The Obama administration, under the Affordable Care Act, treats contraception as basic preventive care, vastly expanding Americans’ access to birth control. As you may have noticed, the right doesn’t see this as much of a breakthrough – one Republican congressman equated the policy with 9/11 and the attack on Pearl Harbor – and there are lawsuits challenging the policy.
As a rule, the litigation involves private-sector businesses that want to exclude contraception from their employer health plans. So far, some of the lawsuits have fared well, some haven’t. But Katie McDonough reports on a different kind of case out of Missouri, which is worth watching.
A Missouri Republican has asked a federal court to exempt his family from contraception coverage through the state insurance plan, explaining that he doesn’t want his three daughters to have access to no-cost birth control because it violates his Catholic faith.
Rep. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, jointly filed the lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and two other federal agencies with his wife, Teresa.
Explaining his position, Wieland said, “I see abortion-inducing drugs as intrinsically evil, and I cannot in good conscience preach one thing to my kids and then just go with the flow on our insurance. This is a moral conundrum for me. Do I just cancel the coverage and put my family at risk? I don’t believe in what the government is doing.”
The complaint, which is available online, was filed on Wieland’s behalf by the Thomas More Society, a far-right legal group opposed to abortion rights. McDonough’s report added that the Wieland family’s attorney “acknowledged that the couple may be the only plaintiffs in the country currently seeking to be exempted as individuals.”
And that’s because they’re pushing a deeply strange argument.
Here’s the pitch: Wieland, in his capacity as an elected state lawmaker in Missouri, receives health insurance that covers himself, his wife, and their daughters. That insurance, thanks to federal law, makes the Wieland family – and indeed, every family – eligible to receive basic preventive care available without a copay. That includes everything from blood-pressure tests to mammograms, contraception to flu shots.
If the Wieland family wants to take advantage of these benefits, great. If not, that’s fine, too. It’s entirely up to them – it’s about services that are available, not required.
The Wielands say that’s not good enough. They’ve filed a federal lawsuit claiming their civil rights have been violated. Why? Because the law gives them access to medication they find morally objectionable.
Just so we’re clear, they don’t have to take the birth control, just like they don’t have to get a flu shot or have their blood pressure checked. They could simply not seek contraception, but that would be too easy. The Wielands instead want federal courts to give them an exemption from a benefit they have no intention of using.
What’s more, they hope to empower others who share their worldview to also have an exemption from a benefit they, too, have no intention of taking advantage of.
I’ve been following the debate over health care and contraception for a while, and this is one of the silliest things I’ve ever heard.