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Thursday, Jul 31, 2014
Joe Henderson

Court’s ruling on contraception coverage was fair

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Published:   |   Updated: July 1, 2014 at 09:38 AM

While I support the idea that health care is a right for everyone and not a privilege for those who can afford it, the requirement in the Affordable Care Act that employers pay for women’s contraceptives was too much.

Such a rule mocks those with a deep religious belief that artificial interference with conception is morally wrong, especially anything that might cause a fertilized egg to abort.

So, I thought the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, got it right Monday when it struck down the contraception mandate for some “closely held” for-profit companies; some nonprofit groups had already been exempt from the rule.

The principle of church-state separation was in the background here, just as it is on other social issues like gay marriage. I don’t believe the church can be compelled to sanction gay marriage, but I also don’t believe the state should prohibit it.

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In the same vein, David Green was able to demonstrate he founded Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby, an arts-and-crafts chain with more than 500 stores nationwide, on biblical principles. Although the company employs people of all faiths, I don’t think it’s within the government’s function to tell Green his company must provide coverage that is in great conflict with his personal beliefs. Obviously, not everyone agrees.

“The decision to take birth control is between a woman and her doctor, not her boss. It’s not the role of bosses of private, for-profit businesses to make decisions about women’s health care for their employees based solely on their own personal religious beliefs,” Lillian A. Tamayo, the chairwoman of Florida’s Planned Parenthood PAC, said in a release.

“This ruling does not strike down the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit. Today, more than 30 million women are eligible for birth control with no co-pay thanks to this benefit, and the vast majority of them will not be affected by this ruling. But for those who are affected, this ruling will have real consequences.”

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There are a couple of problems with her statement.

First, the boss isn’t telling the employee she can’t use birth control. The boss is saying that he or she shouldn’t have to pay for it. There are plenty of other places to obtain contraceptives — Planned Parenthood, for one.

This goes way beyond providing coverage for birth-control pills or condoms. One of the covered items was the so-called Plan B drug used after unprotected sex.

That could cause a fertilized egg to abort, and mandating that someone of deep religious conviction has to cover it is the problem. There are millions who believe life begins at conception, and some of them happen to own small companies. Those people say the law was forcing them to potentially subsidize the murder of an unborn.

Interestingly, Hobby Lobby’s lawyers said the company was OK with offering coverage for most other types of contraceptives.

Monday’s court ruling is fairly narrow; larger companies without demonstrable religious counterarguments still have to offer the coverage. A lot of them would anyway. In the battle to attract the best employees, the coverage could be a selling point.

If that’s the case, fine.

Monday’s ruling didn’t outlaw abortion. Contraceptives are still available to anyone who wants them. The court just said there is room for conscientious objection, and it keeps a little separation between the church and state. It should stay that way.

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