The Supreme Court has heard oral arguments about whether or not Obamacare’s contraception mandate violates an employer’s freedom of religion. For those of you who may not have followed this issue until now, there is a clause in Obamacare that mandates that employers provide their employees with health insurance that covers female birth control. The problem is that some religious employers (such as organizations run by the Catholic Church or even just a religious business owner) believe that using contraceptives are morally wrong, especially ones that work by destroying eggs after they have been fertilized (please excuse my lack of medical knowledge). These employers believe that these contraceptives amount to having abortion, and therefore murdering a baby. Based on this belief they claim that being forced to provide these contraceptives to their employees violates their conscience and therefore violates their freedom of religion (which includes freedom of conscience).
Simply put: employers claim that they should’t be forced by the government to provide their employees with contraceptives that the employer believes are immoral according to his religion.
Undoubtedly some will claim that I am a man and therefore am not allowed to have an opinion on this matter of female health, but this way of thinking is ridiculous. When a man is anti-abortion he is told that he has no right to preach about “women’s health issues”. But if a man is pro-abortion, his opinions are suddenly valid and respectable.
But back to the contraception mandate.
First off, our freedoms of religion and conscience are very important in a society that values liberty. We should not be forced to do things that violate our beliefs unless our beliefs unintentionally harm other people. This has long been an important value in American society. For instance, if someone is a Quaker who does not believe in violence, they can conscientiously object to being drafted and sent to the front lines of a war to kill an enemy. I believe that this is a great freedom for a society to have. But mandating that employers provide contraceptives (that they believe amount to murder) violates their conscience because in their minds they are essentially helping someone commit a sinful act.
Those who are for the contraception mandate will argue that if an employer refuses to provide contraception, they are denying a woman access to necessary healthcare and therefore “violating her rights”. He should not be able to “impose” his religion on her by not providing her contraception.
The flaw in this argument is that no one is denying anyone access to birth control. Just because someone does not give you something for free does not mean they are denying you your right to it. My employer does not provide me with food, so does that mean he is denying me my right to food? Of course not. Women who work for a Catholic organization can still take the money they are payed and go buy birth control if they want. No one is stopping them.
Some will say that birth control is too expensive to afford without insurance, but organizations such as Planned Parenthood tells me that without insurance I can get birth control for $15-$50 a month (maybe I am misreading their website but that sounds pretty affordable to someone who is working the type of job that we are talking about the contraception mandate affecting).
Now if I were an employer would I provide my female employees with health insurance that covers birth control? Yes I would because I understand the health benefits that it provides and I do not believe that birth control is morally wrong. But just because my conscience tells me one thing does not mean that I should be able to tell other people what their conscience should tell them. If we are going to live in a free society we need to be able to tolerate the fact that other people have different beliefs than our own and respect the opinions of other people, even if it inconveniences us.
For example, I go to a Catholic school that believes that contraceptives are morally wrong. This means that unlike most colleges, my school does not provide an endless supply of free condoms for its students. Is this inconvenient for many students here? Yes. Do I think that it would be wise to provide condoms to college aged kids to stop the spread of STDs? Probably. But I also understand that a private college should be able to have its own condom policy based on its own religious beliefs without the government declaring those beliefs invalid.
The overall point to all of this is that if we wish to live in a free society, we need to respect other people’s beliefs and freedom of conscience, even if we ourselves don’t share the same beliefs.