In 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law. The law mandated that employers provide healthcare coverage that included birth control at no added cost to employees. This mandate included a work around for churches and other religious employers to opt-out by notifying the government and they would arrange to provide the coverage without the employer’s involvement. Under this mandate, the number of women with out-of-pocket costs for birth control dropped from 21% to 3%. On October 6, 2017, the Trump administration issued a rule expanding religious and moral exemptions to the birth control mandate for all businesses. With this new rule, any business with religious or moral objections can choose not to provide health care plans that include birth control coverage. Those that object to this change question its legality and warn of public health and economic consequences. Those that applaud this change see it as a victory for religious liberty and believe birth control should remain out of politics.
Those against the new birth control rule believe that it is unconstitutional. Opponents argue it sanctions discrimination through religion, because the new rule allows businesses to use their religious beliefs to deny women coverage that they are legally obligated to provide under the ACA. They also believe the rule violates the constitution through unequal treatment because it impacts women only and not men. Opponents also argue that the change creates a loophole allowing any company to claim an exemption for religious or moral reasons. Physicians warn that the rule could have negative public health implications. Denying women birth control coverage creates a barrier to obtaining birth control, which can lead to unplanned pregnancy where premature births are more common. The new rule could have negative economic consequences as well. For health insurance companies, birth control is much cheaper than the costs associated with an unplanned pregnancy. If denied birth control coverage, the advanced economic freedom birth control gives women is in danger.
While opponents find the new rule unconstitutional, proponents argue it upholds the constitutional right for religious liberty. Many religious organizations objected to the original mandate because they felt forced to fund something that went against their morals or mission. The White House itself said that President Trump’s decision to change the mandate was influenced by his belief in protecting religious freedom. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “This is a president who supports the first amendment, who supports the freedom of religion.” Other proponents of the rule believe that the issue of birth control should remain between women and their doctors, not women and their employers. Lastly, proponents point out that this change should only affect a very small percentage of women. They believe it is unlikely that many companies will choose this option because birth control is cheaper than having a baby.
Should employers be mandated to provide healthcare with birth control coverage regardless of their religious or moral beliefs? Or should they be allowed to opt out of providing this coverage based on their beliefs? What do you think?