Letter to the Editor

What the contraception fight is about

E.J. Dionne Jr. pontificated that “America’s Big Religious War ended Friday” [“Obama’s olive branch to Catholics,” op-ed, Feb. 4]. After a slew of court losses, the Obama administration now grudgingly exempts from its contraception mandate organizations it deems sufficiently religious. Mr. Dionne called that concession “a clear statement that President Obama never wanted this fight,” but the president and his campaign gleefully promoted this fight as a “war on women.”

Mr. Obama undermined any pretense of a compelling health justification for a government mandate by unwittingly observing that 99 percent of women already access contraceptives. His health department dismissed concerns of economic consequences, blithely contending that preventing babies is cheaper than having them.

The First Amendment protects all individuals — not merely government-certified religious institutions. Yet the administration continues to coerce conscience-objecting individual employers.

Mr. Dionne castigated the faith community for claiming First Amendment infringement since the government coercion did not restrict the “freedom to worship or to preach.” The Founders, however, clearly construed the First Amendment to also protect the free exercise of conscience.

Jonathan Imbody, Washington

The writer is the Christian Medical Association’s vice president for government relations.

Regarding Michael Gerson’s Feb. 5 op-ed column, “A solution that fixes nothing”:

The federal contraceptive coverage rule plays an important role in dismantling gender discrimination, and its protections should extend far and wide. Despite the fact that the original rule was perfectly legal and consistent with religious freedom principles, the Obama administration has now gone out of its way to propose modifications to address the concerns of religiously affiliated nonprofit institutions. And yet many groups opposed to contraception rejected these proposals out of hand. They seem to be more interested in preventing women from having access to contraception — health care that virtually all women use at some point in their lives — and in continuing to stoke the flames of controversy than in finding a solution. 

There is a larger and vastly misunderstood issue at hand here, and it is coming to the fore in cases across the country. Whether it be about denying women contraception or about turning a gay couple away at an inn, religious freedom does not give one group the right to impose its beliefs on others or to discriminate by denying access to services of any kind. 

Sarah Lipton-Lubet, Washington

The writer is policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office.

 
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