Designated as one of this year's political stunts, the Obama administration declared that all contraceptives must be provided to women by insurers free-of-charge. There is to be no exceptions made for religious affiliations, including establishments such as denominational hospitals. Whereas this is effective immediately for most health facilities, religious organizations have been granted an additional year to adhere to the required standard. The extension has been called a political stunt because the issue would be readdressed after the president's re-election campaign, allowing addressing the issue to be postponed.
Even if this is just a stunt, its intention of providing access to contraception for all women is important.
According to The New York Times, there was a small exception made. “... church groups said the exemption was so narrow that it was almost meaningless. A religious employer cannot qualify for the exemption if it employs or serves large numbers of people of a different faith, as many Catholic hospitals, universities and social service agencies do.”
This issue raises such controversy because some believe the requirement to be a breach in First Amendment rights. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has expressed their disdain by saying, “[It is] Unconscionable to force citizens to buy contraceptives against their will.”
According to the USCCB, “'In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,'said Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.”
These claims have been disputed by health care professionals and female rights activists reiterating the exceptional benefits women receive from various forms of contraceptives.
Extensive measures were taken in October 2011 when the House passed the Protect Life Act, stating that under the new health care law federal money could not be used to cover abortions. Abortions are now harder to get for women looking to terminate a pregnancy.
Though it is not only important, but also constitutional to respect religious establishment, the expectations must go both ways. Strictly single denomination affiliations should be allowed to govern themselves according to their doctrine if it fits within the restrictions of the law. There cannot be exceptions to the law because if they are made to individuals with extenuating circumstance, everyone will be worthy of leniency rendering the restrictions invalid.
No one is forcing any individual to receive any of the contraceptive services being provided by insurers; the insurers are simply being required to make the option available. If an individual does not believe in the measures they are not required to use the resources. It is simple. Religious establishments often do not serve a single denomination, but serve individuals from multiple backgrounds and belief systems. That is what most beliefs are called to do. By motioning to deny the requirement it seems to show a lack of consideration for different lifestyles.
Regardless of what anyone may expect, people are going to keep having sex. That is the bottom line. By making it harder for women to obtain birth control and terminate a pregnancy, it creates an expectation that women simply should not be having sex unless they are expecting to bare children. That creates an incredible double standard for men and women, as this would limit women’s access to birth control but it does not alter a man's ability to obtain condoms.
Though celibacy may be a highly coveted standard within many organized religions, not everyone chooses to live their life by those practices, and therefore cannot be treated as if they must. By requiring a secular body of people to live by a single religious standard the idea of freedom of religion becomes obsolete.