ANGLES: Right or Privilege: Should health care plans cover birth control?

Conflicting rights make it impossible to rule birth control payback unconstitutional


image4Democratic quandaries—we can’t seem to shake them. The aged debate for and against a publicly-funded birth control system is another mark of the prime difficulty of collective life: how to reconcile competing voices.

Though I do not agree with the opponents of a subsidized birth control system, I understand their concern. 

My father vehemently disagreed with the Iraq War. He was sickened while watching the invasion because he knew his tax dollars were lubricating the gears of war. 

I am not equating war to a government program intended to help young and low-income women plan their own pregnancies, but simply highlighting that the sentiment is similar.

If we create such a program, we are forcing opponents to subsidize a program that is incongruous with their religious beliefs. And whether we agree or disagree with this belief—and I do disagree with it—we must recognize that their concern is just. 

It is also ignorant to say this belief stems solely from Christian tyranny because Christianity is not the only religion wary of contraceptives. For example, according to the BBC, many conservative Islamic leaders have campaigned against contraceptives. 

It is also misleading to say the opposition overall holds contempt for women because numerous women disapprove of the program.

At heart, the legal question is whether subsidizing a birth control via tax dollars violates the free exercise of religion. And it seems that query must be answered by courts.

The Supreme Court, to a degree, did so in 2014. The court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.that corporations are free to exempt from a regulation its owners religiously object to. Since we now consider corporations individuals, I do not see why the court would hesitate to offer exemption to taxpayers who religiously object to the program. 

How you react to the exemption depends on how you interpret the Establishment Clause and the Free Expression Clause. If you disagree, you see the separation of church and state as protecting citizens from religious tyranny. If you agree, you likely see it as saving churches from governmental tyranny. Regardless, the exemption is faulty.

Human nature proves we will avoid taxes at all cost, even if it means fabricating a religious belief. And I wouldn’t be surprised if many cried exemption not out of an actual belief, but to save some cash. It is sad but true, and will likely succeed because it is nearly impossible to disprove religious beliefs.

At the same time, those who disagree with government-subsidized birth control programs must realize they are in the minority.

In 2012, 63 percent of Americans said they supported the federal requirement that private health insurance plans must cover the cost of birth control, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Those numbers would likely stay the same if the government covered birth control costs.

If the majority so chooses to pass such a program and the courts uphold it without offering exemption, the minority opinion must submit. This does not mean the opposition silently submits. It means it is required to support the program but has the freedom to campaign and run against it. If it assume soffice, it then has the ability to revise or end the program.

This is the beauty of democracy. But we must remember that we all sail on or sink with the same ship.


Jacob Knutson is a junior journalism, English, and political science major from Rapid City, S.D.

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