This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Will The US Supreme Court Continue to Defend Women's Reproductive Rights?

It was the US Supreme Court that legalized the use of birth control in the country (in 1965 for married couples and 1972 to everyone else) and abortion in 1973. Now the Supreme Court is hearing a case that challenges the government's right to insist that if a commercial company wants a government subsidy for its employees' health care, that company must allow the health plan to provide contraceptives and other reproductive health care, which could include the costs of an abortion if the contraceptives fail. It was disheartening to me that the Court even took this case on, since it seems patently obvious that a commercial firm cannot claim some religious bias. If you want to claim a religious protection, then declare yourself a religion and follow the tax code rules that allow you bypass many of the legal obligations of a firm, like Hobby Lobby, that is in business to make money, not to convert its customers to a particular religious belief. Furthermore, under the Affordable Care Act companies are not required to provide government-subsidized health care. Rather, if they want their employees to have that benefit of a government-subsidized health care policy, they have to abide by the rules that say that women need to have access to the full range of legal reproductive health rights. They could, alternatively, just pay their workers more and have them get their own private insurance, or pay fully for their employee's health care and not worry about the government subsidy. 

This is not to say that I am a fan of the Affordable Care Act. I am not. My own view is that the US needs to adopt the model of every other rich country (all of which have higher life expectancy than in the US) and implement universal health care that is not employer-based. There are, of course, four entrenched reasons why we do not move in that direction: (1) health insurance companies who make lots of money under the current system (helping to explain why we pay so much more for health care than countries with higher life expectancy); (2) physicians who are the highest paid in the world (also helping to explain why we pay so much more for health care than countries with higher life expectancy); (3) drug companies who believe that they earn more in this kind of a medical market; and (4) malpractice lawyers who also make more money in this kind of a medical market. These are the real reasons why the Supreme Court is even put in it current position of seeming to be on the verge of rolling back women's reproductive rights. Just follow the money.

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