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Employers should cover birth control in healthcare plans

Cassie Kuhn

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Religious freedom is an absolutely vital part of any democracy, and America is of course no exception. People should be able to worship as they please without fear of persecution. However, for incomprehensible reasons, this logic is being contorted into a justification for the Trump administration’s latest move to allow employers to not cover birth control in their insurance plans on religious grounds.

If you think contraceptives are immoral, don’t use them. In fact, feel free to tell everyone you know how evil you think birth control is. Thanks to the first amendment, you can lament the evils of birth control pills day in and day out if that’s what you want to do. 

But if you’re an employer responsible for providing people who depend on you for the paycheck that pays their bills with health insurance, your personal religious views do not belong in the conversation. You may have not even a shred of doubt in your mind that using birth control buys you a one-way ticket to an eternity in hell. But, making that decision for the women who work for you is immoral and selfish. 

Giving women the option to take birth control — if that’s what’s best for them — is not the same as facilitating or encouraging “grave sin” on the end of the employer, even if said employer feels that taking birth control is in fact a sin. If someone died from the side effects of a medication they were only on because it was made affordable through their employer’s insurance plan, would we hold the employer liable for their death? Of course not; the moral responsibility of the employer extends nowhere near that far. 

Those who support the right of employers to cut birth control from insurance plans might say, “If you aren’t happy, get a new job.” While it is true that nobody is forced to work for a particular employer, the average American lacks the financial security to simply up and leave a job they’re not happy with. The end result is a lot of women stuck in a situation that forces them to either shell out hundreds of dollars that they may not have to pay for their medicine, or to stop taking birth control and suffer the consequences.

While we’re talking about consequences of stopping birth control, it’s important to understand that birth control is not just a contraceptive. Women use it to manage a variety of health problems; the excruciating pain caused by endometriosis and acne are just a couple examples.

Birth control continues to struggle with legitimacy as a form of medication because it doubles as a means of providing women with increased sexual health and agency, which is a problem that is going to have negative, tangible effects on the health of American women. Even if birth control was solely a contraceptive, your religious beliefs shouldn’t make it harder for women to obtain it. 

Like it or not, if you make it harder for women to get birth control, you will see an increase in the number of women who are simultaneously pregnant and not super interested in having children. Especially given the current administration’s attitude towards social welfare, this is not a day and age in which we need women having more unwanted pregnancies. Those unwanted pregnancies will either lead to abortion, or to kids being born to parents who lack the money, time and mindset that are needed for those kids to have healthy and safe childhoods. 

If an employer giving their employees the option of taking birth control can be equated to them promoting contraceptive use, then by the same logic an employer depriving their employees of that option can be equated to promoting abortions. Is the latter really the moral high ground that religious healthcare providers are in pursuit of?

Employer-provided health insurance is supposed to keep employers and their families healthy. If that’s not its designated purpose, what is? The Trump Administration is making it easier to carve out essential chunks of a basic health insurance plan under the guise of protecting employers’ freedom of religion. Even if most employers don’t actually take action and stop covering birth control in their insurance plans, we should be nervous that this is something they now have the right to do. 

This rule may only affect a handful of American lives for now; realistically, it won’t result in an all-out catastrophe. But, it’s absolutely another step in the wrong direction for America. Letting employers decide that they don’t have to include birth control methods on their insurance plans enables them to be unprincipled and selfish at the expense of the Americans who depend on them to pay their bills. 

Cassie Kuhn is a sophomore majoring in math and political science. Her column runs biweekly. 

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Employers should cover birth control in healthcare plans