Why it's a great idea to force employers to cover birth control

This weekend I was talking to my younger cousin and she told me that her employer refuses to cover birth control as part of her health insurance because he's Catholic.

"Excuse me?!" I asked, seriously angry that any employer could possibly think it was acceptable to impose their religious beliefs on other people.

"No, it's true. It's because he doesn't believe in birth control," she responded.

Imagine how happy I was that I was able to share the glorious news that in a few short months, he wouldn't have the option to decide what health care services she received. The fact that my 20-year-old cousin even has to deal with this sort of discrimination makes my blood boil.

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If services are denied based on a difference in opinion, then I think it can safely be deemed unfair.. I mean, who the heck is this man--who has absolutely no right to concern himself with the sex lives of any of his employees--to deny a basic, preventative health service?

Just because he chooses to read the bible a certain way, doesn't mean my cousin or any other women in the country should pay the price. That's why I was thrilled when the Obama administration announced last summer that insurance companies could no longer charge co-pays on necessary preventative care services.

The Department of Health & Human services, in response to suggestions from the Institute on Medicine, announced that birth control would be included in the list of preventive services shortly thereafter. Although there is still a so-called "conscience clause" which allows employees to deny birth control coverage, it now only applies to religious employers primarily employ those of their own religion, i.e. churches, but not hospitals or universities and certainly not telecommunications chains like the one my cousin works at.

Though they have come under attack since the announcement, the White House has refused to expand the exemption. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently wrote, "our rule has no effect on the long-standing conscience clause protections for providers, which allow a Catholic doctor, for example, to refuse to write a prescription for contraception," in a USA Today op-ed.

I think it's a great idea and a critical move to ensure that any woman who wants access to birth control has it and I think Catholics should agree with me. I mean, what happens when woman don't have access to birth control? Unwanted pregnancies, that's what--and we all know that many unwanted pregnancies lead to to abortions which I would think the Catholic Church should feel much stronger about that birth control. I guess I'm just sick of a bunch of celibate men having such a say in the day-to-day health care of women.

What do you think? Should employers be forced to cover birth control? Do you think we should have access to services without having to deal with co-pays?

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Topics: health care  latino health  womens health