President finalizes free birth control rule

By Kathryn Hickok,
Cascade Policy Institute

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has released the long-awaited “accommodation” on the so-called “contraceptive services mandate.” The mandate requires nearly all employers to provide birth control, “morning-after” and “week-after” pills, and sterilization without co-payments in their employee health care plans. According to the Obama Administration, the revised HHS rule requires employees of objecting religious organizations to be offered “no-cost contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies” issued through insurance companies or a third-party administrator.

Jim Towey, president of Ave Maria University, which has brought a lawsuit against the mandate, called the rule a “bizarre, new bureaucracy to obscure who exactly is paying for the abortion-inducing drugs and other services covered by the mandate.”

This is an important point for civil libertarians. Pharmaceutical companies will not provide a lifetime supply of free contraceptives to every American woman over the age of twelve out of the goodness of their hearts. The costs will be borne by individual policyholders, for-profit businesses, nonreligious nonprofits, and taxpayers―any of whom may object, and none of whom qualify for exemption.

President Obama pays lip service to the First Amendment and champions freedom of choice, but if he truly respected either, he would stop trying to create a universal entitlement to free birth control. The American way is a thriving marketplace where people can choose health care providers and coverage consistent with their beliefs. It looks as if we’ll get court battles instead.

Kathryn Hickok is Publications Director at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization, and a graduate of the University of Portland.

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