Protestors collected on Capitol Hill, and all over the country, earlier this week to unite against one thing: President Obama’s proposed mandate that private health insurance policies must provide coverage for birth control. The protestors, apparently completely unaware of the many uses of birth control aside from contraception, believe the policy violates religious freedom.
This rally was associated with over 100 other rallies across the country with the same name. This issue has sparked a flux of religious leaders joining together in networks to unite against oppression of religious freedom. Believers from Orthodox Judaism, Mormonism, and Roman Catholicism all agree that by enacting this mandate, the Obama Administration is attacking religious freedom.
The debate began last year when the Obama Administration was advised by a panel from the Institute of Medicine to include contraception on the list of services that his healthcare plan would cover for women. Though he said he’d allow exceptions for religious organizations, this got both political and religious leaders to decry the exception for religious groups were too limited.
Obama attempted to appease the naysayers by making it so the insurance companies would pay for the employee’s birth control instead of the religious organizations. Bishops, among other leaders, don’t think that is enough to protect religious freedom. The law is still under debate and lawsuits have started in eight states over the issue.
Michele Bachmann, the state representative for Minnesota insinuated that Obama is liar for promising to uphold our Constitution during his inauguration and then turning around and trying to limit religious freedom. She says the heart of this issue isn’t protecting women’s health, rather protecting religious freedom. To a group of supporters, she claimed that Obama is requiring religious people and religious associations to break their beliefs with this health coverage requirement.
Leaders from pro-life groups, churches, and religious advancement organizations have been quick to point out that they believe Obama’s exceptions to the birth control mandate are shallow and an attack on religious freedom. The executive director of the New Jersey branch of the right-wing group Right to Life says that since birth control is already easily accessible and affordable, women’s health obviously isn’t the main issue.
A VP for Planned Parenthood said this follows suit with extremist groups’ history of sacrificing women’s health for their beliefs. She believes they hope to take a big step back when it comes to women’s health and equality in the healthcare system.
Access to affordable birth control is just as important to a woman’s health as something as simple as easily being able to find and know more about BV. Obama’s birth control mandate isn’t just about providing birth control to all women who want it, it’s about allowing women the opportunity to make choices about her health no matter who employs her. The heart of the issue isn’t only religious freedom.
Evan Fischer is a freelance writer and part-time student at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California.