Reaction to the HHS rule regarding requiring businesses (including religious-related businesses) that offer prescription drug coverage to cover birth control as part of that has been interesting. There seems to be a real split in how the issue is framed:
For liberals, this is about fair access to important medicine – contraception is vital to the ability of a woman to control her own life, and access to it shouldn’t be dependent on the personal feelings of the woman’s employer.
For conservatives and the Catholic Church, this is about the religious freedom from government overreach – businesses should not to be forced by the government to offer health care that they find morally objectionable (this framing was brought full to the front in this morning’s Congressional hearing, in which Rep. Issa called no women to a debate on the rules because he considers women’s birth control access incidental to the rules).
Let’s look more at that second notion:
Imagine there were a racist business owner who truly and deeply felt that mixed-race marriages were a moral evil. Should that business owner be allowed to exclude from his company’s health and prescription services any care for the children that result from mixed-race marriages?
In this case, the owner has a religious objection to race mixing and doesn’t feel that he should be forced to offer health care to cover the birth and later health costs of such children.
Does this owner have a point under the principles being stated? Does the government have any role in determining whether this behavior is legal and acceptable? Can the government force a racist business to treat his employees fairly in this case?
Would government action in this case be creating an exclusive ‘right’ to health care for mixed-race children? Or would it be ensuring equal treatment?
If you think that the government is overstepping its bounds to make sure that birth control is not exclusively rejected (a practice that has been against EEOC policies since 2000 based on gender equality), by what principle would the government be overstepping its bounds to ensure that mixed-race children must be considered equally to other children?
Note: By using this example, I am not attempting to call conservatives or the GOP or Issa or the church or anyone else in real life a racist – it’s just a thought experiment to inquire how the principles apply.