The point of the article is that this continues to violate the religious freedom of Catholics, who are commanded by their faith not to materially support abortion, contraception, etc. That's true, of course, but it's not what interests me.
Rather, the Hot Air tag to the article suddenly made me realize how odd it is to expect to receive something expensive for free. It's not usually the case that you obtain expensive things for free.
The argument seems to be that it's important for women, so therefore it should be free to women. There are lots of things that are at least as important, though, that we certainly don't expect to be free: food, for example, or sufficient clothing for the winter. The argument seems to be that birth control ought to be free (and indeed it is, in the form of abstinence, a form of birth control that Catholics consider it a virtue to materially assist: but I digress). It ought to be free, and any employer ought to be sure that any of their employees receives it as free.
This is really an astonishing demand. I could understand demanding it at cost: we could structure an argument whereby insurance companies are understood to receive a reasonable profit, and as part of the price of approving the practice of the business in the state, we mandate that they arrange to provide certain critical medications to their consumers at cost. We might ask, even then, why birth control or abortifacients would be the medicine we chose to occupy this position of special importance -- surely life-saving drugs would be a more worthy choice? Still, at least at cost could conceivably be a reasonable demand.
Free, though? Nothing is free. Everyone knows this.
There is a parallel with last week's Komen feud, in which it was asserted that -- having once given Planned Parenthood money -- a kind of moral obligation existed to continue providing money for free. Now we have an obligation, apparently on all of us who participate in employer-sponsored health plans, to provide pills for free.
How could any of us have come under an obligation to provide these things for free? How could such an obligation arise? "By law" is not an adequate answer, but it appears to be the only one.
UPDATE: An answer of sorts comes in this piece from Think Progress:
Manmade global warming is one of the most troubling symptoms of economic and social injustice around the planet, and the ”countries in the developing world least responsible for the growing emissions are likely to experience the heaviest impact of climate change, with women bearing the greatest toll.” Researchers have found that empowering women to reduce unplanned pregnancies is one of the most cost-effective ways to combat greenhouse pollution, as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson discussed at the Durban climate conference last December:In addressing climate resilience, Robinson stressed the importance of focusing on health and burden impacts of climate change. One of the keys is access to reproductive health for women.
If all the assumptions made here were true, it would perhaps provide a ground from which an obligation of this sort could arise. We could point to a common good -- the survival of the planet -- which might obligate all of us to contribute to it. It might even be a good of a high enough order to explain why we would prefer the Pill to life-saving drugs.
Of course, all of these assumptions are controversial, so the ground is an unsteady one to say the least. Nevertheless, this kind of argument grounds support for families: we distribute the costs of public education to everyone, not just families with children, because we recognize that we all have a stake in ensuring that the next generation comes, and is educated and capable of undertaking the work of continuing the civilization. Education is not free -- you must pay property taxes if you own property, and frequently also sales taxes, to support the local schools. Still, it is offered below cost, which means that the cost is distributed.
The argument for public support of contraception and abortifacients is even stronger, since it demands that these things be free. I would like to say that the two policies are different as well in that the one is in support of flourishing families and fecundity, while the other is in support of withering and barrenness; which is to say, that the difference is between life and death. That may not be fair, though; if the supporter of free birth control believes that the planet shall otherwise die, they are in a fashion on the side of life. They simply believe that life will not be possible but for a very few of us, on very much more parsimonious terms.