More political theater at a time when the legislature should be concentrating on creating jobs and funding education.
Birth control is good preventive health care. The highly respected, nonpartisan Institute of Medicine (IOM) understands that birth control is key to improving women’s health and the health of their families. Increased access to birth control is directly linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality, as well as other health benefits and positive health outcomes. Among other things, birth control can protect women against debilitating symptoms of endometriosis and can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.
Women should not be denied access to this benefit just because they work for a religious employer (i.e. hospital, university, or school). Women of all faiths — even Catholics — use birth control. In fact, 98 percent of sexually experienced Catholic women in the U.S. have used birth control at some point in their lives. Access to affordable birth control is also widely supported by the general public. Seventy-one percent of American voters, and 77 percent of Catholic women voters, support birth control without co-pays.
If SB 749 were to become law, thousands of Missouri women would be denied access to no cost birth control. Birth control is not just basic health care for women, it is an economic issue. Without this new birth control coverage benefit, many women would have to continue to pay $15 to $50 a month on top of their premium. This benefit will help thousands of Missouri women save hundreds of dollars each year.
The issue here is insurance coverage of birth control, not the provision of birth control. Nothing in this new benefit requires an organization to dispense birth control or an individual to take it. This is simply a matter of ensuring women have access to affordable preventive care by providing it with no co-pays.
The current federal birth control coverage benefit already includes a sweeping refusal clause, giving an exemption to certain religious employers that meet the following criteria:
have religious values as the purpose of the organization
primarily employ persons who share the religious tenets of the organization
serve primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the organization
are nonprofit organizations
It’s just not right for any employer to dictate whether its employees can or can’t have access to affordable birth control, especially when it’s basic health care. Religious freedom means that neither government nor employers should intrude on individuals’ ability to practice their own religion or faith, including their personal decisions about health care.