Despite the seemingly endless bad press that the rollout of the Affordable Care Act has received in recent weeks, supporters of the Obama administration and “Obamacare” could take comfort in one thing: Aside from Sen. Ted Cruz et al’s blustering, overturning Obamacare was virtually impossible. That is, virtually impossible at the legislative level, something critics of Cruz and his shutdown allies kept reiterating. Overturning it in its entirety is as likely as spotting a unicorn.
Which is why Obamacare supporters should be worried to hear that the law, or at least part of it, is heading back to the Supreme Court. USA Today reports that “The justices agreed to consider whether for-profit corporations whose owners oppose abortion on religious grounds must abide by the law’s mandate that health insurance policies include free coverage of government-approved forms of contraception.”
Of course the language of the above-mentioned article is misleading. There is no mandate that insurers must cover abortion, only contraception as preventative care. That should be a no-brainer since contraception by its very definition is preventative—it prevents pregnancy. Furthermore, covering contraception is much less expensive than covering prenatal care and childbirth, particularly if there are pregnancy complications. Also, as previously covered on The Root, African-American women are some of the greatest beneficiaries of this provision, because our community has much higher rates of unplanned pregnancies, with the high cost of contraception playing a role.
But what is particularly disturbing about this suit is that it raises a number of extremely troubling questions about employee privacy rights. For instance, if a court rules that an employer can decide to deny birth control on religious grounds, what is to stop an employer who is a Jehovah’s Witness from declining to cover a blood transfusion on religious grounds or an employer who is a Christian Scientist from declining to cover chemotherapy for an employee’s child?
This is the reason that all Americans, regardless of whether they are female or of childbearing age, should be invested in this upcoming case and its outcome, and in this debate. We do live in a country founded on religious freedom, but not at the expense of other personal freedoms, including the right to privacy, and the right to determine one’s health care regimen. Hopefully the Supreme Court will uphold this.
Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.