In a not-so-surprising turn of events, President Trump has rolled back a mandate that guaranteed birth control coverage for people who receive health insurance through their employers. Trump’s directive has already been challenged by several states and organizations, including the Washington Attorney General, who filed a federal lawsuit this week.
The debate between so-called religious freedom and reproductive rights has been going on for decades. It’s an issue that people feel passionately about, and it’s easy to lose sight of facts in the midst of strong emotions. Here’s a brief overview of both sides.
Religious conservatives say that employers shouldn’t be required to provide birth control coverage if they have “religious or moral objections.” It’s true that religious freedom is guaranteed by the first amendment, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” But can an employer use the first amendment to justify denying birth control to their employees?
When it comes to health insurance coverage, the religious freedom argument quickly falls apart. Most obviously, the Constitution protects people from attacks on religious freedom—not corporations. Also, the religious freedom clause isn’t a free pass to discriminate against individuals based on gender. There is a variety of legislation in place that protects women from civil rights violations such as gender-based discrimination.
It’s also pertinent that women don’t just use birth control as a means to have sex without getting pregnant, which is what some sects of Christianity take issue with. Birth control is widely used as treatment for menstrual irregularities, polycystic ovarian syndrome, dysmenorrhea, and endometriosis.
In addition to the first Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 is relevant to Trump’s new directive. The Act states that “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” Like the first amendment, this piece of legislation protects individuals, not corporations.
It’s clear that Trump’s mandate not only qualifies as a civil rights violation, but that the first amendment argument is utter nonsense. Touting “religious freedom” incites emotion, but really doesn’t apply to an employer’s responsibility to provide health insurance for their employees regardless of gender.
There you have it: Trump’s mandate is just another power grab by wealthy stakeholders who benefit from corporations securing more power than individuals. It’s a pretty simple debate after all.