.

    Things might be different (1) if Catholic hospitals weren’t largely funded through government money, as most are today; (2) if Catholic hospitals were not such large employers and serving such a large % of the U.S. population; and (3) if preventative contraception were not a recognized way to save women’s lives.

    It’s a tricky business, and I don’t envy the people who have to make the decision on this. As a Catholic Christian I am against having an abortion for myself, and I understand the collective moral basis for not wanting to pay for what may be viewed as immoral behavior. However, as a patient I would like my non-Catholic doctor (female) to NOT die from maternal complications. I would like the non-Catholic lab technicians to NOT be distracted at work from an unplanned pregnancy. I imagine that would affect my health care in a negative way.

  • Jim on 01.19.2013 at 2:54 pm

    BU Today really good YouSpeak

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