A few years ago, when my employer tried to prevent me from accessing birth control, I didn’t know where to turn. I work at a Catholic university, and I love my job. But I knew that if I spoke up, I could be at risk of getting fired. Unfortunately, my story is not rare; it’s far too common for religiously affiliated employers to try and deny birth control coverage to their employees. That’s why I was outraged when I heard that on March 23 in the Supreme Court Case Zubik v. Burwell, religious organizations will argue that they should be allowed to block birth control coverage to their employees because it violates their religious beliefs.
No woman should have to go through what I did in order to access the health care that she needs.
At every step of the way, my employer made it extremely difficult for me to access birth control. When I was first hired, I was told that the school’s health plans did not cover contraceptives. However, after reading through the plan brochures and calling the insurance companies myself, I realized this wasn’t true. The school’s plans do cover birth control; my employer just didn’t want me to know.
When I tried to get a prescription for birth control pills, it quickly became a confusing and emotionally draining process. I ended up having to go to the doctor twice in order to get the correct authorization note. Before I realized that it was my employer who was creating these roadblocks, I made an appointment to speak with the human-resources director about the problems I was having with the insurance company. Instead of helping me, he called me irresponsible and said that I should be more proud of being a mother. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. How could he assume that wanting access to birth control made me a less loving or responsible mother?
I think all women should be able to make their own decisions about whether to use birth control, and it was hurtful to be judged for my personal choices. I’m scared that if the religious organizations have their way in court, they will make it even easier for employers to prevent women from making the family planning decisions that are best for us.
Eventually, the university approved my authorization, and I was able to access birth control. But it felt as if I had been forced to jump through unnecessary hoops just to get the health care that I deserved.
This didn’t have to be the case. Under the Affordable Care Act, companies with religious objections can opt out of directly providing employees with birth control coverage. To do so, they just need to fill out a form and send it to their insurance company. The insurance company then provides the employees with birth control coverage directly.
The religious organizations that will appear in court will argue that the government’s requirement that the insurance company provide birth control coverage is a violation of their rights. This is ridiculous, and is exactly the kind of argument that places many women’s health in jeopardy.
Today, I still work at the same job, and I love spending time with my smart, creative daughter. I know that being able to make my own reproductive decisions was essential to creating the family and life I have right now, but I also know that many women aren’t as lucky. And if the Supreme Court allows religious employers to block their employees’ contraception coverage, things will get even worse.