Just when Republicans in Utah are starting to grasp the fact that contraception is a basic and integral part of modern medicine, the Republicans who run the federal government are trying to take an unfortunate step backwards.
In Utah, Gov. Gary Herbert and some members of the GOP-controlled Legislature have put forward a plan to include long-lasting contraception as a basic part of the state’s Medicaid coverage for low-income households.
It makes humane and economic sense to support those women who wish to delay, space out or completely avoid pregnancy. It allows those women to compete their educations, make careers and take much better care of the families and children they do have, living better and putting significantly less strain on the social safety net.
But, denying both the accomplishment of medical science and the benefits of family planning, the Trump administration the other day announced that it would change the rules of the Affordable Care Act to exclude contraception coverage from the list of preventive and supportive health services that all qualifying plans must provide — when employers who provide their workers with coverage state a religious or moral objection.
People who do not think contraception is a moral option should not use it. Everyone else should have that option put before them, considered the basic part of modern medical care that it is.
Despite the administration’s stated reason for the exemption, this is not a religious freedom issue. No person’s religious beliefs should be considered grounds to deny someone else such a basic component of medical care. Just as no pacifist can escape paying for the F-35, no vegan can avoid a role in federal meat inspection and no member of affected religions can skip responsibility for blood transfusions.
This move displays a serious ignorance of basic medicine. It forgets that birth control pills are a hormone treatment that, in addition to prevention of pregnancy, are useful in treating ovarian cysts, anemia, menstrual cramps, migraines and, odd as it may seem, infertility.
And — oh, yes — it is the best way to reduce abortion, if that’s really what anyone cares about.
The president may feel that he owes the religious right — which, despite the chief executive’s libertine personal life, forms the most loyal core of his shrinking political base — this favor. But by tossing this bone to that particular constituency, the administration stands to do much harm, not just to women, but to whole families whose lives will be negatively affected by the cost — or the loss — of family planning methods that have unquestionably boosted the quality of life for millions.
This is a bad idea. Other political leaders — including those from Utah — should stand against it.