We Told You The Trump Administration Was Coming For Your Birth Control Pills.
Once again, the Trump administration is coming after birth control. Specifically, they are looking to issue rules that would roll back the Affordable Care Act mandate that requires that most employers provide insurance that covers it, which would leave god knows how many women across the country without access. The administration had previously attempted to eliminate this mandate last year, but said attempt was blocked by two federal judges on the grounds that doing so would cause "serious and irreparable harm."
But now they're trying again, because forcing people to have unwanted children just seems like a really fantastic time to them, I guess. If these rules manage to get passed, and if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade as it is expected to, the Right will soon be closer than ever to the future filled with barefoot and pregnant women making them sandwiches that they have always dreamed of. For the rest of us, it will be a pretty shitty time.
These new rules would allow any employer to refuse to provide their employees with insurance that covers birth control if they object to doing so not only for religious reasons, but for "sincerely held" moral beliefs. Like spite.
The Trump administration, naturally, is pushing the idea that this is an issue of "religious freedom." It is not. If health insurance that covers birth control were somehow more expensive than insurance that does not, they might have an argument. It is not. It costs the exact same amount. There is no special discount given on plans that do not provide birth control coverage either. So really, it's about employers wanting to have more control over the sexual activities of their employees. It's about believing that you ought to have the "religious freedom" to force your employees to follow the tenets of your religion whether they believe in it or not.
But much as this is an attack on women, it's not just a woman's rights issue. It's also a labor issue, and a pretty serious one at that.
Employer-based health insurance is part of an employee's compensation. Just as an employer should not be allowed to tell an employee what to spend their paycheck on, they should not be allowed to determine what they can use their health insurance for. It should be as simple as that.
Should Jehovah's Witnesses who run businesses be allowed to deny employees health insurance that covers blood transfusions? Should Scientologist business owners be allowed to refuse to provide health insurance that covers psychiatric drugs? What if an employer is a Christian Scientist or really into faith healing or only believes in homeopathic remedies? Should someone who is a vegan for religious reasons (they very much exist) be allowed to ban their employees from spending their paychecks on any animal products?
Now, it's easy to say "Oh, well no one would allow that!" but prior to 1938, it actually would have been totally legal. A company run by a vegan could have, hypothetically, paid their employees in their own form of currency and required them to shop only at a company store that didn't sell any animal products. Companies -- usually coal companies and lumber companies -- were allowed to pay their employees in "scrip," a form of currency one could only use at a company store. The Fair Labor Standards Act outlawed this practice, not only because it was exploitative and kept people in debt for their whole lives, but because once someone is compensated for their work, once that paycheck is handed over, the employer should not continue to have control over it and how it is spent. Health insurance, if tied to compensation, should be no different.
Of course, a really easy solution to all of this would be to untether healthcare from employment entirely and go single payer or Medicare for All, but I wouldn't expect Republicans to start embracing that any time soon.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse