Your Contraception Is Your Responsibility

Women can buy houses on their own. They can purchase cars without help from their bosses. Women can grocery shop, book vacations, save for retirement, and in general run their family’s finances—as most do—without assistance from their employers.

But they can’t purchase birth control on their own.

At least, this is the message of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s dissenting opinion, following Hobby Lobby’s recent victory in the Supreme Court.

She writes: “The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage.”

But since when does not paying for something mean denying access to it? By this logic, my employer has been denying me access to gym memberships, home security systems, and food, all of which can be viewed as more essential to good health than birth control.

Or are women just uniquely helpless in this, the most personal aspect of their lives? They can’t have it unless someone else pays for it?

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Whose responsibility is it to pay for a woman’s birth control: her own, her employer’s, or the government’s? If reproduction and contraception are individual rights, as liberals claim, then they are also individual responsibilities.

Rights and responsibilities are two sides of the same coin; you can’t have one without the other. When I was a child, my parents could prevent me from having certain things simply by refusing to pay for them. Now that I am responsible enough to make my own money, I have the right to use it as I please, even on things my parents might not support.

When you make government or your employer the “parent” by demanding they pay for something you could get yourself, you are also making yourself a child, beholden to their better judgment. “You can’t tell me what to do with my body!” liberals cry. “But you have to pay for it!”

Demanding something as a right while denying it as a responsibility is the essence of adolescent petulance.

The Hobby Lobby ruling has set off a heated debate that appears to pit women’s rights against religious rights, but this narrative overlooks the responsibility side of the equation. Women did not lose any rights as a result of the decision. Congress should never have passed a law (Obamacare) making employers 100% responsible for their employee’s birth control choices, including methods that can be seen as ending a human life after it has already been created. Whether one views certain forms of birth control as moral or immoral, contraception itself remains the responsibility of the individual.

Liberals have been quoting Ginsburg’s blistering dissent, but her arguments miss this basic point. She writes: “Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults…

As the woman’s autonomous choice, it is also her autonomous responsibility. It is extremely unlikely that Hobby Lobby’s female employees will be forced to bear unwanted children as a result of this decision. Their policies still cover sixteen forms of contraception, just not the ones with the potential to prevent an already-formed embryo from implanting in the uterine wall. And if they want any of the remaining four, they can pay for them. Hobby Lobby is not trying to stop them.

She continues: Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community…”

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The Catholic Church was already granted an exemption as part of the law. Fortunately, the Supreme Court ruled that you do not forfeit your freedom of conscience when you form a business.

There is a reason the First Amendment protects freedom of religion together with freedom of speech. Our Founding Fathers understood that one’s freedom of religion is not confined to worship alone, but extends to other areas of life as well. Hobby Lobby is not taking any action to prevent employees from using birth control. They simply don’t want to be compelled to pay for (and by extension participate in) an act they find morally questionable.

This is their right. Once I turned twenty-one, my parents could no longer stop me from consuming alcohol. But I didn’t demand they supply me with weekly stockpiles of liquor.

Ginsburg continues: “It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.”

Many life-saving surgeries are also equivalent to (or greater than) a month’s full-time pay, but Obamacare does not require these to be covered at no additional cost. Claiming contraception as an essential preventative service requires us to understand pregnancy as a life-threatening condition. This may be the case for some women, who still have many options under this ruling, but certainly not the majority. If pregnancy were an illness to be prevented at any cost, like colon cancer, people would not spend tens of thousands of dollars intending it as a result.

In the meantime, insurance companies have raised co-pays on essential prescription drugs needed to keep people alive in order to cover the costs of providing “free” birth control. Nothing is ever truly “free.” Someone always pays. In the case of contraception, it should be the one using it.

Perhaps Ginsberg’s strongest argument is that people do not have an unlimited right to religion. She writes: “Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations[?]…

Fortunately, no one is claiming religion as an unlimited right to refuse to comply with the law. In fact, this was specifically stated in the majority opinion. In this particular case, the Supreme Court ruled that there was no compelling government interest in forcing Hobby Lobby to provide four particular types of contraception that can act as abortifacents. It did not grant employers an unlimited mandate to impose their religious views on employees.

“The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield,” Ginsberg worries. A liberal friend of mine concurred, taking to Facebook to express his concern over the “slippery slope” that might allow employers and organizations to pick and choose which services are covered and which are not. They would have the power to become “judge and jury” over the individual’s every health problem. He listed Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and diabetes as conditions employers could claim were the result of individual choices, and thus not subject to coverage.

I was amazed at how well this argument summarized the case against government-run healthcare, which remains the real “slippery slope.” If society has to foot the bill for your healthcare costs, they will naturally demand increasing control over your healthcare decisions. When you give government the responsibility to pay for what happens to your body, you also surrender the right to control it.

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13 thoughts on “Your Contraception Is Your Responsibility

  1. Interesting post, but I don’t understand how a right and responsibility are one in the same?

    If it is every women’s right to have healthcare/contraception, then why should it be that person’s responsibility to set aside the money to pay for it? As I understand rights, they are guaranteed to all regardless of race, gender or class.

    For example, we both have the right to free speech or practice religion. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is our responsibility to force others to respect this right or be responsible for creating an environment that enables us to exercise these rights.

    Your first statement about women buying cars and houses presumes that a women is in the financial position to make such purchases. However many women are not. And if a woman has to make the decision between paying for food, electricity, gas, or other necessities, then you violating her right to live a happy and healthy life.

    We are entitled to these rights as Americans and have the freedom to exercise them as we please. But if the right to contraception becomes the responsibility of women alone, then it’s no longer a “right.” Instead it becomes a choice for women in positions of privilege.

    • Thanks for your comment, Rachel. I said women have the right to make decisions about their contraception. This does not include the right to “have” any contraception they want. Contraception options range from free abstinence to cheap condoms and birth control pills to more expensive IUDs and sterilizations. So all women have options about how they want to prevent pregnancy.

      If you look at our Bill of Rights, it is essentially a charter of negative liberties; ex: “Congress shall make NO law respecting the establishment of religion…” It lists what the government cannot do to you, not what it must do for you. The Second Amendment guarantees my right to bear arms, but it doesn’t say the government must supply me with a gun if I can’t afford one myself.

      That we have moved away from this understanding of rights is at the root of many of our current problems. The federal government has taken over responsibilities that should be left to the family and the individual (for example, encouraging kids to eat healthy lunches). In the meantime, it has shirked its real responsibilities to protect our borders and manage our nation’s finances.

      I don’t understand how forcing a woman to prioritize and make decisions with her money is “violating her right to live a happy and healthy life.” This is the responsibility that comes with adulthood; we have to make decisions, most of which are not easy! People with greater means will always have more options over how they exercise their rights. Kim Kardashian and I both have freedom of speech, but more people listen to what she has to say. It is not the job of the government to correct this. The government cannot take away my right to speech, but if I want people to listen to me, it is my responsibility to persuade them.

    • No on has the right to be happy or even healthy? Where do you draw that conclusion from?! We as Americans are only entitled to life (as long as your mother loves you enough to not abort you), liberty (as long as you dont break the rules of the government), and the PURSUIT of happiness. Your entitlement mentality is what is breaking this nation!.

  2. “If reproduction and contraception are individual rights, as liberals claim, then they are also individual responsibilities.” That’s an interesting assertion. I would assume it’s my individual right to be safe in my home. But if it’s an individual right, isn’t it also an individual responsibility? If so, would you please extend your argument and ask the government for my money back that they spend on law enforcement and the military. Surely the government has no responsibility in protecting my individual right as you suggest. And I think about what our founding fathers might have said about this. Thomas Jefferson famously wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.” I am sure we would all agree that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are all personal rights, yes? Jefferson seems to be making the case that they are. Then why is Mr. Jefferson suggesting that the way to secure these rights is through collective responsibility? (Is that not what government is?) His explicitly argues that they way to secure individual rights (especially the inalienable ones) is not through individual responsibility, but through governmental responsibility.

    • Our Founding Fathers rightly perceived government to be the greatest threat to man’s liberty, yet they were also tasked with creating one. They knew that anarchy was just as harmful to freedom as total government, and so they created the only kind of system that can actually protect the rights of the individual—a limited one.

      I will concede your point that government does have a responsibility to protect our individual rights, but only when it comes to things we cannot do ourselves. We expect the government to defend our borders and apprehend criminals (things we could not do on our own), but not to provide us with locks for our doors and guns to defend our homes. Thus, I have the right to own a gun, but not to start my own military and arrest suspected criminals as a civilian.

      If Thomas Jefferson knew that we had reached the point in our society where we were arguing over whether a woman had a right to demand her employer pay for her birth control, he would shake his head in despair, as we have so clearly abandoned the concept of a government limited to its proper functions.

    • My husband just walked in the door and I asked him, “Whose responsibility is it to defend our home?”
      “Mine,” he replied, without hesitation. We live in the country. If we waited for the police to arrive to stop an intruder, we would all be dead. If we waited for the federal government, they would find only skeletons.
      A former Marine, my husband also clarified that the military exists to defend the nation, not our individual persons. The police mainly investigate crimes after they have already happened. They rarely stop a crime in progress. This is why the Second Amendment is so important!

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