Religion shouldn’t stop equal health care

The Obama administration recently introduced a new mandate requiring all health insurance plans to include birth control for women.

The original plan required all employers, including religiously affiliated ones, to offer contraceptive coverage. This included institutions like hospitals and universities or any other similar organization that might be in a position to provide this type of coverage.

Unsurprisingly, the policy led to enormous backlash from the Catholic Church and ultraconservatives like House Speaker John Boehner, who described the policy as constituting “an unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country.”

As a compromise, Obama changed his stance so that insurance providers would still provide contraception through religious organizations, but the organizations would not have to pay for coverage. This provides a backdoor for these institutions; they would not have to pay for birth control if they don’t want to, while insurance companies would then have to step in and pick up the tab.

Still unsatisfied, Catholic leaders and many social conservatives are convinced this constitutes a war on their religious rights. That’s ludicrous.

Never mind the fact that birth control is a proven, safe form of contraception and an essential component of women’s reproductive services. We respect these religious institutions and individuals to have their own ideas and choices regarding it — it’s a personal decision that they need to make. But these institutions are providing employment to people who don’t hold the same beliefs, people who, under an employer-based health care system, are still entitled to this type of care. By making it insurance-led as well, there should be no remaining qualms about moral conflicts. Don’t pay for it if you don’t want to, but that doesn’t mean your employees should get shut out.

This is not an attack on faith. Rather, it is a public benefit that needs to be given to all. We don’t condemn personal decisions, but those personal decisions should not dictate what an entire nation needs or believes.