President Obama’s mandate that all employers pay for access to contraceptive services has sparked heavy criticism from religious organizations who maintain they are being forced to abandon their moral convictions. However, a part of Obama’s mandate which has not been highly publicized could fundamentally alter the rights of parents nationwide and could lead to minors receiving contraception and abortifacients without the knowledge of their parents or guardians.
According to the final interim rules provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “the HRSA Guidelines require coverage, without cost sharing, for all Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.”
This language, derived from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendations for preventative services, ensures all minors with “reproductive capacity” are included under the contraceptive mandate’s coverage. To abide by these rules, employers who provide insurance to their employees must provide coverage for any female dependents to receive contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients such as the “morning after” pill without a co-pay.
Parental Rights Sidelined
According to Elise Hilton of the Acton Institute, this rule removes parental rights, allowing children to access these drugs and procedures without parental support or knowledge, and conflicts with the existing policies of roughly half the states.
“To date 26 states and the District of Columbia allow children 12 and older access to contraceptives without parental consent or notification,” Hilton said.
She notes this mandate, enacted in Obama’s health care law, will make contraception even more accessible to minors, as they are free of even a small co-pay charge through their parents’ insurance.
Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel at the Alliance for Defending Freedom, is representing businesses filing suit against the mandate. He says this mandate is a concern for all parents, noting the federal government’s proposed accommodation for religious entities and businesses still automatically enrolls employees in the insurance plan.
“Under such a scenario, parents cannot choose whether to opt in or out of the contraceptive mandate, regardless of their own personal convictions,” Bowman said.
“Think about a person who works at a religious entity and has kids,” Bowman added. “That person will still be required to pay into a plan that gives their own children coverage of free contraception and sterilization over their own objections.”
Liberals Concede Step
The liberal Guttmacher Institute admits Obama’s mandate makes contraception and abortifacients more accessible to minors. But the Institute maintains this is beneficial for teens, allowing them to receive these services with confidentiality.
“While parental involvement in minors’ health-care decisions is desirable, many minors will not avail themselves of important services if they are forced to involve their parents,” the Institute claimed in a September 1, 2012 briefing document on the HHS rule. “There is no evidence to suggest providing teens with information, education, or access to contraceptive services makes them any more likely to become sexually active. Rather, for those teens that are sexually active, it ensures that they are more likely to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies and STDs.”
Proper Role of Employers?
In the case of children and teens, Bowman, says, employers should not be forced to be responsible for providing access to these “preventive services” without a direct relationship with the individual using them, no parental inclusion, and without charge. He says this element of the mandate hasn’t received the attention it deserves, considering the potential ramifications for families.
“Unfortunately, the attacks on freedom in Obamacare are so massive that parts of the attack get overshadowed by the volume,” Bowman said.
Hilton questions whether federal law should encourage minors to independently make such large decisions without parental involvement.
“Thirty-eight states prohibit minors from tattoo or piercing procedures without parental consent,” Hilton said. “Obamacare will allow children to make the radical choice of sterilization at an age when most can’t make up their mind as to what to wear to school the next day.”