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Why the New Birth Control Regulation Falls Short

February 10, 2013

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Last week, President Obama came up with a new alternative to the rule for birth control coverage by religious institutions. Previously, the exemption only was available to religiously-affiliated employers who mainly cover those of their faith. However, the exemption has now been extended to religious companies and non-profits, or in fact any organization or company that “self-certifies that it meets these criteria and specifies the contraceptive services for which it objects to providing coverage.” This means that basically any company can refuse to cover birth control itself if they don’t want to provide it, whether they are religiously affiliated or not. These companies are still required to use their insurance or a third party to provide birth control, which is an important success. However, there are a few problems with this new regulation.

Several anti-birth control businesses and religious non-profits have already started complaining about how this still violates their “religious freedom” to discriminate against women and restrict their right to affordable, legal, pregnancy controlling medication. Whether or not there are loopholes in execution of this rule is yet to be seen. Further, as the Nation displays in their graphic, there is still a complete exemption for churches and houses of worship. And as the Daily Kos points out, the government’s response to religious outcry places an unfair barrier between birth control and the rest of health care coverage:

By setting up separate insurance plans for birth control coverage, the federal government is officially endorsing the idea that reproductive health care is separate from, you know, health care.[…] Such a concession to the religious organizations further stigmatizes women and their oh-so-mysterious body parts and accepts the inaccurate premise that there’s any validity to objections to basic health care on the grounds that Jesus wouldn’t like it.

Restricting birth control access to Americans and portraying birth control as anything other than legal, pregnancy controlling medication is not protecting religious freedoms of these companies (some of which aren’t even religious!) It is restricting the rights of an important group of hard-working, responsible Americans. Moreover, birth control is crucial to many women’s health, beyond its uses for preventing pregnancy. Giving in to the demands of these religious institutions is denying this basic truth, and displaying the abundance of male privilege in government. Widespread misunderstanding of the varying uses of birth control can only be explained by a lack of female representation.

Given the fact that access to birth control reduces rates of abortion (which most religious institutions abhor) there should be one thing that we all agree on. Regardless of what one’s personal (religious or not) choices are about birth control use, if women are going to have equal rights, and be expected by anti-choicers to be “responsible” about their sexual and reproductive lives, then we need to make it required for every employer to provide birth control to those who need it. And on the long term, we need to improve sexual education. End of story. No one should be able to convince us that their damaged understanding of “religious freedom” gives them the right to police or restrict the rights of others.

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From → Healthcare

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