The debate about birth control has raged on for years and years, and it has shown no signs of abating any time soon. Is it ethical or not, whether through contraceptives, coitus interruptus, or abortion? That is the raging question, and everyone seems to have their own opinions and arguments regarding the issue.
Now, it is all well and good as long as the debate remains academic and religious in nature, but when governments decide to interfere and make these issues a matter of official policy, problems larger than mere arguments tend to arise with far reaching consequences. One such case recently involves the birth control plea submitted by the Wheaton College, and it is a prime example of the concerns this debate can spawn.
The Contraception Plea
The evangelical college from Illinois objected to having to pay for contraceptives as part of its health plan, citing a violation of its religious beliefs as the reason for not wanting to fill out a government form. Wheaton College argued that filling out the form, which was offered to religious non-profit organizations, would in effect transfer the cost of contraceptives to the college’s insurers or third party administrators.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the plea on Thursday, 3rd July, stating that the college does not have to fill out the form, at least for now. Instead, they were instructed to write to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), declaring themselves a religious non-profit organization, and as such, exempt from the payment due to religious objections, as per Obamacare.
The Precedent and the Obamacare Exemption
Obamacare already offers a way out to faith-affiliated colleges, hospitals, and charities, allowing them to fill out Form 700 which enables the organization’s insurers or other third party administrators to pay for contraceptives and birth control. However, dozens of non-profit organizations, along with Wheaton College, have filed lawsuits over the form, arguing that being forced to participate in such a system is still a violation of their religious beliefs.
Yet, the Supreme Court’s ruling on Thursday is neither unique nor unprecedented, as the Hobby Lobby Inc. and various other businesses that cited religious objections were allowed to opt out of birth control payments on Monday, 30th June.
The Split in the Court
The Supreme Court’s decision was not without controversy however, neither was it unanimous. All three female Justices – Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg – signed a contemptuous dissent following the ruling. They believe the college should have been made to fill the form, and suggested that the court’s ruling was both unnecessary and clumsy.
The Supreme Court’s ruling and the resultant division among the Justices will only serve to add further fuel to ongoing Affordable Care Act legal battle, and while no end to this debate is in sight, this most recent ruling is certainly a feather in the cap for religious non-profit organizations.