Friday, August 2, 2013

Contraceptives and Healthcare: What's religion got to do with it?

A Philadelphia appeals court ruled against a local corporation's right to not offer employees contraceptives under the new healthcare law. The ruling came as a surprise since Hobby Lobby's temporary victory over the same issue some time ago. Now the question is: will this difference of judgment make its way to the federal supreme court?

In both cases, the lawyers for the companies argued that offering contraceptives was against the religious beliefs of the owners. In the Hobby Lobby case, the appeals court  extended the ruling until October 1st, to give the federal government an opportunity to move the lawsuit to the supreme court. Not so with the Philadelphia company. What this means is that Hobby Lobby is now exempt from paying any penalties for not offering employees birth control, but the Philadelphia company will be bound by those penalties.

In question in both cases is what right do corporations hold as independent companies, especially since they are considered separate and apart from their owners. Do corporations have the same rights to freedom of religion as individuals? In the Philadelphia case, the appeals court ruled it did not while Hobby Lobby saw a minor victory. As more companies line up to challenge this portion of the healthcare mandate, the rulings will undoubtedly shift. As of now, these cases are being judged on a state by state basis, but such divisiveness is bound to cause more confusion than anything else. So this is where the supreme court comes in. It will be obligated to decide, once and for all, where to draw the line and create some sort of precedent for future reference.

I'm not a lawyer, so I'll leave the legal work for the experts but I'm not sure why an issue is allowed to grow anyway. Granted owners have a right to run their businesses as they please, but to push their religious beliefs on workers is dangerous. They can argue about the costs of covering every employee's needs, that's understandable. But to state that they're not going to offer a contraceptive because it violates their religious belief is incomprehensible.

At issue here is the morning after pill. The companies are not arguing they don't want to offer any form of birth control pill, only that they are against this specific type of contraceptive because it violates their religious beliefs. The way I see it, we're discussing a health issue, not a religious one. Do we really want more people having babies they otherwise can't afford?

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