Should your boss have the right to keep you from getting birth control? This question is at the heart of two cases now before the U.S. Supreme Court involving a couple of companies whose Christian founders are suing for the right to deny their employees birth control coverage mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Oklahoma-based arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby and Pennsylvania cabinet maker Conestoga Wood Specialties are arguing before the court that corporations have religious rights that should be protected by the Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise of religion. The justices are scheduled to hear the matter in March.
If Hobby Lobby and Conestoga prevail, and corporations are granted religious rights, how far would that go? Already under the ACA, health plans are not required to cover abortion. So what’s next? What if your boss belonged to a religious sect that opposed blood transfusions or HIV treatment? Could he or she then refuse to provide you health coverage that includes those services? The actions of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are exactly why the connection between employment and health insurance must be severed. Without health coverage, birth control can be costly, especially for low-income women.
Fortunately, now that with the ACA, millions of Americans won’t be tied down to their jobs in order to keep their access to health care. But we don’t want to be a society where people who have jobs don’t have access to the kind of medical treatment they need just because their boss doesn’t approve of said treatment for religious or other reasons.
Companies have no right to dictate their employees’ medical treatment, and especially have no right to interfere in their employees’ reproductive health decisions. Instead, companies should be focusing on providing their customers with a good product. We need a healthcare system where the kind of health coverage you get doesn’t depend on whether you have a job or where you work if you do. It should be the sole responsibility of the public – through progressive taxation – to provide health coverage to all.