Ever since the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that requiring most employers to cover birth control, abortificients and abortions as part of employee health care coverage, there has been a firestorm of attention focused on the mandate. Both secular and religious employers have fought the order, stating that it violates their moral and/or religious principles to pay for these things, which many do not believe fall into the category of “health care.” (See Acton PowerBlog posts here, here, and here.)
Today, August 1, was the date the mandate was to go into effect. However, HHS has given a “stay” for religious non-profits until January 2014. That isn’t good enough for the group “Women Speak For Themselves” (WSFT), founded by Helen Alvaré, Professor of Law at George Mason University. In today’s Washington Post, Alvaré and Meg T. McDonnell give 5 reasons why women care about this mandate. She says, in the words of one of the organization’s members that these women “don’t want anyone buying the phony message the government is selling…that ‘women care more about free birth control than freedom of religion.’” WSFT backed up their convictions by protesting today in Lafayette Park across from the White House.
Among the reasons Alvaré and McDonnell gave for this protest:
- “Women really care about religious freedom…religion provides a rock solid foundation for women’s radical equality with men.”
- “Women have founded, and run or work for, many of the religious institutions the mandate threatens…There is a special delight in working for a religious hospital or school or social service. It comes in part from understanding that, at the end of the day, we are united on matters of faith, even if we disagree about this or that smaller thing. This is no place for the federal government’s heavy hand.”
- “Don’t insult our intelligence. The government and its supporters’ tone and messaging on the mandate is insulting: ‘we are the only voice for women’s health,’ ‘the mandate is scientifically supported,’ ‘religious freedom is secured.’ Birth control is obviously legal and widely available. Reams of literature (and lawsuits) and the testimonies of women point to the risks of some contraceptives and of the sexually uncommitted lifestyle. The manufacturers of ‘morning after’ pills acknowledge that they really can act to kill embryos sometimes. The ‘scientific report’ underlying the mandate was advised mostly by ‘experts’ associated with Planned Parenthood or its former research affiliate. And we understand that coercing religious employers to violate their consciences is coercive, period.”