Another Contraception Challenge, Another Misguided Argument

As we’ve written before, history has a way of repeating itself. Private companies that are challenging the federal rule that requires employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception without a co-pay are also repeating their same, misguided argument that the rule violates their religious liberty. Yesterday the ACLU filed an amicus brief in the most recent case raising these arguments – this time in a case brought by a lumber company.

The right to practice one’s religion, or no religion, is a core component of our civil liberties and is of vital importance to the ACLU. The ACLU is also fiercely committed to fighting discrimination and inequality, including discrimination based on gender. An important component of gender equality is the ability of women to have full control of their reproductive lives, and to be able to decide whether and when to have children.

Drawing on all of these principals, the ACLU’s brief places the company’s religious liberty arguments in a historical context. That history reveals that courts have long rejected the argument that employers can use their religion to discriminate against others, deny them rights and benefits, or foist their religion on their employees.

The availability of contraception has given women the ability to make their own decisions about whether and when to have children, which in turn has allowed them to make decisions about their schooling, a particular job or career, and their families. Furthermore, the contraception rule helps eliminate gender disparities in health costs: currently, women of child-bearing age pay 68 percent more for out-of-pocket costs than men, in large part because of reproductive health needs, including contraception.

An employer’s religious beliefs don’t get trump this rule, which is designed to eradicate discrimination. The same is true, as courts have ruled, for restaurants in the 1960’s that refused to serve African-Americans because integration was against the owners’ religious beliefs, or for schools that paid men more than women because men, according to their religious beliefs, needed more money as the head of the household. Religion was not allowed to be used to justify discrimination then, and it should not be used to do so now.

Learn more about contraception: Sign up for breaking news alerts, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

View comments (3)
Read the Terms of Use


The courts also long rejected drug testing (and rightly so), until Reagan's administration made up reasons why it was okay and forced it through based on skewed data, public ignorance, and moral panic. Since then, people have been conditioned through that to believe that their bodily autonomy and privacy are in the hands of their employers and not themselves--if they want to eat, that is. This is just another of the logical extensions of that "right" of the rich to control the poor, now that their first violation has been absorbed as acceptable by the masses.


When is the ACLU going to end the discrimination against men in reproductive rights? When are men going to be given the same rights as women, namely, to "be able to decide whether and when to have children." As it stands, men are denied any and all post-conception rights.

This is a very simple issue to fix. Let women decide if and when to become a mother. Let men decide if and when to become a father to a woman's child. All of these decisions should be made before birth.

If the woman wishes to for him to become a father to her child, she can inform him of the pregnancy, as early as possible. He should be given no more than 30 days to decide. If he chooses NOT to become a father, he has no rights or responsibilities in perpetuity, even if the kid becomes a millionaire athlete.

If she chooses to not tell him, or if she does tell him and he opts out within the 30 day period, he has no rights or responsibility toward her child. This simple solution gives the woman total and absolute control over her reproduction but does not deny the man rights over his.


I understand that the ACLU believes this to a reproductive rights issue. No arguments against it will come from me. What I fail to understand is why the ACLU believes that an employer should PAY for a woman's choices. That is where the employers filing lawsuits have a point. No one is trying to stop women from using contraception. What is being argued is who should pay for it.

As the commenter above asked: why are male reproductive rights completely ignored? And why does this insurance not cover condoms or vasectomies? Is that not the definition of gender bias?

Stay Informed