Ballot asks about birth control

By Austin Miller

Other than seeing the usual list of candidates’ names on this year’s ballot, voters will also be asked hot topic questions.

As part of this year’s mid-term elections, three referenda questions were on the ballot to poll the opinions of Illinois voters.

One of the questions asked whether insurance companies should be forced to provide birth control in their plans.


John Jackson, visiting professor at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, said the purpose of these questions is to measure citizens’ opinions after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, earlier this year.

Craft store chain Hobby Lobby disagreed with part of the Affordable Care Act that required corporations to cover contraceptives in their insurance plans. Representatives of the store argued this rule violated the owner’s religious freedom. The Supreme Court decided family-owned corporations are not required to offer such plans.

Jackson said there are concerns other businesses will try to follow suit, which prompted the Illinois General Assembly to ask this question.

In Jackson County, 64.59 percent of 13,622 total votes cast were in favor of the referenda.

Curtis Morris, president of the Registered Student Organization, College Republicans, agreed with the ruling and said he does not have a problem with insurance companies providing contraception, but it should not be government mandated.

“The free market should decide,” Morris said. “If some insurance companies could offer it and some didn’t, then people who think it’s okay can get the insurance and maybe pay a bit more for it.”

Emma Rannebarger, a member of the RSO, College Democrats, said this is a personal issue for women that should not be decided by someone else.


“[Birth control] is something that I will have to deal with in the future,” she said. “If I got my dream job after school and the insurance provider didn’t provide birth control, I would have to re-evaluate my career.”

Darren Sherkat, professor of sociology, said this is such a divisive issue because the demographics of each party are different.

“The Republican Party has a substantial voting base among white sectarian Protestants and white conservative Catholics, and among older whites who have no need for birth control,” Sherkat said. “There is also a significant gender gap in partisanship, which makes it rational for Republicans to play to their solid base.”

The religious foundation of the Republican Party is at the roots of this issue, Sherkat said.

“Sectarian Christians are opposed to non-marital sexuality and believe that birth control is mostly used by the unmarried,” he said. “Catholics are proscribed from using birth control, but only a few sectarian Protestant groups are actually opposed to the use of birth control.”

There has always been a separation between church and state, but those who disagree with the law see the government over-stepping its boundaries.

Morris, a junior from Poplar Grove studying political science, said this is another topic the government should stay out of. He does not want someone to have his or her religious beliefs compromised by the federal laws.

“It’s completely immoral to force someone to pay for something they do not believe in,” he said. “[The government] is forcing people to do something, and that is wrong.”

Rannebarger, a sophomore from Champaign studying psychology, agrees with Morris and said people should not have their religious beliefs infringed upon. She said contraception should be offered but religious people should be able to opt out of it.

Last week, the Paul Simon Institute released its results for preliminary polling on this topic. Of the 1,006 registered Illinois voters that responded, 62 percent favored or strongly favored the proposal.

Sherkat said birth control has had longstanding support among the general public, but the ACA has caused the movement to gain traction. He said there are people who do not fully understand the bill and believe birth control will also make insurance premiums go up, which is not the case.

“If an insurance policy covers pregnancy, then insurers have a strong incentive to cover contraception,” he said. “Birth control has been used as a tactic to undermine comprehensive coverage.”

Morris suggests health insurance should become more flexible like car insurance, which the availability is not reliant on the state someone lives in. He also said a voucher system, where companies can provide an amount to employees so they can choose their own provider, could be a viable option.

“Let insurance companies compete for the customer,” he said. “Once you do that, you will have companies that do provide birth control and insurance companies that don’t.”

Austin Miller can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AMiller_DE.