A Missouri lawmaker and his wife are suing the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act’s minimum coverage requirements for contraception. State Representative Paul Wieland (care to guess his party affiliation?) and wife Theresa Wieland argue that no-cost access to birth control for their daughters (two of whom are adults, ages 18 and 19) violates their religious beliefs. As it further violates their beliefs to drop their children from their plan, they are seeking a judgment to intervene on their behalf.
The Wielands are being represented by attorney Timothy Belz of the conservative Thomas More Society. The case had been dismissed by a district court on the grounds that the family lacked standing to bring the suit but has since been appealed. Belz sees the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling as a precedent in his clients’ favor:
“The employees are to Hobby Lobby what the daughters are to Paul and Teresa Wieland,” Timothy Belz… told a panel of three federal judges on the appeals court…
When one of the judges noted that parents in general have more control over children’s behavior than employers have over employees, so why don’t the Wielands just hold that over their daughters, Belz responded, “We all expect and want [our kids] to obey us, [but] they don’t always…”
As MSNBC’s Irin Carmon notes, “the Wielands are asking the federal government to enforce their parental guidelines on their daughters.” And while it’s unclear how the Wielands’ daughters feel about being the focal point of their parents’ religious and political efforts, what is obvious is that the implications of a favorable ruling for the Wielands could impact far more than their children’s healthcare choices.
As explained by senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, Gretchen Borchelt,
“… Wieland wants each individual to be able to pick and choose which specific medical services would be covered in a plan… It radically undermines the principle of insurance and undercuts the purpose of the health care law, which is to standardize benefits and ensure everyone has comprehensive coverage.“
Like the Hobby Lobby ruling, the Wielands’ concerns might appear “limited” on the surface, but they carry far-reaching and unwholesome implications. Just as we might expect when healthcare options become contingent on another person’s religious beliefs.