It seems that February has been the month of contraceptive controversy in the United States. In addition to the Susan G. Komen debacle, heated arguments over mandating coverage for contraception under President Barack Obama’s health care legislation pushed the topic to the forefront of public discourse.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act stipulates that all employers provide insurance coverage for free contraception by 2013.
To appease the many critics of this plan, Obama announced that churches would be exempt from the requirement. Employers with religious affiliations, such as Catholic hospitals or Episcopal schools, are also exempt from the mandate.
In doing so, the government has upheld our First Amendment right to religious freedom.
Forcing any employer running a religiously affiliated institution to provide coverage for something that contradicts that religion’s principles is simply unconstitutional.
As post-sexual revolution college students, most of us probably accept contraception and view it as a viable component of a healthy lifestyle.
But the government should not force employers to become the providers. The use of contraceptives should be up to the individual. Similarly, the decision to provide coverage for employees of a religious institution must be left to the employer.
Whether the employees of these institutions are of the same faith as their employers is irrelevant.
What matters is that the institution is founded on the principles of a certain religion. Employees of religiously affiliated institutions often represent many different faiths. But in making the choice to work at a place with a religious foundation, these people tacitly consent to adhere to some of the religion’s defining principles. This tacit consent should include an understanding that their employer will not provide them with something that contradicts tenets of the founding religion.
If a prospective employee wishes to be provided coverage for birth control by its employer, it would be logical for the employee to steer clear of religious institutions that would be averse to providing contraceptives. Otherwise, the employee can seek contraception elsewhere.
As we enter the workforce, we will have to choose which jobs suit us best — and how much value we place on our employers’ ability to provide coverage for contraception.
Though contraception is undoubtedly important to many people and must remain accessible and affordable for all, religiously affiliated institutions and organizations must not be forced to provide it.
Let’s hope we emerge from USC into a work environment that values women’s health and the unimpeded exercise of religion. Using one as an excuse to trump the other is not acceptable in a free society.
Sarah Cueva is a sophomore majoring in Middle East studies and political science. Point/Counterpoint runs Fridays.
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