This year, the North Carolina legislature has proposed multiple abortion restrictions, a bill that could close many clinics, another that will force students to learn inaccurate medical information to frighten them out of seeking an abortion, and yet another that could make it impossible for many teens to access reproductive health care like birth control, pregnancy testing, and diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. Now, the state house is preparing to debate HB 730, a “conscience clause” bill that would allow health-care practitioners to opt out of anything that could be characterized as “assisting” in an abortion, and also would offer employers the option of cutting off their employees’ birth control coverage in the company insurance plan if the employer finds contraception “immoral.”
The bill, which was first filed in April, reads:
As used in this subsection, the term “religious employer” includes any employer, including, but not limited to, a corporation, LLC, partnership, or sole proprietorship, whether on a for profit or nonprofit basis, that has a religious, moral, or ethical objection to arranging for, paying for, facilitating, or providing health benefits plan coverage for contraceptive drugs or methods, including, but not limited to, any and all contraceptive drugs and methods approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
The language is similar to that of other state bills aimed at restricting birth control access that have cropped up since the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate went into effect last August. Since then, dozens of non-profit and for-profit groups have sued to be excluded from the mandate, and those actions have been encouraged by conservative legal and anti-choice advocacy groups icluding the Thomas More Society to the Susan B. Anthony List.
The theme of North Carolina’s legislative session may be “Who is allowed to consent to their own medical care?” Just as teens may potentially be cut off from accessing birth control without parental consent, women are being subjected to contraception restrictions unless they get permission from their employers.