There is no justifiable answer to that question, though I invite you to provide one. There are several popular irrational answers. (If you are going to comment, and you do not answer this question, we will assume your answer is they should not.) Here are the major ones.
(1) The government mandates that they should. It is true that the government mandates that businesses—such as the Little Sisters of the Poor—provide these services, while also forbidding businesses recompense. But this is not an answer to the question because it is circular: the government mandates because the government mandates.
(2) We can’t let businesses control the sex lives of their employees. A non sequitur. The sex lives of employees are their own business, not the business of businesses. Indeed, this answer is backwards. The government is mandating that employers meddle in the sex lives of their employees by providing, at “no cost”, items which make certain sexual activities more desirable and therefore more likely (why worry so much about getting drunk and sleeping with the wrong guy if you know your boss will pay for a morning after pill?). Not giving condoms free is not “meddling” with anybody.
(3) It makes good business sense. Pregnant employees are costly and those raising families are less attentive to their duties. Let this be true: businesses who refuse to pay for contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization services will experience greater expenses and suffer lower incomes than companies which provide them. But it is not within the purview of government to force private businesses to take specified levels of profit. If a man of business feels he would rather forgo 30 pieces of silver than violate his conscience, that is his call and not the government’s. And then the statement is not true, or at least not always. Employees from stable, traditional families are often observed to be good, stable, and productive employees.
(4) Employees who are given these sexual services are healthier, and healthier employees make for better business. Again, let this be true. But employees should make provisions for their own health. Saying that employers must be responsible for the health of their employees, especially in sexual matters, is circular and absurd (except in special and rare cases where the employment activity is dangerous; and even here it is doubtful, because the employee freely enters into a relationship with his employer). If employers were responsible for the health of employees, the burden on employers would be vast (should employers necessarily monitor the food employees eat?). And again, the statement is not generally true.
(5) The government already mandates employers pay for other services. These are just additions. This is circular: that the government has already forced employers to fund other things is not justification that employers should fund still more. If anything, given the burden employers already face, and which causes them to hire fewer employees rather than more, this argues that employers should pay for fewer services.
(6) If we let employers get away without paying, they might be able to get away without paying others in the future. Slippery slope. Governmental control for the last century has been in one direction: increasing. There is no reason in the world to suppose government will allow any diminution in control.
(7) Letting people not pay because of religious beliefs is a clear violation of Church and State. This assumes what it set out to prove: that all employers must pay. It is therefore circular. And even if it were not, there is no “clear violation.” A man’s right to practice his religion, and not just his right to worship, is ensconced in the Constitution, whereas a woman’s “right” to “birth control” pills is found nowhere in that document. And the religious beliefs in question are not minor nor recent: these are long-standing, foundational moral questions, the very guide of life for many religious people.
(8) Even if individuals can have religious rights, corporations cannot. The government can force the mandate on corporations. First, the government is forcing the mandate on corporations and individuals. Second, it’s false to say corporations, like the Little Sisters, cannot be religious. Think of a corporation formed by religious whose purpose is to disseminate materials on the evils of contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization services. (These exist.)
(9) If employees must pay for these expensive services, they will have less money. This is true. But it is equally true that if employers must pay for these services, they will have less money, perhaps so much less that they have to fire (or not hire) other employees. It does not follow that because an item wanted by some employees is expensive, that the employer because he has more money should be mandated to purchase the item for his employee. After all, housing and food costs more than condoms, but we do not require employers to provide them free.
(10) It’s too late. The government already passed its mandate. We’re only talking about the pernicious influence of religion and what the law should be. Circular: assumes that employers must pay because the government mandates they pay. If anything, we’re talking about pernicious effect of secularists who would prohibit free expression of religion.
On the contrary, the question seems never to have been asked, its answer assumed by those who would desire the government mandate employers provide these services. It is enough for many that the government demands it, and that some (vocal) people want to have these services without having to foot their own bills, to conclude that the mandate is valid. But every argument which asserts this is circular, as shown. Attempts to bypass the question via a shift to balancing religious over “women’s” rights are non sequiturs.
I answer that the government’s mandate is a move to ingratiate itself with a portion of the public in an effort to secure its future cooperation. This is done in two ways. The first is by appeal to emotion, e.g. promulgating a “War on women!”, and the second by disguising increased taxation. The mandate just is an indirect tax. How? Those with money, because they are “employers”, are told to surrender the money and give it to others. Only the step of first handing the monies to a bureaucrat who would then redistribute them is missing. Since the mandate is a tax, it will in general lead to a drop in employment and economic activity, as these are the effects of most taxation.
The mandate is also responsible for increased servility in the public, already at dangerous levels. People demand a thing, politicians and bureaucrats anxious for power award the thing by forcing “the rich” to provide it. People don’t care where the thing comes from, as long as it arrives. The line between business and Government blurs, and finally fades, both in the minds of the public and in reality. After all, both are the “source” which gives, gives, gives. The part of the business which remains free is seen by the public as not yet regulated and therefore to be suspected (“You didn’t build that”). Why doesn’t the government mandate employers provide meals, housing, clothing, transportation? Aren’t these more important to women’s health (men are curiously left out of these arguments) than condoms and the like?
For the public—especially women: those women will not be responsible for their own bodies and demand to suffer no consequences from being female—the only surviving argument, and a powerful one, is I want it.
Update Another popular argument, encapsulated in this headline: Andrea Mitchell Slams Hobby Lobby: ‘What Right Do They Have to Interfere With Medical Decisions by Women?’. So a woman makes a “medical decision” (to engage in, say, unprotected sexual intercourse) and it thus becomes somebody else’s responsibility to foot the bill for any consequences of her behavior. Not paying is “interfering.” This is obviously absurd.