The U.S. Isn’t in the Business of Bigotry, Are We?

   < < Go Back

by Terry O’Neill,

from The Huffington Post,

I’m worried about what the next Congress will do do further discriminate against women and limit their reproductive rights.

We’ve already seen how religious conservatives will deny the facts and distort the law to advance their right-wing agenda.

For example, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), which passed unanimously in the House and with only three dissents in the Senate, was designed to prevent laws that burdened a person’s free exercise of religion, not to allow extremists to impose their unpopular views on the rest of us.

But what began as a move to overturn a Supreme Court decision that upheld the firing of two Native Americans for using an illegal drug (peyote) in a religious ceremony has been twisted beyond recognition. This summer, at the behest of an extremely small but well-funded network of religious extremists, the Supreme Court used RFRA as a trump card against women in its infamous Hobby Lobby decision. The Court ruled that RFRA allows employers to keep birth control off the list of preventive services the Affordable Care Act requires all insurance policies to cover. Suddenly, RFRA trumped Title VII’s protection against sex discrimination in the workplace.

Don’t think for a moment that this “religion exception” actually reflects the views of most faith communities. Dozens of faith organizations signed an amicus brief in Hobby Lobby arguing that employers should not be able, in the name of religious liberty, to impose their views on their employees. Nor do women of faith have a problem with birth control — not even close. Over 97 percent of sexually active Catholic and evangelical Protestant women have used birth control at some point.

President Obama should issue an executive order to all federal contractors who provide a group health plan for employees ordering that these contractors must comply with the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Singling out women to give up their health care rights for purely political reasons is bigotry, pure and simple, and our government should have nothing to do with that.

President Obama has said that in the final two years of his term, he will use executive orders and other powers of his office to achieve progress that would otherwise be blocked by Congressional inaction. I admire his determination to do the right thing. And until Congress reverses Hobby Lobby, we should, at the very least, have a rule that the United States government will not do business with gender bigots who would withhold basic health care from women.

Unintended pregnancy is deadly. It is closely correlated with infant and maternal mortality and is a significant risk factor for domestic violence homicide. Half of pregnancies in the U.S. each year are unintended, and our country has the highest rates of infant and maternal mortality among developed countries, higher than in some developing countries. Birth control is life-saving, life-affirming health care for women. There is nothing “pro-life” about restricting birth control, and religion is no excuse for this dangerous and ugly form of discrimination.

More From The Huffington Post: