Policy/Biz

A Missouri Lawmaker's Attempt To Restrict Daughters' Birth Control Access On The Basis Of Religion Is Baseless

Birth Control Lawsuit To Cut Off Daughters' Access
A Missouri lawmaker renews his case to personalize health care coverage in order to deny birth control access to his daughters. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

One lawmaker is trying to manipulate and custom design the Affordable Care Act in order to cut off his three daughter’s access to birth control. Rep. Paul Wieland (R-Mo.) and his wife Teresa are renewing their lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services to stop making birth control available through their family’s government-provided insurance plan because it violates their Catholic belief system.

"The employees are to Hobby Lobby what the daughters are to Paul and Teresa Wieland," Timothy Belz, the Wielands' attorney, argued in front of a three-judge panel at the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis on Monday, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "The government is holding a gun to our head and saying this: 'Either you give up your conscience or you give us your money.'"

Wieland and his wife tried to push their case through last year, but a lower court threw it out, claiming the case had no grounds. They’re trying again, now that Hobby Lobby won in the Hobby Lobby v. Burwell case in June, which allowed corporations to deny contraceptive coverage to employees based on their religious beliefs. Wieland believes if the corporations can deny birth control based on their religion then so can they.

"Different people will have different beliefs," Justice Department lawyer Alisa Klein said, defending the government's position. "Here we have 100,000 beneficiaries in the Missouri group health care plan and there is no precedent for having the employer design the plan 100,000 ways."

Wieland and his wife are essentially trying to design a health care plan through the government that would deny their 13-, 18-, and 19-year-old daughters birth control. Belz said sometimes children don’t listen to their parents’ wishes or abide by their religious beliefs, which is why the law needs to be put into place. He goes on to say providing birth control access to Wieland’s daughters is “exactly the same” as forcing Mormon parents to “provide a stocked unlocked liquor cabinet in their house whenever they're away for their minor and adult daughters to use.”

Except there isn’t anything illegal about their teenage daughters using birth control; it’s very obviously illegal for 13-, 18-, and 19-year-olds to drink alcohol. The comparison here isn’t as befitting as Belz would’ve liked it to be, despite the religious Mormon angle that he tries to drive home in a very dry and bewildered point in the appeals court.

“There's much greater control by a parent than an employer," James Loken, one of the eight judges on the appeals court said. "All the parents have to do is say, 'We expect you to abide by our religious tenet.'"

Personalizing the law to fit parenting standards has certainly brought the anti-Obamacare stance to a whole new level. The Wielands' claim that the government is forcing them to violate their religious beliefs because their daughters could have free access stands on a rocky foundation. There are parts of the bible that describe the use of birth control through natural rhythms, in which a woman uses her menstrual cycle to avoid becoming pregnant. It also speaks about the use of myrrh to prevent implantation of fertilized eggs, and even about a ritual performed by a priest to stop a woman from becoming pregnant. Their argument is no more than an elusive interpretation of an ancient text.

"Under [Wieland's] theory, an employer could be forced to create an individualized plan for each employee depending on their objections — one plan that doesn't cover contraception, one plan that doesn't cover vaccinations, one plan that doesn't cover maternity coverage," Gretchen Borchelt, senior counsel at the National Women's Law Center, told MSNBC. "Who knows where it would end? It radically undermines the principle of insurance and undercuts the purpose of the health care law, which is to standardize benefits and ensure everyone has comprehensive coverage."

Wieland and his family are covered through the Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan, which is based on the minimum coverage standards of the Affordable Care Act. "This is a moral conundrum for me. Do I just cancel the coverage and put my family at risk?" Wieland, who is running for the Missouri Senate this year, said at the time. "I don't believe in what the government is doing."

Wieland and his family have the option to obtain coverage through a private health care plan that would exclude contraceptive coverage, however, the access doesn’t sway him as he's claimed it’s too expensive.

Loading...