The C is for Crank

The Arguments Against the Reproductive Parity Bill

By Erica C. Barnett February 17, 2012

We've written a fair amount about the arguments in favor of the Reproductive Parity Act, state legislation that would require any insurance company that covers maternity care to also cover abortion care, exempting any employer or insurance company that has a "moral" objection to abortion.

Yesterday, abortion opponents testified against the legislation. In addition to the usual arguments---abortion kills babies, requiring abortion coverage would violate the state constitutional right to free exercise of religion---there were a few fairly novel arguments, including the argument that contraception coverage "is not health care," the argument that businesses would stop coming to Washington if companies had to provide abortion care, and that women who want abortion coverage can just ask prospective employers, during a job interview, whether they provide it (and vice versa).

A few sample comments:

Pia de Solenni, a Seattle-based abortion opponent: "According to the [Centers for Disease Control], the top causes of death for women are heart disease and cancer. Neither of these is treated by abortion. In fact, neither fertility nor pregnancy is among the top causes of death for women. Health care should be about helping women live longer, healthier lives. Abortion only helps a woman to live a life without children. ...

"At the end of the day, abortion is not an essential part of health care. A woman's well-being does not have to be seen in opposition to the life of the fetus she is carrying. Approving [the bill] does nothing to improve women's health. It does, however, support a model of health care that sees fertility as a disease. As a woman, I reject such a model. As a business owner, I am opposed to legislation that would force me to support such a model and I am also opposed to legislation that would further jeopardize the economic stability of the state."

A representative from Human Life of Washington, an anti-abortion group with chapters throughout the state: "[This bill] will use the power of the state to coerce the people of the state … to violate their conscience by participating in insurance plans that provide abortion … [The bill] would mean the state would also force private business owners who oppose abortion on moral grounds their right to direct their own businesses according to their conscience. ...  This bill mandates no choice to thousands of Washington citizens."

Seattle Catholic Church Archdiocese representative Paul Robertson:

"I can't see in any way how this is going to attract employers or encourage an entrepreneur to start a business, when you introduce legislation that compels an employer to do something they find morally repugnant. … Women have the opportunity now to purchase an abortion if they want, or to work with a company that provides those services."

Everyone knows where I stand on abortion and contraception coverage (I support it, on both economic and civil-liberties grounds), so I'll just offer one editorial comment. Those who argue against reproductive parity are making two equally problematic cases. First, they're arguing that any employer who opposes abortion on religious grounds should be able to choose employees based on whether they share that religious view. This seems to me like a clear example of discrimination on religious grounds, which is barred under both the Washington and US Constitutions.

Second, they argue that employees should be able to choose employers who "share their values" --- that is, employers whose health care plans do not cover abortions. That, of course, is an employee's prerogative, but it seems insanely impractical and unrealistic (particularly in an era of 9-percent unemployment) to suggest that prospective employees should ask prospective employers, in the context of a job interview, whether their health-care plan pays for abortions---or to refuse a job offer if, after being hired, they discover that their health care plan does pay for abortion care.

In reality, I don't think the anti-abortion side is really making the case for either point: They want abortion banned, period, for all women. But it's interesting to see the kind of pretzels they tie themselves into in an effort to make themselves sound like reasonable people just trying to protect the Constitution.
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