Mandating Birth Control Coverage: Healthcare Rights Versus Religious Rights

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Deanna Pierson

Wheeling Jesuit University

Policy Paper: Mandating Birth Control Coverage

25-June-2012

President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordability of Care Act (PPACA) was a sweeping reform of healthcare that has not been without controversy. While the legal battles over the mandate to purchase individual health coverage have caught public attention, that measure is not the only part of PPACA that is courting controversy and garnering challenges as to whether or not it is constitutional.

There is a strong debate on the requirement that employer provided health insurance plans cover all FDA approved forms of birth control (including the controversial “morning after” or “plan B” pill) and sterilization. The Catholic faith is the largest and most visible of those in opposition to the law, but is not alone. Jewish, Muslim and some protestant faiths also oppose the measure (Jones & Scheiner, 2012). Employees who work directly for a church, mosque or synagogue are excepted from the mandate based on religious beliefs of the employer, but employees of church affiliated schools, charities and hospitals are not (Cooper, 2012).

The mandate was originally written so that employers would bear the cost of birth control. Religiously affiliated employers objected, stating that such a requirement infringed on religious beliefs which forbid such birth control measures. The federal government took note of the objections and withdrew the requirement for employers to pay for birth control measures. It was replaced by a requirement that employer provided health insurance plans include all FDA approved birth control and sterilization procedures with no co-pays or deductibles (Cooper, 2012). Several states have already had mandates in place to cover birth control with insurance plans, but these mandates have allowed exceptions for religious objections (NCSL, n.d.).

Women’s groups support the measure,...
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