Monday, February 4, 2013

The Contraception Mandate...

...or, "Why I Won't Shop at Hobby Lobby".  

If you have your ear at all to political news lately, you'll notice the 'contraception mandate' popping up over and over.  The argument has been going on for awhile now, but it's slightly fresh news now that the Obama administration's new rules on mandate exceptions have come out.  Under the original rules, only churches were exempt from having to pay for their employees' insurance policies to cover contraception.  Under the new rules...well, let me give you this quote from an interview on The Pew Forum's website...
"The newly proposed rules apply to those religious nonprofits, such as schools, hospitals and social service providers, that HHS did not intend to exempt under the original regulations. Under the new regulations, these religious nonprofits may purchase insurance plans for their workforce that do not offer contraception services. If they do so, their insurance provider will be required to enroll the nonprofit’s female employees in a separate policy that only provides contraceptive services. The insurer will be required to provide these services to employees at no cost. In addition, the insurer, rather than the nonprofit, will have to administer the policy and cover its entire cost. For religious nonprofits that self-insure, the proposed rules require that such organizations must select a third-party administrator that would provide contraceptive coverage to female employees."  Read more at http://www.pewforum.org/Government/The-Contraception-Mandate-and-Religious-Liberty.aspx
Got it?  Seems okay, yes?  Wrong.  At least, not for private companies like The Hobby Lobby.  Maybe you've heard about them, they're a craft store.  Think Michael's or JoAnn Fabrics, then add a giant aisle of crosses.  The owners of the Hobby Lobby, whose defiance of the ACA (Affordable Care Act) provisions regarding contraception is rooted in their apparently devout Christianity, claim that making them pay - even if indirectly - for their employees' birth control is a violation of their religious freedom.  If you buy that argument, I have a bridge in Alaska that I'd like to sell you.  

Now, not all of the Christian community is agreed on this stance.  Prominent minister, Rick Warren, is a fervent believer that the government's new contraception mandate is an extreme violation of the religious freedom of businesses owned by Christians of a conservative bent...
"When the government starts coercing businesses to violate their religious, moral, and ethical values, that is a flagrant violation of our Constitution,"
Read more at http://global.christianpost.com/news/christians-question-hobby-lobbys-defense-biblical-stance-against-obamacare-lawsuit-87935/#EAdklR6pdW1E7Tap.99 
Note, not people, businesses.  I guess we can all thank the Supreme Court for making corporations into people.  It's important here that what is being discussed here is not the religious freedom of Joe Hobby Lobby and family.  What is being put forward as some sort of egregious violation of religious freedom is that the company known as The Hobby Lobby must not violate the freedom of their employees by denying their access to contraceptives.  Some may argue that not having contraceptives covered in your insurance is not the same as being denied access, but if you've ever been a woman who wanted contraception and had insurance with no contraception coverage you would know that it amounts to about the same thing.  If you are supporting yourself or your family with a job in retail of any kind, the likelihood that you have extra money for contraception is slim.  

The point that needs to be pressed home here in a loud and clear way is that, in the same way that your right to free speech ends at the other guy's nose, so also your right to religious freedom extends to your free practice of religion and not your ability to enforce your religious values on others.  When a business puts money towards their employees' insurance policy it is, in effect, a part of what they pay for the service their employee renders to the business by working there.  In the same way that a business owner couldn't prohibit an employee from using part of their paycheck to buy alcohol or r-rated movies or whatever else they may find to be morally reprehensible, if it is determined that a woman has a right to contraceptive coverage then a privately owned business must provide that coverage.  Just because business owners are conservative Christians doesn't mean that their business is religiously affiliated.  

Though incidentally, I don't even agree with those exceptions...but that's a discussion for another day.