As we enter a campaign season that should be dominated with competing plans on how to get Americans back to work, reducing the deficit, and improving education, we are instead dealing with issues that would have one confuse the election cycle of 2012 with that of 1912.
Congressional candidate Randy Altschuler was wrong when he stated, , that “the issue at hand is not access to contraception” in reference to a highly publicized debate on women’s rights. Mr. Altschuler, coming from a privileged background, does not seem to understand how prohibitively costly contraception is to middle class women in Suffolk County and across the country. Denying insurance for contraception is denying women access to contraception.
Contrary to Altschuler's assertions, Congressman Tim Bishop is not only standing up for the vast majority of his Catholic constituents who want the right to decide if they will use birth control, he is standing up for all constituents from all religious backgrounds who want that same right.
Mr. Altschuler and his GOP colleagues needs to consider that there is no constitutionally protected freedom to discriminate against women in the workplace. Religious freedom is allowing women the option to exercise their religious beliefs, in considering whether to use birth control, rather than giving that option to their employer.
The Republican Party candidates would permit employers to deny to women employees access to health insurance plans that include birth control, effectively permitting employers to dictate a personal and private choice of their female employees. No employer in our free nation should ever have the right to try to influence a woman’s personal and private health care decisions based on their own personal religious beliefs.
If we permit an employer’s religious beliefs to trump women’s rights in the workplace then we enter a slippery slope that will take us back in time. An employer could cite a specific religious belief in dictating the job responsibilities or opportunities of women employees; would laws against sexual discrimination or harassment in the workplace violate that employer’s religious freedom?
In order for women to compete in the work place, women need the freedom to make reproductive choices. Denying women access to affordable contraception could stall a woman’s progression through the pipeline of her career, denying her equal opportunity. Denying women affordable contraception is akin to imposing an equality tax on women.
Additionally the birth control pill is often a necessary treatment for certain health issues. Denying a woman this option may be denying her necessary health care.
This dialogue in this country needs to get back on track with forward thinking conversations. We must do this by increasing opportunities for women, not taking them away. We need to once again move forward with new ideas for building our economy, improving healthcare, increasing educational opportunities, and creating a better future for all.
Jennifer J. Maertz, Esq.
East End Dem Women, Co-Founder/Chairwoman
Jennifer Maertz is a candidate for New York State Senate, First Senate District.