Who should pay for my contraceptives? Three positions

A modest goal in this post: to clarify the moral and political options.

First, whose moral responsibility is it? That is, who, as a matter of choice, should assume this responsibility?

ContraceptivesPosition 1: It is my responsibility to provide them for myself. (Individualism)
Position 2: My employer should be responsible for providing them. (Workplace Paternalism)
Position 3: Society as a whole should be responsible for providing them. (Collectivism)

Second, what is the political responsibility of government? That is, how should the government use its compulsory power on this issue?

Position 1: The government should protect my freedom to buy (or not) and use (or not) contraceptives. (Free-market liberalism)
Position 2: ??? (Mixed economy)
Position 3: The government should provide them to me directly. (Socialism)

capitol-bldgPosition 2 gets the ??? initially because it’s not obvious what political position follows from workplace paternalism in the context of an economy characterized by a semi-principled mixture of freedom and controls. Hence the all-over-the-map public discussion of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. But the three main options seem to be:

Position 2a: It may be praiseworthy if employers choose to provide contraceptive benefits, but it should be optional, as the employer may have other moral values that override the provision of such benefits.
Position 2b: Employers have a moral responsibility to provide contraceptive benefits to their employees, and if they are not voluntarily assuming their responsibilities they can justifiably be compelled to do so.
Position 2c: The government should be providing contraception to everyone who needs it, but that is not politically feasible now, so as a fallback or second-best position we should require employers to do so.

So a question: Does the above breakdown accurately characterize the competing moral and political options?

Note: All of the above is to set aside for now two related issues:

A. What is the morality of contraception use, and do I want to use the government to punish or protect those who, in my judgment, hold wrong views on the morality of contraceptive use?

B. What should the legal status of a corporation be, and how do we decide the personhood (or not) of an organization such as Hobby Lobby in the context of American legal precedent?

This entry was posted in Business Ethics, Ethics, Politics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Who should pay for my contraceptives? Three positions

  1. Edward Fox says:

    Yes! The moment we enlist the coercive machinery of the state in the service to prescription i.e. utopianism the question begs: whose prescription?

    In addition to furnishing autocracy with rationalizations, coercive utopianism breeds factionalism and corruption by splintering society into rival pressure groups: collectives or ‘tribes’ vying against others as Rand noted to have their agendas declared in the public interest and imposed on society by force, or often simply in self-protection against other factions. It produces elites backed by the state dictating to society what is best for it. With this step cooperation is replaced by coercion, persuasion by threats and violence, responsibility by blame, production by petition and pull, individualism by collectivism and liberalism by statism.

    The increasing intrusiveness of Western states is fragmenting and polarizing Western societies because agendas backed by coercion are much harder for members of opposing factions to ignore than those that aren’t.

    The heavy handed tactics of the American left have done much to galvanize the extremely troublesome religious right under such luminaries as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Rush Limbaugh.

  2. Eric Landstrom says:

    Moral Issue B:
    Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion basically says that once you seek a profit, you forfeit any right to a conscience. The underlying assumption is that profit seeking is inherently immoral and therefore rightfully subject to any conceivable government coercion. Rather than focusing on the legal status of a corporation, we should reframe the debate in terms of private property rights. The shareholders own the assets of the corporation, and no outside party should be able to force them to unwillingly part with those assets for any reason. Screaming “women’s rights” while I rob you at gunpoint doesn’t make me any less of a thief.

  3. Can you quote her directly, Eric, where she seems to be arguing that?

  4. Bret says:

    A little overly simplistic, isn’t it? Irresponsibility or a certain “choice” on the individual’s part leads to a new individual (i.e. baby or fetus) who has no choice whatsoever in the matter, so doesn’t one have to weigh that in contemplating the locus of the moral responsibility?

    And that leads to you leaving out:

    Position 4: All people should be sterilized and limited permits to reverse that sterilization may be issued to some environmentally aware adults. (Radical Environmentalism)

    Just joking about that last part (hopefully). :-)

  5. Eric Landstrom says:

    In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.
    p.1

    In the Court’’s view, RFRA demands accommodation of a for-profit corporation’’s religious beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on third parties who do not share the corporation owners’’ religious
    faith——in these cases, thousands of women employed by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga or dependents of persons those corporations employ.
    p.2

    The Court insists it has held none of these things, for another less restrictive alternative is at hand: extending an existing accommodation, currently limited to religious nonprofit organizations, to encompass commercial enterprises.
    p.2, footnote 1

    The Court notes that for-profit corporations may support charitable causes and use their funds for religious ends, and therefore questions the distinction between such corporations and religious nonprofit organizations.
    p.18

    Again, the Court forgets that religious organizations exist to serve a community of believers. For-profit corporations do not fit that bill.
    p.18

    To reiterate, ““for-profit corporations are different from religious non-profits in that they use labor to make a profit, rather than to perpetuate [the] religious value[s] [shared by a community of believers].””
    p.18

    But the Lee Court made two key points one cannot confine to tax cases. ““When followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice,”” the Court observed, ““the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity.”” Id., at 261. The statutory scheme of employer-based comprehensive health coverage involved in these cases is surely binding on others engaged in the same trade or business as the corporate challengers here, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga. Further, the Court recognized in Lee that allowing a religion based exemption to a commercial employer would ““operat[e] to impose the employer’’s religious faith on the employees.”” Ibid.29
    pp. 31 – 32

    I would confine religious exemptions under that Act to organizations formed ““for a religious purpose,”” ““engage[d] primarily in carrying out that religious purpose,”” and not ““engaged . . . substantially in the exchange of goods or services for money beyond nominal amounts.”” See id., at 748 (Kleinfeld, J., concurring).
    p.35

  6. That’s very helpful, Eric. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>