Monday, July 30, 2012

A Big Old Can of Worms

By Amy Phillips Bursch, Media Relations Manager

In all the excitement of the Olympics (USA! USA!) you might have missed this bit of news on Friday: A judge in Colorado issued a preliminary injunction so that a Catholic-owned business can ignore the requirement that it provide contraception coverage for its employers, at least for now. Remember: That coverage will soon be mandated under “Obamacare.”

The owners of the business, Hercules Industries, say that providing their employees birth control violates their religious beliefs. The majority of Catholics think that employers SHOULD cover birth control, but apparently that’s not germane to the conversation.

Religious exemptions open up a huge can of worms -- and they won't be tasty worms like these bad boys. (Nomadic Lass/Flickr)
So where do we draw the line? It seems to me that if the courts ruled in favor of this employer, it would open a big old value-sized can of worms. If we’re going to allow for religious exemptions, it seems like these court fights might be next:
  • A Christian employer refuses to cover misoprostol, a drug used to prevent ulcers in people who take certain other medications, such as aspirin. What’s wrong with that? Misoprostol is also used in combination with mifepristone to end an early pregnancy. ABORTIFACIENT!
  • A Christian employer refuses to cover chemotherapy for an employee with cancer. Why? Because the employee happens to be pregnant. Think that sounds far-fetched? It’s not.
  • A Christian employer refuses to cover these medications because they can lower sperm counts and affect male fertility (and therefore go against God’s whole “Be fruitful and multiply” thingy.)
  • A Christian employer refuses to cover all FDA Category X medications when used by women because they might cause birth defects (and subsequent abortions.)
  • A Jehovah’s Witness employer refuses to cover a blood transfusion for their church janitor who got in a motorcycle wreck (and happens to be a Methodist.)
  • An orthodox Jewish or Muslim employer refuses to cover a tissue transplant because the tissue came from a pig.
  • A Scientologist employer refuses to cover psychiatric medications or visits.
  • A member of the Church of Jenny McCarthy refuses to cover any vaccinations. (OK, that’s not a real church, but you get my point.)
Making all of these exceptions sounds like a great way to continue to have a health care system that looks like Swiss cheese. It’s also extremely unfair to women, since most of the “religious” outcry relates to care only women need. How soon before employers decide that there are too many ethical potholes if they hire people with a uterus, so they hire only men?

Universal coverage of family planning isn’t just good for women – it’s good for families, communities, nations, and our planet. It’s too bad some employers seem to be blinded by their beliefs.

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