Opinion | Religious freedom does not override bodily autonomy

Employers should not be able to deny workers birth control on the grounds of their religion.


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Woman hands opening birth control pills in hand on the bed in the bedroom. Eating Contraceptive Pill.

Hannah Pinski, Opinions Columnist

In the American Constitution, the first amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise of.” However, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Trump Administration’s decision allowing employers to limit birth control coverage for religious obligations steps beyond the first amendment.

Birth control is part of health care, and religious liberty should not allow employers to discriminate against women and limit access to substantial health care.

First, it is important to understand birth control and why it is considered basic health care. In the United States, around 17.1% of women aged 15-29 use the pill, making it the leading birth control method in that age range, and a month’s supply can cost up to $50. However, these pills are not in your grocery store aisle next to the Advil and Benadryl bottles. Doctors have to write a prescription, and a visit for birth control can cost anywhere between $35 to $350.

In addition to the pill, other methods include patches which cost $30 to $35 per month, implants which can cost up to $1300, and rings which cost $30 to $200 per month.

Some religions such as catholicism condemn these methods because they only believe in “natural” birth control (abstinence) hence why these employers would want to limit coverage for their employees.

But women don’t just take birth control to stop unwanted pregnancy and have sex whenever they want to.

Many women, especially teenagers and young adults, are prescribed birth control in order to control pain during their menstrual cycle. Many young adults aren’t even able to get out of bed despite Tylenol or Advil because of how much pain their cramps cause. According to a literature review from the Cochrane Library in 2009, birth control reduces the amount of prostaglandins which reduce blood flow as well as cramping.

Because of this, birth control can be viewed as part of health care because it provides medical relief for a cycle of a woman’s body that she has no control over. Thus, women should be able to have access to affordable health care provided by their employers and insurance plans. The Supreme Court ruling could result in 126,000 women losing contraceptive coverage, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, costing each person an average of $584 annually.

This ruling goes beyond what the first amendment is supposed to protect in regards to the freedom of religion. It is a discrimination against women who have no control over the natural cycle of their body and rely on employers and insurance companies for health care. In fact, one in three Latina women and four in ten Black women say they cannot afford to pay more than $10 for contraceptive care. Everyone has the right to have access to affordable health care regardless of their gender and the way their body works.

In addition, there are many benefits for women with access to legal contraception. Women who are between the ages of 18 and 21 and have access to contraception make 5 percent more per hour and 11 percent more per year by the time they’re 40 than women who do not. There has also been an increase in college enrollment, securing economic independence, and improving their earnings in the labor force.

Providing access to birth control is essential for employers and insurance companies to do. It has nothing to do with the freedom or practice of religion, and everyone deserves affordable health care despite their gender.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.