Religous freedom is not an excuse to limit access to birth control

Image By: Ben Golden and Ben Golden

Having the religous freedom to deprive women of contraceptives is the despicable mindset of the Trump Administration. On Friday, Oct. 6, a roll-back on the contraceptive mandate that was brought up in the Affordable Care Act was introduced. The roll-back allows employers to exclude free-of-charge contraceptives from health care plans due to strong religious objections to the use of birth control. The removal of a mandate that has benefitted millions of women is not about reinstating religious liberty. Rather, it is about controlling women.

Health and Human Services officials stated that 99.9 percent of women on birth control won’t be affected by the removal of the Obama-era contraceptive mandate. However, according to an Obama Administration study, an estimated 55 million women have access to contraceptives without payment because of the mandate. This comes at no surprise, for there would be no reason to retract a rule if it would only affect 0.01 percent of a group of people. Thus, it is unclear where the Trump administration’s HHS officials arrived at such a creative percentage point. Of course, the numbers don’t add up, so it is quite possible that the administration’s prediction of the effects of its own actions are about as accurate as Sean Spicer’s statements regarding the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd.

Can we trust anything that this administration tells us? We can’t be sure. One thing we can be sure of, however, is that Trump and his followers have no regard for women’s health. With a bunch of white, supposedly Christian men in power, this is to be expected. But the fact is that preventing women from obtaining contraceptives is unethical. For Trump, this is an issue of religious freedom. For the majority of educated Americans, this is an issue of discrimination against women.

“We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore,” Trump declared several months ago. That’s all fine and dandy, but there comes a point where a push for so called “religious freedom” becomes religious endorsement. Freedom of religion encompasses freedom from religion, a concept that the religious far-right seems to conveniently forget time and time again. The right to practice a religion does not equate the right to discriminate against a group of individuals on the basis of religion.

This has been declared through the justice system, the most recent relevant case being Colorado Courts ordering Masterpiece Cakeshop and its Christian, homophobic owner to provide services to a same-sex couple. On another note, Christian individuals are not consistently oppressed in this country. They are not a minority. Their views are in the majority and are shared with many politicians in power. If we seriously want to address religious oppression, we can discuss the challenges that groups such as Muslim-Americans face on a daily basis.

This roll-back on the contraceptive mandate is an act against women. It is an attempt to control women. In fact, the entire pro-life movement is an attempt to control women. Being pro-choice is not the equivalent to being pro-abortion. It is about recognizing the fact that a woman’s choice about her body is a very personal decision that one person cannot make for another. It is about realizing that pro-lifers aren’t really pro-life at all - they are pro-birth.

If they were really in favor of the life of the fetus, they would care about it after it was born. They would push for required paid maternity leave in the workplace. They would push for guaranteed childcare. And yes, they would push for free contraceptives to avoid any unplanned pregnancy that could lead to an abortion. But, they don’t push for any of these things because they don’t care about the fetus; they care about controlling women.

Ashley is a freshman intending to major in journalism. What are your thoughts about the decision to roll-back this contraceptive mandate? Is religion a viable reason to limit access to birth control? Please send any and all of your questions, comments and concerns to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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