Religious Freedom And Birth Control

This week the Supreme Court decided that privately held companies have the same right to religious freedom as individuals.  This means that family businesses like Hobby Lobby and organizations like Little Sisters Of The Poor and the Roman Catholic Church can’t be forced to provide health insurance that covers services that violate their religious beliefs.

This debate has been very difficult for the country.  On the one hand, access to effective contraception and family-planning services is very important for public health.  Preventing unwanted pregnancy is a valuable goal.

On the other hand, the issue is really about who has to pay for these family-planning services.  The Roman Catholic Church has taught for centuries that artificial means of preventing pregnancy (like condoms, birth control pills, IUDs, permanent sterilization and abortion) are morally wrong.  Whether or not YOU believe this isn’t really the point.  The point is that the US Constitution protects that belief and the right to practice it.

First-Amendment-scroll-300x218The Obama Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services have decided that all health insurance policies in the USA must cover oral contraceptive pills, the morning-after pill, IUDs, permanent sterilization, and all other FDA-approved contraceptive measures without cost to the patient.  It’s important to point out that this is NOT a law, it’s a regulation by HHS.  The Catholic Church and a large number of privately held companies run according to the owners’ Catholic faith objected to this.  Hobby Lobby’s suit was the first to reach the Supreme Court.

The press is running amok with this judgment, in my opinion.  They are making it out to be a “War On Women” which is complete nonsense.  Nowhere in any law, judgment or ruling does it state that women (or men) can’t get any family planning service or product that they and their doctor decide is appropriate.  Women are still free to get birth control pills, the morning-after pill, IUDs, vasectomies and tubal ligations.

If a patient’s health insurance doesn’t cover birth control or an IUD and they want them, they will have to pay for them.

I have a hard time seeing this as a tragedy.  Birth control pills are $4 per month for generics at your corner drugstore, out-of-pocket, without insurance.  At Planned Parenthood you can get generic birth control pills for $10 for a year’s supply (or at least you could when I was in college).  An IUD is more expensive up-front but averaged over the device’s five-year lifespan it can actually be LESS expensive than birth control pills.

Truly indigent women will qualify for Medicaid, which covers contraception at no out-of-pocket cost.  At issue, I think, are women who CAN afford to pay $4 per month for birth control pills but think it’s someone else’s job to provide it.

This is the old argument between entitlement and personal responsibility.  I have always come down on the side of personal responsibility.  If you want it, or need it, and your insurance company doesn’t pay for it, I guess you’re writing a check.

PS – I wonder how much money the Obama Administration has spent fighting Hobby Lobby’s and the over 90 other lawsuits over the contraceptive mandate?  If providing free contraception for everybody was the goal, I wonder how many packs of birth control pills that money would have purchased.  Just sayin’…

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