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Readers Write: Should Obamacare honor the rights of individuals or institutions?

Letters to the Editor for the weekly print issue of December 24, 2012: Government shouldn't privilege the teachings of one religion over another on any part of health-care access. And equating women's access to health care with an impingement on religious liberty is a distraction.

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Protecting individuals vs. institutions

The Monitor's View of Dec. 10, "Balancing health and faith," concludes that the Affordable Care Act overreaches in mandating that religious-based employers offering secular services provide contraceptive services as part of employee health insurance.

This debate is about basic respect for individuals' moral agency to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health without government interference or legal restrictions. As part of our nation's commitment to church-state separation, there can be no room for government privileging the teachings of one religion over another on any part of health-care access.

Hundreds of religious leaders from across the theological spectrum have joined together in affirming access to family planning as a moral imperative. No single religious voice can speak for all faith traditions on contraception. Women and men must have the right to decide whether to apply the principles of their own faith to family planning decisions, and to do so they must have access.

This editorial distorts the reality of the nuanced relationship between the freedom individuals have to make personal decisions about their health care and the perceived "rights" of institutions. Religious liberty and women's health are fundamentally linked. In order for a woman to follow her own religious tradition and act according to her own conscience and beliefs, she must be able to make her own decisions about health care. That ability starts with access – which certain religious employers hinder by not offering insurance coverage for contraception and other products.

Equating women's access to health care with an impingement on religious liberty is a distraction. Groups that effectively deny access to contraception paint a misleading picture of what religious liberty means, whom it protects, and how most people of faith feel about reproductive health.


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