National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

Businesses' Contraceptive Coverage Objections Ignore Employees' Rights, Column Argues

Businesses' Contraceptive Coverage Objections Ignore Employees' Rights, Column Argues

March 5, 2014 — "A principle as important as religious freedom deserves more responsible engagement than it's getting" from business owners who object to offering contraceptive coverage to their employees, USA Today contributor Tom Krattenmaker writes in an opinion piece. He notes that the Supreme Court will soon hear oral arguments over a case in which "a Christian business owner" claims his for-profit company, Hobby Lobby, should "be exempt from providing employees with health insurance that includes contraceptives he deems immoral."

He contrasts the upcoming Supreme Court case with a "famous religious freedom drama from the past," a 1971 case involving "a world famous boxer, Muhammad Ali, who faced a stark choice between prison or killing in combat in violation of his Muslim beliefs." The court ruled unanimously in favor of Ali after researching his religion and "the legitimacy of Ali's religious freedom claim."

However, the Hobby Lobby case, like a recently debated Arizona bill that "would allow Christian merchants to refuse service to gay people," makes a "[c]aricature" out of religious freedom, Krattenmaker argues.

He explains that "the Supreme Court has held repeatedly that the Constitution is not violated when society enacts laws, such as non-discrimination measures, that have the unintended effect of limiting some people's religious practice."

He asks, "While the company owners are entitled to espouse what they will about certain contraceptives being tantamount to abortion, what about the rights of the many employees who do not share the boss' moral reservations about [intrauterine devices] and Plan B [emergency contraception] pills (which, by the way, the American Medical Association says are not abortifacients)?"

Further, he writes, "what about the employer's responsibilities to a society that has decided it's good policy to get birth control to as many people as possible through employer-provided health insurance, in part, because it reduces unwanted pregnancies and abortions?"

Karettenmaker concludes, "We ought to ... ask ourselves these kinds of questions the next time we're tempted to claim, loud and proud, that our religious freedom is being trampled" (Krattenmaker, USA Today, 3/4).