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Sigh. It’s 2020 and the Supreme Court is debating, yet again, if employers have the legal right to deny employees access to birth control coverage based on religious grounds—a problematic premise that not only discriminates against women but also violates the fundamental separation of church and state. 

Until recently, the general rule in “religious liberty” cases was that people may sometimes seek exemptions from laws they object to on religious grounds, but that they could not claim an exemption that would “undercut the rights of a third party,” meaning you or I or anyone else who may need contraception for a myriad of legitimate medical reasons. 


The contraception debate was resurrected in 2014 with Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014), which held that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) allows employers that object to birth control to offer health plans that don’t include contraceptive coverage. While this ruling allowed for the government to then step in and provide coverage through an “indirect approach,” (i.e. the government could then make a separate arrangement with the company that runs that employer’s health plan to ensure the employer’s workers still receive contraceptive coverage) this too was challenged by the zealous religious right. 


Fast forward to Trump’s 2016 election and, well, it was all downhill by then. By May 2017, Trump had issued an executive order instructing his administration “to address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate.” A few months later, the administration pushed out new rules granting a broad exemption to employers with moral or religious objections to birth control, BIRTH CONTROL, ladies! 


Last July, however, a federal appeals court struck down the Trump administration’s rules but now, given the ultra conservative Supreme court, it is quite plausible that they'll determine that religious objectors should be allowed to deny birth control coverage to women. I wonder if these same individuals religiously object to sex in general, vasectomies or Viagra?

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