THE BLOG

Religious Freedom Means Choice for Individuals, Not Institutions

02/13/2012 01:18 pm ET | Updated Apr 14, 2012

Several years ago, I had just moved and transitioned to new insurance. I went to get my yearly exam from a gynecologist and was shocked to find out my insurance didn't cover the visit. That visit ended up costing me over $300 out of pocket. I was lucky enough to be in a position where I could cover the costs, but imagine how many women face that choice and end up skipping the exam because the costs are prohibitive.

No woman should have to make the choice to forego basic medical care, especially critical preventive care. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most insurance plans will be required to cover women's preventative services including contraception. On January 20th, the Obama administration announced that while churches would have an exemption, other religious non-profits would be required to comply after a one year transition period. The president took a strong stance that women should have access to preventative care and that family planning is a decision best left up to families, not insurance plans.

This decision will affect various types of religious institutions, and a big part of the conversation has become about faith. I'm a church-attending Christian, and faith is a large part of my own life. My faith, much like my medical decisions, is both nuanced and personal. Employees of religious hospitals, colleges, etc., may not practice that same faith, and I'm thankful that the Obama administration's decision will allow these very personal decisions to lie in the hands of individuals.

Opponents of the decision are clamoring about religious freedom when policies of the past actually discriminated and denied women access to affordable care. Nothing about the law will force a woman to use or buy contraceptives and conscience laws will remain in place, which for example, allow a Catholic doctor to not prescribe contraceptives. In addition, this law does not cover drugs that may cause abortion. Finally, churches will remain exempt. It seems to me that the decision will allow greater religious freedom by allowing these very personal choices to be in the hands of individuals, not institutions.