By Kira Zalan |
Last month, President Obama announced his administration’s plan to require religious employers, like universities and hospitals, to cover contraceptives in employee health plans. Obama’s new mandate would not require employers at houses of worship to provide their employees with contraceptives, but his announcement sparked a firestorm in different religious communities, pitting freedom of religion against the separation of church and state.
Obama has since said that he and his advisers are looking for ways to make the new requirements “more palatable” to religious institutions.
Proponents of the requirement argue that 98 percent of women in the United States have used birth control in their lives and that free access to contraceptives reduces unwanted pregnancies and lowers abortion rates. Likewise, they point to the separation of church and state, a key American doctrine, and hold that religious views on contraception have no bearing in the workplace. No one is requiring the use of contraception, their argument goes, only requiring that it be available to those who want it.
Unsurprisingly, Speaker of the House John Boehner and many Republicans have vowed to fight the president’s new policy. “This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country cannot stand, and will not stand,” Boehner said in a floor speech on Wednesday.
Opponents of Obama’s proposed requirement argue that requiring religious people to provide birth control violates religious freedom, another one of the country’s foundational tenets. They say that requiring people to violate their consciences is bad policy and that the president is getting involved in a culture war to stimulate his liberal cabal in an election year.
Should religious institutions be required to cover birth control? Here’s the Debate Club’s take:
Hannah Smith Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
Jeanne Monahan Director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council
Nancy Keenan President of NARAL Pro-Choice America