Birth Control and Religious Freedom
Banning insurance coverage of abortion is an anti-choice strategy to restrict access to abortion without having to actually navigate the political and legal difficulties of banning the procedure outright, thus violating Roe v. Wade.
This is how the war on agency and bodily autonomy works.
Over the past few years, abortion opponents have been working around the clock to make it too difficult for doctors to provide abortion care by enacting dozens of complicated state-level restrictions that dictate how these services may be performed. Once state legislatures pass tighter restrictions, anti-choice activists can start filing complaints alleging clinics are breaking the new law and endangering their patients. Sometimes they’ll conduct undercover “stings” — posing as a minor trying to get an abortion without telling her parents, or pretending to be a woman forced to have an abortion against her will — in an attempt to catch the clinic staff making a wrong move.
Ultimately, they’re hoping to trigger the state’s agencies to step in and conduct surprise inspections, which, in turn, are expensive and time-consuming for clinic staff who have to spend a substantial amount of their time and efforts refuting these false claims.
This week, Georgia will be the 25th state to forbid abortion coverage on the insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
In fact, the debate on birth control and thus President Barack Obama’s health care law – in a case that pits the religious rights of employers against the rights of women to the birth control of their choice and thus bodily autonomy and agency – is going to the Supreme Court as well this week.
On Tuesday, the court will be hearing arguments in a religion-based challenge from family-owned companies that object to covering certain contraceptives in their health plans as part of the law’s preventive care requirement.
Under the ACA, health plans must offer a range of services at no extra charge, including all forms of birth control for women that have been approved by federal regulators.
Some of the nearly 50 businesses that have sued over covering contraceptives object to paying for all forms of birth control. But the companies involved in the high court case are willing to cover most methods of contraception, as long as they can exclude drugs or devices that the government says may work after an egg has been fertilized.
The largest company among them, Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., and the Green family that owns it, say their “religious beliefs prohibit them from providing health coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices that end human life after conception.”
The other company is Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. of East Earl, Pa., owned by a Mennonite family and employing 950 people in making wood cabinets.
A victory for the companies would prevent women who work for them from making decisions about birth control based on what’s best for their health. If they win, then employers would be able to invoke religious objections under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act to opt out of other laws, including those governing immunizations, minimum wages and Social Security taxes.
Interesting to note is that a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 85 percent of large American employers already had offered such coverage before the ACA required it, raising the suspicion that this may be yet another political stunt by those who oppose Obamacare to attack the legislation from this angle and gut its provisions as much as they can.
The Greens say they have no desire to make health care decisions for their employees, other than, of course, when it comes to sticking their noses into said employee’s vagina and uterus to tell her what she may and may not do with her own body.
One key issue before the justices is whether profit-making corporations may assert religious beliefs under the 1993 religious freedom law or the First Amendment provision guaranteeing Americans the right to believe and worship as they choose. The court could skirt that issue by finding that the individuals who own the businesses have the right to object.
Accommodating the Religious, Once More
I am no legal expert but if the government, through laws and legislation, were to actually grant business owners the right, the legal right, to deny services – or in this case a particular health-care coverage – to people and/or employees whom a religious business owner does not like and objects to if he or she felt that providing those services would violate his or her religious rights, then that would, in fact, constitute the government “respecting an establishment of religion”, which is a clear violation of the First Amendment.
If discrimination remains illegal, except for on religious grounds, then that would open up a Pandora’s box unleashing the intolerance and bigotry of religious people onto peoples’ lives in unimaginable ways with real harmful consequences.
What the Greens and other plaintiffs in this law-suit are doing is demanding a deeply misogynistic piece of legislation to be enacted by the government whereby employers can, indirectly yet remotely, regulate and control a woman’s personal choices as pertaining to her body. It is one of the grossest transgressions of agency and bodily autonomy and would set this nation back a century or more.
The legal precedent that would be set if these religious nut jobs win would not only result in the government having made a law respecting an establishment of religion, but in some terrifying Twilight Zone scenario this would basically just give companies free reign to do with their employees whatever they damn well please as long as it is done under the “right to religion” provision.
After all, what is to prevent the Greens from also not hiring gays and lesbians in any of their stores because it violates their religious beliefs? Or Muslims? Or Atheists? Or unwed mothers?
What if they feel that they also do not want to cover the medical needs for their gay and lesbian or transgender employees, provided they hire them in the first place?
The next thing we know an employer who is a Jehovah’s Witness, for example, will object to having to pay for blood transfusion for their employees and their dependents. Individuals who develop certain types of problems such as leukemia or other things could end up with bills in the hundreds of thousands of dollars or die because they can no longer pay for transfusions. Hospitals and other institutions charge a fortune for each transfusion in blood costs and administrative costs.
Such a piece of legislation would essentially grant an employer the right to make health-care decisions for their employees, including taking away a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions especially as pertaining to her reproductive choices.
I want to point out that no one ever questions paying for maladies and situations which only affect men such as for erectile dysfunction drugs, prostate treatments and penis pumps. But women are always placed in a special category (almost as if being a woman was a pre-existing condition) to be either charged higher premiums or routinely have services they need questioned, scrutinized and right out denied.
Lack of access to abortion is directly linked with income whereby women who attempt to get abortions but are denied have been found to be three times as likely to fall into poverty than those whose efforts were not blocked.
Pro-Birth Not The Same As Pro-Life
A few weeks ago I talked about the common misconception that people who claim to be pro-life are, in fact, merely pro-birth because wanting a child to be born but then not giving a damn what happens to it once it is out of the womb is unequivocally not pro-life but, it is, in fact, hostile to life.
If the Greens really are “pro-life” and care about doing the right thing as dictated by their faith, then maybe they should start with emulating their number one Messiah, Jesus, by being generous and fair to their employees, which includes more than just doing the bare minimum in terms of pay and benefits to stay competitive.
If you care about life, as you proclaim, then maybe you should consider paying your living, breathing and grown employees livable wages, plus health-care benefits, vacation time, sick time, disability pay and a host of other things that make life livable and bearable for people, not to mention that are the decent thing to do.
Why is it that religious people who oppose abortion and claim to be so much pro-life are only so for some accumulation of cells in the gestation period but somehow lose all that care when it comes to the actual person carrying such an accumulation of cells in the gestation period.
Will you, dear Green family, make sure that those women you just forced to birth out babies they do not want to have, also get paid maternity leave? Will you make sure there is a work-life balance for them so they can both do their job and be there to raise their kids? Will you increase the mother’s pay on a regular basis to make sure it keeps up with inflation and increased cost-of-living so she can take care of this kid and properly provide for it?
Because being a Christian is more than just merely being against abortion.
I really do not see any of the companies who proclaim to be objecting to paying for birth control pills and abortions acting particularly Christ-like in many other ways. Their morals just seem to begin and end in a woman’s vagina.
Finally, I find it hard to believe that anyone seriously believes that paying insurance premiums somehow violates their religious beliefs. It is not like the employer would be billed directly for certain procedures, they merely pay the premium. The insurance company pays for the procedures because that is what insurances are for.
If an insurance company were to not pay for the birth control (or abortion), then said employee would be using her wages to buy such birth control, thus Hobby Lobby would still be subsidizing an abortion as employers cannot tell their employees what to do with their wages.
Not that at the end of the day an employer should be given a say in what medical procedures employees may utilize to begin with (this, by the way, is another reason why putting the providing of health care into the hands of employers is such a terrible idea. Between the insurance company that is in it for the money and employers who are doing everything to gut an employees pays and benefits, also for money, the employee gets the shit end of the stick. Access to health care is a human right, because the right to life is a human right, that should not be placed in the hands of entities that merely have a profit motive in mind).
Separate But Equal
Denying certain people a number of rights that others are granted is discriminatory (reminiscent of Segregation and Jim Crow laws), not to mention deeply un-American.
The double standard here is phenomenally discriminatory. If women are denied the ability to make integral choices in their health care for issues which just affect them, then health-insurance plans should have to deny choices and coverage for men for issues which just affect them as well, such as payment for erectile problems and prostate problems. But they don’t.
Far worse, the “right to discriminate” legislation would, undoubtedly, give religious people the “right” to go after everyone and anyone they do not like. This would not just become a law solely addressing birth control. Once you set it into motion, corporations will step in and try to pull all sorts of things under the “right to religion” clause.
This would be legislated hate and discrimination on grounds of religious freedom. It cannot get more intrusive than that.
Why Do You Hate God?
Of course, I do not hate God. Technically speaking, you cannot hate something that doesn’t exist. What I am contemptuous about, however, is the extent to which religious people, and theists in general, use this tiresome accusation and rhetorical as a silencing meme when talking to atheists or critics of religion/god/theism.
Religion is harmful. I have mentioned that before and you know I will never stop repeating it.
Religion is harmful and the above example, which is one among many, makes that point quite clear.
Last week I talked about a bakery in Oregon that refused to bake a wedding cake for a same sex couple stating that baking the cake allegedly violated their religious beliefs and that because it did so, they were subsequently entitled to deny services to such a couple and that doing so was totally ok and not discriminatory at all since it happened under the auspices of “religious freedom.”
Religious people have put everyone on the defense, playing the victims whose rights are being allegedly neglected and stomped on. As the privileged, dominant entity they really believe that they are entitled to their privilege and dominance and that demands for equality infringe upon their rights to subjugate, discriminate, oppress and harm others. And they think they have that right, that entitlement, because it is in the name of god and religion.
So why do I hate your god, so to speak? Because your fucking god is meddling in my life everyday resulting in my rights as a woman and human being to be regularly pissed on to accommodate your god and faith.
Personally I couldn’t give a rat’s ass if you wanted to believe in hobbits, unicorns, flying pigs, Big Foot, Jesus, Mohammed, or easter bunnies as your personal savior. Have at it. Whatever makes you go through the day.
But the moment you infringe upon my human and civil rights and bodily autonomy because your belief in your savior says so, that is where the buck stops, as they say. That is where I will step in and criticize you and your religion and your messiah and the bigotry, intolerance, ignorance and harm they cause ad nauseum. Teaspoon by teaspoon.
I am tired of religious people meddling in and thinking that somehow their right to religion was a special one and thus superseded other peoples’s human and civil rights.
Freedom From Religion
What all this birth control debacle and employers suing to not cover birth control etc. show is that what Americans really need is a “Freedom From Religion” law to protect people from becoming the victims of religious people and their skewed, backwards and harmful beliefs. It is long past time to tax the damn church that is no longer a religious institution but a political one as witnessed here and with PropH8 in California, NOM, The Family Research Council and Bryan Fisher and all their Missionaries of Hate.
Religion a personal matter that needs to be respected, my ass. Religion is harmful because it continuously interjects itself into other peoples’ lives in really detrimental ways. Criticism of religion, therefore, is not something angry atheists who have nothing better to do, engage in but, more than anything, a public service to protect those directly harmed by someone’s religious beliefs and practices.