This editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Herald Editorial Board
In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Hobby Lobby and other companies can refuse to cover oral contraception because of the owners’ religious objections to the pill.
Now, a federal judge has ruled a Texas company can refuse to cover HIV preventive medication because of the owners’ religious objections to potential patients.
The owners of Braidwood Management claims the pills, which are 99% effective in blocking the spread of HIV through sex, encourage homosexuality.
If you’ve ever taken a health class, you know that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be spread by means other than gay sex.
Straight people can get it through sex, too. (Yes, even if they’re married.)
Drug users can get it through shared needles.
Mothers can transmit the virus to their babies during pregnancy, delivery or breastfeeding.
And anyone who receives a transfusion of tainted blood can be infected.
In June, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation that allows approved pharmacists to administer or dispense HIV PrEP. Only one Republican, Sen. Jason Barickman of Bloomington, voted in favor of the measure, which will take effect on Jan. 1.
“The proposed solution is much better than the status quo that exists today,” Barickman said when the bill advanced from the General Assembly in April.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services estimates 1.2 million people in the U.S. have HIV — and 13% of them don’t know it. There are about 45,000 people living with the virus in Illinois, according to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, with about 1,300 diagnosed each year.
HIV PrEP benefits everyone, not just gay people, by containing a life-threatening disease that has no cure. Objecting to its use is unconscionable.
Think of where this road could lead if the judge’s ruling stands.
Could your employer refuse to cover hospitalization for lung transplant patients because some of them might be lifelong smokers?
Could someone who views having a beer as a sin object to tests for cirrhosis?
Individuals are allowed religious exemptions on vaccines for themselves and their children, but what if your boss could balk at covering vaccines for your kids?
It is mystifying that the federal judge did not address such far-reaching impacts of his ruling, but the bottom line should be this: You don’t provide health coverage because people are worthy. You provide health coverage because people get sick.
We trust the courts will recognize this basic truth as the case moves through the appellate process.
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September 14, 2022 at 07:06AM