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Judge Upholds Contraception Mandate

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, October 2, 2012 9:20 EDT
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On Friday, a Bush-appointed federal judge (the first Bush, not the second) ruled in favor of the HHS in a lawsuit over the contraception mandate. This isn’t too surprising; the challenges to the mandate are on really shaky grounds. But I was particularly tickled, because the judge defended the mandate on two arguments that I have been using repeatedly, especially at RH Reality Check and Double X: Withholding the benefit is a violation of the employee’s religious liberty and since the benefit is part of a compensation package, trying to control how the employee spends it on religious grounds is really no different than telling the employee she can’t spend her money on birth control because you sign her paychecks.

The burden of which plaintiffs complain is that funds, which plaintiffs will contribute to a group health plan, might, after a series of independent decisions by health care providers and patients covered by [an employer's health] plan, subsidize someone else’s participation in an activity that is condemned by plaintiffs’ religion. . . . [Federal religious freedom law] is a shield, not a sword. It protects individuals from substantial burdens on religious exercise that occur when the government coerces action one’s religion forbids, or forbids action one’s religion requires; it is not a means to force one’s religious practices upon others. [It] does not protect against the slight burden on religious exercise that arises when one’s money circuitously flows to support the conduct of other free-exercise-wielding individuals who hold religious beliefs that differ from one’s own. . . .

[T]he health care plan will offend plaintiffs’ religious beliefs only if an [] employee (or covered family member) makes an independent decision to use the plan to cover counseling related to or the purchase of contraceptives. Already, [plaintiffs] pay salaries to their employees—money the employees may use to purchase contraceptives or to contribute to a religious organization. By comparison, the contribution to a health care plan has no more than a de minimus impact on the plaintiff’s religious beliefs than paying salaries and other benefits to employees.

Because this is about female sexuality and there’s all these sex-phobic and misogynist arguments being thrown around, the basic issue has gotten somewhat obscured, which is that your boss is not actually your master. Also, your compensation is not your allowance, and they don’t get to dock your pay because they think you’re being naughty on your own time. Conservatives would generally like to give employers more control over their employees, so anyone who supports the plantiffs in these lawsuits because they’re pissed that women are having sex without including them is being an utter fool, as well as an asshole. If the door is opened to allowing employers to control how you use your compensation after you’ve earned it, god only knows what other kinds of restrictions on how you spend your money they’re going to start angling for.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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