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Forum: Obamacare and contraception

Birth control pills in dispenser

Birth control pills in dispenser Purchase photo reprints »

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here, readers offer views on two recent letters, one questioning Affordable Care Act coverage of contraception and the other critical of “crisis pregnancy centers.”

Beware of the new ‘golden rule’

Many acts of kindness result when a person follows their religious principles. Things get murky, however, when it comes to forcing our values on others. A recent letter-writer contends that business owners should have the right to deny coverage for contraception and the “morning after” pill if it is against their personal beliefs.

Should it then follow that business owners who do not believe in blood transfusions, or only adhere to holistic approaches to cover illness, or possibly ritualistic animal sacrifice as a means of healing, should be allowed to make employee insurance decisions based on that?

A cynical but popular saying comes to mind: “The new ‘Golden Rule’ is that the one with the gold makes the rules.” If medical care and insurance are going to be equitable, we need to support equal care (and choices) for all. “Equal rights under the law” has no addendum saying “as long as I say so.”

Virginia Canton

West Hatfield

An alternate view of ‘crisis pregnancy’

In answer to a Dec. 9 letter-writer who was addressing crisis pregnancy centers: I respect the human right of her opinion in this matter but must disagree for the sake of the truth and all the unborn children out there who could be adopted.

The truth is that crisis pregnancy centers offer many authentic services: peer counseling, free pregnancy tests, some of them offer ultrasounds, free diapers, community referrals and networking, adoption referrals and support as well as abortion recovery support.

Abortion is not health care and these centers are life-saving organizations that provide young and scared mothers with the encouragement and support they need to not only give birth but to excel as parents.

We need to protect our young women to do the right thing for themselves and their babies.

Mary Cay Andrikidis

Florence

Religion offer no excuse to discriminate

I’d like to correct several misunderstandings in a recent letter to the Gazette. In her letter, the writer states that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, employers are required to provide contraception and the morning after pill to their employees, even when it conflicts with their religious beliefs. She goes on to state that “forcing someone to act against their religion is unconstitutional.”

Everyone in this country is entitled to their religious beliefs. However, when you run a business, there is a separation between you and the business. You are not allowed to discriminate against employees based on religion, race, sex, and other considerations. If my religion allows contraception, then your actions discriminate against me. Religious nonprofit organizations are exempt from this requirement. For profit corporations are required to follow all federal, state, and local laws without exemption.

Where do you get to draw the line? Are religious Jews entitled to ban ham from the company break room? Can a religious Jew require attendance on Christmas because he or she does not celebrate it? Are Christian Scientists allowed to forbid health insurance entirely because it violates their core beliefs? Are evangelical Christians allowed to proselytize in the workplace, as their religion requires? Am I allowed to mock a religion in the workplace because I consider it foolish? The answer to all these questions is no.

I own a business. My and my employees’ religious beliefs have always been considered private matters. I do not force mine on them and expect (and receive) the same.

There is no constitutional requirement as she states. There is only the ban against establishing a state religion.

When you engage in a business that caters to the general public, you have to expect that your employees and your customers will have beliefs other than your own. You are not entitled to force yours on your employees as a condition of employment. If your religion bars contraception, do not use it. Do not require your employees to do the same.

Don Lesser

Amherst

Many misconceptions on use of the Pill

A recent letter-writer states the belief that she should not have to provide her employees with health insurance that covers contraception, on account of her religious affiliation. Many employers agree with her. Their collective assertions, however, are supported by two widely held misconceptions.

The first is the understanding that “the Pill” is used expressly as a means of birth control. In the United States, the Pill was prescribed to an average of 82 percent percent of women aged 18-44 between 2006 and 2008 according to the Centers for Disease Control. This is about 50 million women. While it is true that many of these scripts relate to family planning, many are prescribed for alternative reasons. “Birth control” serves to regulate the female body’s hormonal cycle and fluctuations within that cycle have the potential to serve as triggers significantly worsening the symptoms experienced by patients with systemic illnesses, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease and chronic kidney failure.

The second misconception, held by many religious employers, lies in the nature of the Constitution’s call for Freedom of Religion. This ruling gives individuals the right to define and follow their own beliefs -- not to define the beliefs (and subsequent actions) of others. The letter-writer has every right to decline taking contraceptive medications herself. She does not have the right to deny them to those who need them.

As to the assertion that the Pill “is so affordable any woman should be able to afford it on her own” -- in today’s climate of widespread economic disparity, this is simply not true.

Birth control is designed to give women control over their bodies; it is up to each one of them, as individuals, to accept or decline it.

Kendra Ashley Rowan

Florence

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