The CONTROVERSY over the so-called contraceptive mandate is being framed as a clash of basic rights: women’s reproductive rights versus an employer’s religious rights. Adam Liptak, in yesterday’s New York Times, wrote that the case opening before the U.S. Supreme Court today “pits religious liberty against women’s rights.”
The contraceptive mandate requires employers to provide birth control as part of their insurance plans. The cases before the high court concern the owners of some for-profit corporations who object to the contraceptive mandate on religious grounds. To be precise, they don’t object to all forms of contraception. They object to contraceptives that “end life after conception” such as the morning after pill and intrauterine devices (IUDs).
About one-half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unwanted, according to an article in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. Reducing unwanted pregnancies would cut risks to women’s health and costs to families and societies. “Contraception is a highly cost-effective public health measure, and the most effective methods are also the most cost-effective,” write the authors. “Unfortunately, the cost to individuals can be a substantial barrier to the use of highly effective methods.” The most cost-effective methods, such as IUDs, “carry a high up-front cost that can present an insurmountable barrier to women who might otherwise want to use them.”
Is “religious rights versus women’s rights” the correct framing of the issues?
Should public health trump religious objections?