Would you be angry if your employer refused to allow your health insurance to cover the cost of your birth control, because it was against the boss’ religious beliefs? The Supreme Court is considering this issue right now.
When Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, it guaranteed by law that all female employees would have the cost of their birth control covered by insurance. Fantastic, right? After all, insurance companies routinely reimburse men for the cost of the men’s “sex” drug, Viagra, as well as for Rogaine, which helps them grow hair on their bald heads. If men can get reimbursed to buy a drug that gives them erections for sex, then surely a woman should be able to be reimbursed for the birth control pill or IUD (intrauterine device) so she can make family planning decisions.
Seems fair. But unfortunately a number of religiously affiliated businesses like schools, universities, hospitals and nonprofits are trying to block their female employees’ access to free birth control. They are objecting to having to fill out a form which enables each particular female employee to get her birth control covered directly from the insurance company. None of her employer’s money will go towards covering the cost of the contraception, and the company will never have any dealings with birth control coverage once that form is signed.
Nevertheless, many of these religiously affiliated companies are claiming that having to fill out that form so women can get free contraceptive coverage is both too great a burden for them and that it still contradicts their religious beliefs. They insist that when their female employees are able to get contraceptive insurance coverage, this infringes on the religious liberty of the company itself! Hmm — so their religious liberty should trump a woman’s right to get insurance coverage for contraception and make her own family planning decisions?!
The Supreme Court heard arguments on this case on Wednesday, March 23, and it was unclear which way the ruling would go. Would the court agree that filling out that form was too great a burden for the religious employers? “Every woman should be concerned that an employer could take away a health benefit that is guaranteed by law. Female employees are supposed to have their insurance pay for their birth control,” explains Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU is a non-partisan, non-profit organization whose mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and the laws of the United States”. Brigitte was in the Supreme Court hearing on Wednesday and believes that we “shouldn’t have to literally pay for our employers’ religious beliefs. You can’t use those beliefs to discriminate against female employees”.
Do you believe that there is a limit to someone’s right to religious liberty, when it allows for discrimination against others — in this case, women?
Think about it. There have been numerous cases this year in which individuals, companies and even states are using the argument of religious liberty in order to justify discrimination. Kentucky clerk Kim Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples even though the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is legal. She insisted that the law infringed on her religious liberty. The state of Indiana passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015, allowing businesses to refuse to serve gay customers because it was against their religious beliefs. In other words, the state gave businesses the legal right to discriminate against gay people.
But getting back to the contraceptive issue. Many women can’t afford the cost of contraception and when their employers refuse to provide insurance coverage, THAT is a huge burden. Sonia Guizar, an elementary school teacher who worked at a religiously affiliated school, was advised to get an IUD by her doctor, but it would cost nearly $1000. “I was afraid to ask my HR department outright about contraceptive coverage because I worried that…it might jeopardize my job,” she wrote for the Washington Post. Sonia wasn’t able to get the IUD and got pregnant with her second child.
Now, she writes, “I hope the Supreme Court recognizes…and protects my right to access the care that we’re promised under the law.”
Do you hope so too, Hollywoodlifers? Should religious-affiliated employers sign the form allowing women to get their birth control covered by insurance, or is that too much of a burden for them? Let me know.