The battle over whether private employers should be required to pay for birth control for their employees is heating up in Ohio. Statehouse correspondent Jo Ingles reports Democrats and women’s groups are blasting Ohio’s Attorney General for a letter he wrote to federal health officials.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine recently wrote a letter to leaders of the federal health and human services department, asking that private employers be allowed to opt out of providing certain types of contraception as part of the health care plans they offer workers. DeWine says employers should not have to provide those items if they are opposed to them on religious grounds.
And that has Kellie Copeland of NARAL Pro Choice Ohio asking questions about where it will end. Copeland asks if the federal government allows private employers to be excluded from federal mandates where birth control is concerned, what else will be affected later on down the line?
COPELAND: "What if you need a treatment that involves something that’s been developed through some sort of stem-cell research, and if your employer doesn’t believe in that? Or if you want to have your HPV vaccine covered, but your employers doesn’t believe in vaccinations? I mean, truly, where does the line end? The idea that your employer is involved, and now politicians are inviting employers in to the doctors office with patients -- it’s just a step too far."
Copeland points out that, in the case of most employer subsidized health care plans, the employee pays a good amount of the monthly premiums.
COPELAND: "Most of us contribute to those health insurance premiums, but the dollars that will decide what sort of coverage we get will be the employer. So even if I’m paying a lot of the premium for my health insurance, my boss is going to decide whether or not I can have birth control coverage based on his beliefs and not mine?
Attorney General Mike DeWine says the new federal requirement is a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was signed by President Clinton when he was in office. DeWine says private employers should not be forced to pay for something that violates their religious liberties. And he says there’s no good reason why the federal government should not allow private employers to get exemptions.
DEWINE: "The Obama administration has already exempted out millions of employers from this law. If you have under 50 employees, you are not covered, you are exempted out. But the one group that they are adamant about not exempting out is people who are exercising their religious freedom -- and it seems rather ironic to me."
DeWine says the slippery slope argument Copeland makes is not valid.
DEWINE: "That would not wash...There’s clearly a compelling governmental interest to have people vaccinated, for example, or to have other things that are provided."
DeWine is not the only attorney general who has asked the feds to make an exception for private employers. Leaders in 12 other states are asking for the same thing.