The Right’s Falsehoods and Distortions in the War on Birth Control

In the religious right’s war on science and modern medicine, truth apparently is merely an inconvenience that can be cast away with no regard.

An email today from FRC Action (a group affiliated with the right-wing Family Research Council) repeats the falsehood that emergency contraception drugs cause abortions. The email urges activists to insist that the Obama administration withdraw a rule requiring health insurance plans for most employers (other than religious institutions like churches) to cover contraception. “Don’t let the Feds force Christians to pay for abortifacients & contraceptives‏,” the email warns:

“The mandate …  includes drugs that can act as abortifacients such as Plan B and Ella even though FDA approved them as ‘contraceptives.'”

But as we pointed out last week, scientific evidence contradicts the claim that Plan B and Ella cause abortions. From a New York Times analysis of what the scientific evidence shows:

“Studies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, leading scientists say. Rather, the pills delay ovulation, the release of eggs from ovaries that occurs before eggs are fertilized, and some pills also thicken cervical mucus so sperm have trouble swimming. It turns out that the politically charged debate over morning-after pills and abortion, a divisive issue in this election year, is probably rooted in outdated or incorrect scientific guesses about how the pills work. Because they block creation of fertilized eggs, they would not meet abortion opponents’ definition of abortion-inducing drugs.”

FRC Action’s email goes on to point out other methods and procedures that religious employers should have the right to refuse to include in insurance coverage for their employees, such as other forms of birth control, including IUDs and surgical sterilizations. The costs of birth control, the group claims, “will be paid by someone, and the cost will be shifted to the premiums of the religious employer and employees.”

But research shows that excluding coverage for contraception actually increases costs for insurers and the employers who cover the premiums for their employees:

“The truth is that both insurers and employers who self-insure save money in the long run by covering contraception. So much money is saved that it makes financial sense to waive co-pays and deductibles. A 2000 study by the National Business Group on Health estimates that not providing contraceptive coverage in employee health plans winds up costing employers 15% to 17% more than providing such coverage.

…(I)f an insurer makes birth control totally free for all of its customers, it avoids having to reimburse them for countless unplanned pregnancies and births. Overall, then, it’s cheaper for the insurer to pay a little upfront to save a ton down the line.”

FRC Action argues, essentially, that an employers’ religious objections should be sufficient for dictating what methods and procedures will be covered by their workers’ insurance plans. But why just stop with birth control? Should non-Catholic employees who are having problems conceiving be denied insurance coverage for in vitro fertilization if their Catholic employer objects? Should an employer who is a Jehovah’s Witness be permitted to deny insurance coverage for blood transfusions for employees who don’t share his or her religious beliefs? Should employers who are fundamentalist Christians deny insurance coverage for the HPV vaccine because they think it leads to sexual immorality? The Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan have violently opposed polio vaccination programs for religious reasons. Should fundamentalist Muslim employers who might share the same beliefs exclude vaccinations from insurance coverage for their workers? There are plenty of other such examples, but we think you get the point.

It’s important that government respect the religious freedom of all Americans. But does that freedom include employers imposing their personal religious beliefs on others who don’t share them?

It’s a complex and difficult question. But the falsehoods and distortions promoted by groups like FRC Action are designed to divide Americans so deeply that finding common ground and a solution is almost impossible.

2 thoughts on “The Right’s Falsehoods and Distortions in the War on Birth Control

  1. It doesn’t seem to me to be complex and difficult, just another attempt by organized religion to impose their narrow beliefs on their followers. We must all stand up for the individual freedoms we have been granted by our constitution. The religious right has an agenda which vastly differs from this view. We all can and should be able to decide on our own which health insurance options we wish to avail ourselves of regardless of who is paying for the policy. Health care is provided as part of the individuals pay package. The employer can no more control how we use our health insurance than they can control how we spend the salary they provide to us for the services we render to them.

  2. Why does lying come so easily to these religious leaders? They’re setting a really poor example for their followers.