Free Will for All?

Shelby Emmett

Under the Affordable Care Act, employers are required to pay for preventative care services—including birth control. The administration announced late January that churches and houses of worship would be exempt from providing free birth control coverage to their employees. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens from a government establishment of religion, and also guarantees our free exercise thereof. The exemption upset many members of the religious community, in large part because it required religious hospitals, universities, and charities to still comply with the mandate under the 2010 health care law.

On February 10, 2012, the Administration changed course and amended the regulation. Now, employers who object to providing contraception do not have to pay for it or be involved with it in any way. Instead, insurance companies will be required to reach out to women of these employers, and cover the cost of contraceptives instead of the employer.

Healthy Teen Network supports access to effective contraception for all and believes it is necessary to help people of all ages exercise control over their reproductive choices. We applaud President Obama for finding a compromise that allows for this access. We embrace the faith community as important partners in promoting healthy sexual and reproductive behaviors and hope this compromise will promote partnership on their part as well. We recently met a long-time, progressive Black minister who justifies his pro-choice stance by saying that “the greatest gift God gave to us is the gift of free will.” Does this compromise support free will for all?

Shelby Emmett, JD is the Policy and Legal Coordinator at Healthy Teen Network.

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