For an excellent perspective on the legal challenges to the contraceptives coverage mandate being brought by for-profit, secular companies with religious owners, check out Bill Keller’s recent NYT op-ed. A brief snippet:
“Also, courts tend to distinguish between laws that make you do something and laws that merely require a financial payment. In the days of the draft, conscientious objectors were exempted from conscription. A sincere pacifist could not be obliged to kill. But a pacifist is not excused from paying taxes just because he or she objects to the money being spent on war. Doctors who find abortions morally abhorrent are not obliged to perform them. But you cannot withhold taxes because some of the money goes to Medicaid-financed abortion.”
These analogies are helpful, but I’m not sure I’m totally convinced that the employers here are only being asked to make a financial payment equivalent to a tax. Certainly they don’t have to take contraceptives themselves, but they aren’t being asked to just pay money to the government – they are being asked to directly arrange coverage for something they find morally objectionable. So I’m really on the fence here.
Ultimately, I don’t want to be too quick to dismiss the complicity objections raised by these employers as just the same as tax objections that are easily waived off as completely unworkable. We can’t have every Tom, Dick, and Harry refusing to pay taxes for things they find objectionable – but we could come up with a system for accommodating the religious objections of secular business owners: namely the accommodation being offered to religious employers. If insurers can bear the burden of handling contraceptives coverage completely on their own for religious employers like hospitals and universities, why couldn’t they do the same across the board?
And let me reiterate once again that all of this just demonstrates that employers really have no place whatsoever in our healthcare system.