Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Religious Employment and Birth Control

Hiatus comes to a close after a crazy couple of weeks... which will be followed by a crazy couple of months...

I must be a slut.  Being a happily married woman but without kids, it's no surprise that this is not by accident or an unfortunate medical condition.  Heeding the advice of hundreds of Republican lawmakers, my husband and I have chosen not to have children that we can't afford.  So, we're sluts.  Excuse me, I'm a slut.  My husband merely is acting on his biological urges which he can't be expected to control.  I'm a woman, so I should be above all of this.  (This is the paragraph where I find out whether or not he reads this blog.)

Considering that not having children is still cheaper than having children, the debate over whether or not insurance companies must cover contraception is silly.  Even if Sandra Fluke is correct that birth control costs $3,000 per year, it is still cheaper than the average hospital birth.  If something goes wrong during that birth, then 10 years of birth control will look like a drop in the bucket when compared to the cost of caring for a premature baby.  If an insurance company wants to maximize profits, then they want women on the pill.  The only way it could benefit insurance companies would be in marketing more expensive plans to groups that really, really, really, really want women to have babies like bunnies.  Imagine covering the health care of the Dugger family. 

The only companies in the market for such a health-care plan would be religious institutions.  Anyone whose primary focus is profit would never sign up for a more expensive insurance plan which could result in more employee leaves of absence.  Private religious institutions are the only organizations which could justify the higher costs to their constituent groups.  And, I'm sure you are thinking that their ability to do what they want is protected by the First Amendment, and the Supreme Court would make sure that this distinction is saved from the restrictions of religious freedom imposed by Obamacare.

Or, would they?  I'd say not.  Even with the current court.

NPR had a wonderful run-down on the case law surrounding this controversy, so I won't go over it here.  What I will mention is the decision in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC.  At issue is whether or not a "called" teacher is a minister, and therefore exempt from labor laws that require reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities.  In the unanimous opinion, the Justices decided that there are lay employees, and religious employees.  Religious employees have a ministerial exemption from labor laws, while lay employees do not.  However, the standard of religious affiliation is higher - ministerial employees must receive training from the governing body, adhere to the religious beliefs thereof, and answering a call from God to work through a given congregation.

Applying this concept to, say, a Catholic hospital, and it's hard to make the argument that the doctors, nurses, and technicians are actually ministers, as opposed to lay persons employed by the Catholic church.  As lay employees, it will be difficult for a religious employer to state why they are exempt from a labor law.  Now, the Nun in charge of the children's ward - that's a different story.  No one's making the case that she should be force fed Plan B.  But the janitor sweeping the floor of the children's ward?  That's a different case.  And this is why for all of the moaning, that janitor is probably going to receive free birth control should a suit go before the Supreme Court.

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