Panel: Should all employers provide contraception/birth control coverage at no cost?

By Tracy Simmons

This morning President Barack Obama announced that faith-based organizations will not have to provide free birth control to their employees. Instead,  insurance companies will be directly responsible for providing free contraception.

The change to the administration’s health care policy comes after an uproar from religious leaders, many from the Catholic church, who say mandating religious employers provide free birth control and contraception coverage violates religious liberties.

Still, not everyone is satisfied.

We asked our SpokaneFAVS panelists what they thought.

Should employers be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost?

Sam Fletcher

Insurers need to cover birth control at no extra cost. Obama’s original proposal was good. Americans want it (even a majority of Catholic Americans), there’s an exemption for churches and religious non-profits, and in this tough economy, Americans need it. Not only that, but in some states the same law has been in effect for a decade or more —  without objection from people in those states, religious or otherwise. It’s a utilitarian good in that it encourages parents to raise children when they are financially and emotionally prepared, and like any form of contraception, reduces the overall number of abortions — a compromise that should appeal to religious conservatives.

Faith in America runs and thrives on a social contract that enables everyone in America to practice their faith as they see fit: Constitutional freedom of religion. No one in America should feel imposed upon by a religious belief that they do not share. Catholics, protestants, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists, and others benefit from this great and elegant compromise. If the Roman Catholic Church demands that all Americans — Catholic or not — be obliged by its edicts on contraception, who is to say that all Americans shouldn’t be obliged by Muslim rules of halal, Orthodox Jewish regulations concerning menstruation, or Hindu beliefs about eating meat?

In America, you are allowed to practice your faith openly and without fear of persecution because of a singular and elegant compromise: Your rights end where the rights of another begin. You are free to believe that contraception is sinful, but as an American, you are asked to give the same respect and tolerance for the beliefs of others that are afforded to yourself.

Sam Fletcher

Laura Kipp

Of course! It’s cheaper than paying for an unwanted baby‘s birth and healthcare.  Reproductive needs are one of the most important things healthcare should be covering and birth control should always be covered.  People have to be given a chance to behave responsibly.  And not providing birth control, or ignoring reality, is not going to change it.  On the other hand, making birth control available hardly compels those that don’t want it, to use it.  An argument could be made about the harm chemical birth control can cause, but it is besides the point.  Just like a decrease in high school sex education (abstinence only programs) in this country has led to an increase in teen pregnancy rates. Yet some will still bury their head in the sand.  In summary, whatever leads to less unwanted babies should always be a priority, as unhappy babies don’t go away and aren’t cheap.   It’s an investment for the company if nothing else.

Laura Kipp

Pastor Eric Blauer

I would hope that there will be a number of “Health Care” options for employers that make room for Religious tradition and conviction.

Growing government mandates and requirements are a path towards a greater confusion of separation of church and state in my opinion.

Forcing religious organizations to provide access and coverage to abortion services and other family planning options is guaranteed to create a massive exodus of service providers or a reorganization of mission and services to the general public.

The result of these types of legislative endeavors against religious service providers will be that city and state social services will be crushed by the inflow of people and costs. Taxes will have to be significantly raised to cover services private organizations used to cover.

In a time when city and state budgets are being slashed, this type of civil moralizing is going to produce crippling problems all in the name of progressive social engineering.

Eric Blauer

Mark Kadel

Yes. However if for religious reasons they do not believe in contraception, they should be allowed an exception without fines or penalties.

Mark Kadel

M.C. Paul

Yes they should, for several reasons.

Have we lost sight of the fact that birth control is foremost a healthcare issue? Pregnancy is risky for women, even in our country with all our modern medical resources. A report in 2009 from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, found that about 500 out of the four million American women who give birth every year die during childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications. That’s an arguably small percentage and might not seem to be of great significant — until it’s your own mother, sister, aunt, niece or yourself who dies.

A recent opinion piece by Amy Goodman quotes Loretta Ross, national coordinator of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective in Atlanta addressing the notion that if women can’t get birth control through their (Catholic) employer, they can simply go elsewhere. She says, “This rule (that employers provide birth control at no cost to employees) really allows low-income women, women who are dependent on their health care, to access birth control — women of color, in particular … if you don’t want to use birth control, don’t buy it, don’t use it. But don’t block others who do want to use it, who cannot afford it, from accessing it.”

Birth control pills in particular are often prescribed for myriad women’s health issues beyond preventing pregnancy. Women with irregular periods, including those in perimenopause, are often prescribed birth control pills to regulate their menstrual cycle. Taking birth control pills can decrease the risk of ovarian or endometrial cancer, lessen heavy menstrual bleeding that can lead to anemia and lessen debilitating menstrual pain.

Like any other health related issue, the discussion of who should be taking birth control pills, and why, should be between a woman and her healthcare provider. But that won’t happen if a woman is financially prohibited from purchasing this drug because she is not covered under her employer’s health insurance policy.

M.C. Paul

Thomas J. Brown

If the question were merely should businesses provide this type of health care, then I would say, yes they should. Whether or not the business agrees with the use of contraceptives from a moral standpoint, the decision to use birth control is one that should be left solely at the discretion of each individual employee. Moreover, having employees who are in good health (use of certain contraceptives help prevent the transmission of STIs), and who are not taking leave due to pregnancy, increases productivity and is good for business.

However, the question is not asking about moral obligations, it’s asking about legal ones. Should a business be required to provide such insurance. While there are laws that require businesses of certain sizes to provide health care to their employees, those laws do not mandate which plans the business should choose. Our government is already overreaching in many areas, and a private corporation deserves to make private decisions about how it operates. There are a number of low and no-cost resources available to those whose health care does not cover family planning, as well as for those who lack health care altogether.

To sum it all up, it’s in a business’s best interest to do so, but I don’t think it should be legally mandated. With that said, I’m in favor of social medicine, which I think should be required to provide contraception and birth control.

Thomas J. Brown

Rev. Bill Ellis

We live in a country in which employers are not, on the whole, required to offer health insurance.  So I assume this question applies only to those employers who do offer health insurance to employees.  And yes, if an employer offers health insurance then it ought to cover contraception.  Pregnancy is not a disease, but if we are serious about cutting down on abortion then we need to get serious about making sure that contraception is universally available and very inexpensive.  Our abortion rate is as high as it is not because we are more careless or less moral than, for example, the Scandinavians.  It is as high as it is because we refuse to take birth control for granted, at significant social cost.  The moral dilemmas created by funding contraception are real for some people and institutions, and this isn’t the venue to address those issues, which can be rather complex.  What we can say is that safe and effective contraception is the best way to control population, and prevent abortions.

It gets sticky when the employer is the Roman Catholic Church, or an institution such as a hospital founded and run under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church.  I can see why the American bishops are upset at the idea that such institutions could be required to offer services they believe are fundamental contrary to the doctrines of the church.  I am glad I don’t have to make this decision, but if I did have to make it, I would except those organizations that can prove as a matter of religious doctrine that they are opposed to contraception.

Rev. Bill Ellis

Rev. Alan Eschenbacher

No, not in the current format. Medical coverage is expensive in any form, medications are also expensive, everyone should take some responsibility for their own coverage and expenses. Unless we are going to go to a government operated “medical coverage for all” type of system, which would be very difficult to administrate (not impossible though). All that to say this  — unless we go to that government run system, employers will not stand for mandatory coverages and impositions ; they never have. It is all about costs, profits, greed etc. Doing the “right” thing will not be a factor for 80 percent of employers. The other 20 percent already do the right thing in most cases.

Rev. Alan Eschenbacher

Readers, what do you think?


9 responses to “Panel: Should all employers provide contraception/birth control coverage at no cost?

  1. Eric, the issue at question is birth control pills, not abortion. No one in Washington to my knowledge is asking for an abortion mandate. Providing easy access to birth control pills will actually reduce the costs on families, employers, and insurers should they be effectively used by women.

  2. It was a direct attack on religious institutions in America, a cynical ploy to manufacture a Liberal vs. Christian conflict in the lead up to the election, with the upside for Obama that it might cause the churches to close various outreach programs like hospitals and schools which would “force” the government to step in a provide those services.

    And the boy’s solution is what? To say that the federal government will demand that private enterprises – ones not allowed by LAW to engage in interstate trade – give certain services away for free?!?!?!

    One – that would take a new law which the House will not pass, again a cynical ploy by the Campaigner-in-Chief. Two – it would be further violation of the Constitution by the Obama Regime.

  3. Sam,
    Is abortion or access to abortion part of full spectrum of family planning services? If not, I stand corrected on that aspect of my post.

  4. I could elaborate on how emergency contraception pills are not abortifacients.

  5. Bill,
    You said:
    “The moral dilemmas created by funding contraception are real for some people and institutions, and this isn’t the venue to address those issues, which can be rather complex.”

    Isn’t the very format of blogging and comments meant to be a format for addressing issues? I am confused by your statement, would you elaborate?

  6. Sam, you make some great points, and I agree with a lot of what you are saying. However, you mentioned that you thought that the issuance of birth control pills would seem a great compromise to religious conservatives. I do not think that religious conservatives would consider it to be a compromise. The reason being is that most believe that the pill can cause an embryo to not implant itself on the uterine wall. To religious conservatives who believe that life begins at conception this is unacceptable. To force a religious organization to offer a product that they would consider morally wrong I believe would be the opposite of separation of church and state; not to mention forcing a moral dilemma upon the individuals required to carry out a mandate that they believe would be essentially the equivalent to a death sentence to untold young lives.

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