In the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), there is a provision requiring insurance companies to provide free preventive care, including contraceptives. Opposition to this provision for free contraception grew this month because it was viewed as an infringement on the religious liberty of those employers whose beliefs included a dictate against birth control. I viewed the opposition as an attempt to allow employers to impose their religious beliefs on their workers.
President Obama insisted that this was never intended to interfere with anyone’s religious beliefs. The intention was to insure that women would have access to free birth control no matter where they worked. These religious based organizations (hospitals, schools) do not have to provide contraception to anyone. They simply had to offer the free contraceptive coverage in their health insurance policies. And so the President offered a compromise that allowed religious organizations to opt out of employee insurance coverage for contraceptives and instead would require insurance companies to offer it free to the organizations’ insured workers. But still Republicans protested. These legislators are supposed to be acting on behalf of all their constituents. Since over 98% of women (including most Catholics) have relied on contraception at some time in their lives, we have to assume that most Americans are in favor of this provision. In fact, women are prescribed birth control pills for health issues other than birth control.
Taking it a step further, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced an amendment to the highway funding bill that would allow any employer, regardless of whether it is a religious entity, the right to refuse coverage of any health care service they find religiously or morally objectionable. They want to give employers the power to impose their own religious beliefs on their employees, getting in between Americans and their doctors and taking medical decisions away from the people who should be making them. Is this what Republicans mean by small government?
Recent laws around the country have mandated that a woman have a vaginal ultrasound before having an abortion even though this was not required by her doctor. Government shouldn’t tell you that you have to buy health insurance but they can tell you that you must have an invasive vaginal procedure. This is not an attack on religious freedom but on women’s rights. Is this what Republicans mean by small government?