Talking Points Memo reports that Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan argued today in Cleveland that the Obama administration’s requirement that most employers include coverage for contraception in health insurance for employees will actually hurt the poor. The mandate does not apply to churches and other houses of worship. Religiously affiliated institutions such as hospitals and charities also may refuse to pay for the coverage. In such instances, insurance companies will be required to offer the coverage directly to employees of those institutions. But Ryan says the mandate still threatens religious charities that help the poor:
Nothing undermines the essential and honorable work these groups do quite like the abuse of government power. Take what happened this past January, when the Department of Health and Human Services issued new rules requiring Catholic hospitals, charities and universities to violate their deepest principles. Never mind your own conscience, they were basically told – from now on you’re going to do things the government’s way.
This mandate isn’t just a threat to religious charities. It’s a threat to all those who turn to them in times of need. In the name of strengthening our safety net, this mandate and others will weaken it.
But how does the mandate threaten religious charities? They’re not required to pay for contraception coverage if they object. Is Ryan arguing that they will close their doors rather than employ people who might get access to contraception coverage directly from their insurance company? In such a case, what business is it of the employer if a woman gets contraception coverage directly from the insurer? Moreover, one important step in fighting poverty is lowering the number of unintended pregnancies among young adults and others who aren’t yet in the position to raise children.
This issue is about freedom, but not in the way Ryan suggests. The question is whether the religious beliefs of employers should trump those of their employees, allowing a woman’s boss to dictate which reproductive health care options she has.