Employers wield significant societal power. They can pay living wages, provide comprehensive health care, and establish reasonable maternity and paternity leave policies. They can timely investigate workplace discrimination claims and establish consequences for on-the-job harassment of vulnerable groups. They can prioritize inclusive and progressive work cultures.

However, under President Donald Trump and the Trump era Health and Human Services department, employers can also insert themselves into employees’ personal lives by claiming a religious, moral objection, and take cost-free birth control from workers.

NBC reported how the executive directive signals a return to religious and social conservatism. “President Trump is demonstrating his commitment to undoing the anti-faith policies of the previous administration and restoring true religious freedom,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said.

The American Civil Liberties Union presented a different take. “The Trump administration is forcing women to pay for their boss’ religious beliefs,” ACLU senior staff attorney Brigitte Amiri said. “We’re filing this lawsuit because the federal government cannot authorize discrimination against women in the name of religion or otherwise.”

NBC also reported the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said the new policy could undo contemporary progress in decreasing national unintended pregnancy rates.

When people in positions of authority hold themselves out as moral guardians, the people they serve can lose out on health care options. Additionally, when employers do not provide a broader range of human services to employees, employee health – and foreseeably productivity – can suffer.

The Trump administration showed through this reduction in birth control options that they believe people who have sexual relationships should bear a higher risk of pregnancy. Further, this administration demonstrated that people who have medical conditions treated by birth control should assume additional costs because the person, people or entity that signs their checks believes God said, “Please encroach further into employees’ lives away from work.” While the amount of employers who will exercise this option remains to be seen, erring on the side of fewer quality human services establishes poor precedent.

 

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