By: Sean Maguire, Law Intern, Liberty Center for Law & Policy
On July 9th, more than forty senate Democrats introduced a bill to force corporations to pay for all forms of women's contraception. It was called the “Protect Women's Health From Corporate Interference Act.” This bill died quickly, and won't be coming up for a vote, but the Democrats will try to force companies to pay for contraception again. We need to understand why.
The Green family of Hobby Lobby and the Hahn family of Conestoga Wood fought long and hard to win in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision. This bill would have “undone” that decision. It would have required Hobby Lobby and all other for-profit companies to explicitly cover all forms of contraception approved by the FDA. It would also have given Congress the authority to require corporations to cover any other treatments in the future. It would most assuredly have put corporations, and congress, right in the middle of women's health.
This bill is another example of misnamed legislation; it says it would protect “Women's Health” from interference when it would really force corporations to get involved. It would have taken away legitimacy from the highest court in the land by “undoing” the judicial decree that they issued only a month ago. It would have violated religious liberty by forcing people with deeply held religious convictions to violate those convictions when they go to work. It would have limited freedom by forcing corporations to pay for everything that congress mandates.
The more than forty Democrats that cosponsored this bill want every corporation, including closely-held ones, to be involved in women's health - especially in their purchasing of contraception. They wrote the bill to make sure that no employers can “deny coverage of a specific health care item or service” in their health plans.
They failed this time, but they will try again, rest assured. Why do they think that women should have contraception paid for by their employers?
This bill implies that women need these drugs to be equal to men. “In addition to providing health benefits for women, access to birth control has been directly connected to women’s economic success and ability to participate in society equally,” the bill says in its findings section.
The architects of this bill would have us believe that women aren't able to participate in society equally unless they can take these drugs; that women will be treated equally when they contracept. Women shouldn't have to take drugs in order to be treated equally. Equal treatment is something that should be given whether women have birth control or not. This bill wouldn't eliminate or reduce mistreatment of women. Women who have access to birth control and choose not to use it will gain nothing from this bill. The mistreatment of women who get pregnant in the workforce will continue. The Senate should work to eliminate pregnancy discrimination rather than trying to sweep the problem under the rug by giving women drugs.
Furthermore, in the findings of this bill, the bill states, “[w]omen with access to birth control are more likely to have higher educational achievement and career achievement, and to be paid higher wages.” The bill purports that women have to take drugs in order to advance in their education and career. As a matter of public policy, the bill advances the belief that women cannot excel in these fields without birth control paid for by someone else.
However, the premise isn't true. Women don't need to take birth control in order to succeed. Women certainly don't need anyone else to pay for their birth control in order to succeed. There are many uses for birth control, such as treating a hormonal condition, but this bill only thinks about pregnancy prevention. The bill says in its findings that it is the “direct medical costs . . . and indirect costs related to employee absence and reduced productivity” during pregnancy that keep women from success.
This bill also says that women who get pregnant are less productive, and cost employers “15 to 17 percent more” than it would cost them to just provide birth control. The idea behind this bill is that women will be treated equally when they stop getting pregnant and stop costing employers money. Instead of ending discrimination in the workplace, Senate Democrats want to give women drugs and end pregnancy in the workplace.
Women don't need to avoid being pregnant in order to succeed. The early feminists, like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Candy Stanton, accomplished great works in this country while embracing the beauty of motherhood. They didn't need birth control to accomplish their mission. Women today still don't need birth control to accomplish great things. Success without birth control seems strange to Senate Democrats. In their eyes there is only one way for a woman to succeed, and she needs drugs to do it.