Some American politicians, journalists, clergy, and lobbyists have been trying to argue that it is a violation of an employer’s religious liberty if their female employees have access to birth control through their earned healthcare package. In fact, an Arizona bill under consideration would make it legal for any employer to fire a female employee if she uses hormonal contraception, again all in the name of the religious liberty of employers.
But what about the religious liberty of employees? What if a Sikh woman employee uses birth control because abortion is against her faith but family planning is approved? What if a Christian woman believes her body is her Lord’s temple and maintaining its health is part of her worship? What if a woman of any faith knows she will pass on serious defects to any children she has and so chooses to avoid inflicting that pain by using contraception? Why do the spiritual mores and religious liberty of these female employees matter less than the religious liberty of their employers?
Religious liberty is for individuals, not institutions. Institutions don’t have souls or morals or brains. They cannot – they are not sentient. Religious liberty is not for the Vatican, a foreign state, to operate unfettered within the United States. Religious liberty is not for employers in their roles as employers. Religious liberty is for individuals.
As an individual, any employer may abstain from using birth control or other health services in accordance with their faith. However, it is not your right as an individual to impose your faith views on others and force them to abstain from using birth control or other health services. Your faith is for YOU, not for your employees.
“But if a woman wants birth control, she can just go work somewhere else,” you might say, but you’d have to be doing so from a position of extreme ignorance about the current economic and jobs climate, and the rate to which healthcare is tied to employment in this country.
Besides that, our Constitution provides equal protection to all individuals, regardless of religious faith or affiliation, especially in terms of employment. You as an employer are not allowed to discriminate in hiring or promotion of employees based on gender or religion. I’m pretty sure both come into play here, when you’re interfering with the religious liberty of female employees.
I have spoken with hundreds of women who have had abortions and thousands of women who use contraception. Some are atheists and some are devout believers. Not one of them wanted her non-related boss’s opinion or spiritual views to override her own when it came to her family planning or healthcare.
I’m not a fan of faith or religion, but I am a supporter of religious and conscience liberties for individuals. Women should be able to decide if and how they will plan their pregnancies, and how to cope with their pregnancies, whether planned or unplanned. If you really want to protect religious liberty, protect the religious freedom of individual women to make decisions for their lives in accordance with their own faith.