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Op-Ed Wed Jul 18 2012
Today Wheaton College became the first Evangelical organization to join Catholics in filing suit over the HHS contraception mandate. At particular issue is the mandate's requirement that institutions provide their employees with access to contraceptive drugs, such as the "morning after" or "week after" pill. While these drugs do not terminate pregnancies once the egg is implanted, Catholics and some Evangelicals argue that preventing implantation is tantamount to abortion, making these pills abortifacients. While Catholics and Evangelical positions do not completely match on all aspects of contraception (views vary widely throughout Protestant denominations), they do agree on one thing — they want to right to have a position at all.
The Obama Administration has attempted to compromise by requiring that the insurance companies fund these drugs rather than the religious institution, but this is still unacceptable from a religious perspective. These insurance plans are not offered directly to the consumer from the insurance company. They are offered by the insurance company to the religious institution, and then from the institution to their employees. These institutions are still being forced to make something available that they believe is forbidden according to their religious principles, even if they may be seen as acting as a proxy. The government is, in effect, forcing these institutions into hypocrisy; "we disagree with this behavior, but we are going to provide everything you need to participate in it."
I realize that, from a non-religious perspective, the woman's right to choose is extremely important. No one is trying to invalidate that. Contrary to anything Rush Limbaugh has ever said, we can all exist in the same space. In order for that to happen, however, the non-religious must recognize that the faithful should also have a right to choose which moral behaviors they can endorse. In forcing these religious institutions to offer a product that directly contradicts their moral teachings, the contraception mandate is rescinding the foundational American right to religious freedom.
If insurance companies are going to pay for it anyway, why not just make these drugs freely available at any hospital, health clinic, or pharmacy and send the bill to insurance companies? These companies are getting a literally captive market from the Affordable Care Act, it isn't asking much for them to cover this small cost. At least that provides these religious institutions with a minuscule opportunity to stand for their moral teachings by saying that their plan doesn't cover these drugs even though they are readily available for free anywhere else.
Wheaton College's decision to stand for its convictions and join Catholics in the fight against the HHS mandate is a bold statement in support of freedom of religion and choice, and will likely encourage others within the evangelical fold to speak out against a violent government overreach. As an alumnus, I support Wheaton's decision and hope that the Obama Administration will take these lawsuits seriously and find a solution that will protect everyone.
Former Gapers Block staffer Conor McCarthy is a graduate of Wheaton College. He loves everything about Chicago except, of course, the unGodly winters. He founded, edits and writes for The Talking Mirror, an online humor and satire publication. He currently lives in Texas.