U.S. District Judge Richard Leon has made a surprising ruling this week in support of a secular anti-abortion group that requested to be exempt from the stipulation in the Affordable Care Act that requires organizations to provide free preventative birth control benefits to female employees.
According to the Associated Press, Judge Richard Leon sided with March for Life, a secular organization that opposes birth control and abortion on purely ethical grounds, rather than religious reasons. While most anti-abortion groups would be protected by their religious freedom to fight the requirement of providing cost-free birth control, March for Life is a unique case because they have no religious affiliation to fall back on. Despite their purely secular defense, Judge Leon decided their case was compelling enough to be exempt from the ACA’s mandated requirement of free birth control and preventative measures for women.
March for Life was founded in 1973 and has been actively protesting birth control and abortion on an annual basis, doing what they can to keep the government from supporting what they believe to be murder. Even though the organization is not religious, they hold to the same claims as religious anti-abortion groups who say life begins at conception, therefore abortion at any stage is taking a human life. While it’s not unheard of for atheists and non-religious individuals to oppose birth control and abortion, it is remarkable that a federal judge approved the secular request for exemption from the “contraceptive mandate.”
According to Think Progress, Judge Richard Leon’s explanation for siding with March of Life is that the government should not allow religious organizations to be exempt from providing free birth control benefits without also extending the same right to secular groups. Essentially, Leon argues that forcing a group like March of Life to provide free birth control would be discrimination against secular organization.
But Think Progress also points out that Leon’s birth control ruling contradicts the Supreme Court’s explicit specifications of the government’s power when “lifting a regulation that burdens the exercise of religion” because there is “no reason to require that the exemption come packaged with benefits to secular entities.”
The legal counsel for March of Life, Matthew Bowman, spoke in defense of the birth control decision.
“There’s no reason the government should treat them negatively because their views on abortion are based on science instead of being based on religion.”
Judge Richard Leon’s own words reflect Bowman’s opinion.
“If the purpose of the religious employer exemption is… to respect the anti-abortifacient tenets of an employment relationship, then it makes no rational sense — indeed, no sense whatsoever — to deny March (for) Life that same respect.”
Do you think secular organizations should be exempt from providing free birth control benefits?
For more on birth control, read about Kylie Jenner’s serious discussion about birth control.
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