For those who haven't been following every twist and turn of this controversial issue, you may have (wrongly) assumed that the contraception mandate war has long been settled by now. Alas.
A federal appeals court on Friday turned down the University of Notre Dame's request for immediate relief from complying with Obamacare provisions that were related to contraceptive coverage, as part of its challenge to the federal health care law's mandate.
Determining who's right or wrong in this argument is an endless saga that was once labeled by journalist Ruth Rosen as "the new American soap opera." Is the Democratic Party (along with their supporters) using government to oppress religion? Or are the Republicans utilizing religion to oppress women? After all, can everything be viewed as "black and/or white" regardless of the specific circumstances?
While free contraception in the United States is in danger yet again, this past week every woman in South Africa was granted this very right by default. According to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, a small under-the-skin contraceptive device will be made available to all South African women free of charge starting February 27. In his statement, Motsoaledi pointed out that the new contraceptive "gives women freedom to control their own lives. It can be taken out any time and if they want to fall pregnant, it only takes few weeks to conceive."
But the debate on whether or not birth control should be covered by universal healthcare continues in the United States. One of the most obvious arguments for implementing the mandate remains the same: easy access to contraception does have an impact in reducing unwanted pregnancies, thus lowering the overall abortion rate.
Granted, easy access to birth control is not the sole reason behind reduced abortion rates across the country, the authors of the Guttmacher Institute's study suggest that one of the primary factors is "greater reliance on new kinds of birth control, including intra-uterine devices such as Mirena, which can last for years and are not susceptible to user error like daily pills or condoms."
So the bottom line (arguably) seems to be apparent -- for those against abortion, supporting easily accessible and most importantly free contraception which will prevent unwanted pregnancies and thus further decrease abortion rates, should be a "no-brainer." If freedom of the press is one of the prerequisites for democracy, shouldn't freedom to use contraception offered by our government free of charge fall under the same category?
Public polls in 2012 and 2013 conducted by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy showed that at least 70% of Americans demand that birth control be made free and easily accessible. It is, therefore, clear that the common good of the country should be evaluated.
However, until the U.S. Supreme Court takes up consideration of Obamacare's contraception mandate on March 25, the jury shall remain out. And although The Affordable Care Act requires that contraceptive coverage be included as a basic preventative service, the Supreme Court hearing against the mandate will undoubtedly be a crucial test for Obamacare.