Thursday, February 9, 2012

No contraception for anyone: the real plan

As you know the Roman Catholic church is outraged, outraged that "civilian" Catholic agencies (those with a function not limited to religion, like hospitals) might be required to provide contraceptive coverage to female employees.

First, this does not apply to institutions with purely religious functions, like churches. However, a Catholic friend told me that she was told that if this passes, the Diocese would be "unable to provide health care for its employees." That is a bald faced lie. Churches are, and continue to be, exempt.

Never mind that a lot of Catholic agencies already provide contraception. But why should we let facts get in the way?
Illinois is one of 28 to have adopted a contraception coverage requirement. Eight of those states provide no opt-out clause for religious institutions and the administration’s new rule would expand conscience protections to those parts of the country.

A recent poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute also found that a majority of Americans, including a majority of Catholics, support a contraception coverage requirement.
And never mind that no one is forcing an individual woman to use contraception: she's free not to use it, of course, as a personal moral choice. And 98% of Catholic women choose to use contraception (PDF).

But now, it turns out that the goal is beyond Catholic-affiliated hospitals, to abolish coverage from ALL plans:
[Fixing this] means removing the provision from the health care law altogether, [Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops] said, not simply changing it for Catholic employers and their insurers. He cited the problem that would create for "good Catholic business people who can't in good conscience cooperate with this." "If I quit this job and opened a Taco Bell, I'd be covered by the mandate," Picarello said.
Now think of what this says, think of the precedent it sets. No employer would have to provide contraception if he claims to be Catholic (and it would be a "he", wouldn't it?) ANYTHING you claim as a religious exemption can be used, under this logic, in a non-religious setting. It's no different to say that a florist doesn't have to do business with a gay person to saying that he doesn't have to do business with a black person, or a Muslim.

What if an employer refused to promote a woman over a man, because of devout fundamentalist beliefs that women must always be subservient? So much for non-discrimination policies and equal pay! And do you want your access to prescriptions to be determined not by you and your doctor, but the fringe beliefs of a pharmacist?

This is an unprecedented intrusion of religious belief into the public square, and a vicious attack on women's rights.

Zack Beauchamp writes (my emphasis)
The only institutions covered by the birth control mandate have chosen to participate in the broader market, a zone of private life governed by political rules. It's incumbent on critics to explain why this particular rule is a dangerous expansion of state power over market actors as compared to, say, forcing a Randian executive to follow minimum wage laws. If they can't, then it seems like the coverage requirement protects women's rights without appreciably increasing the state's threat to private associations.

Update: Turns out this became law under George Bush.  This is a manufactured political outrage!

In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn't provide birth control were in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex. That opinion, which the George W. Bush administration did nothing to alter or withdraw when it took office the next month, is still in effect today—and because it relies on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. Employers that don't offer prescription coverage or don't offer insurance at all are exempt, because they treat men and women equally—but under the EEOC's interpretation of the law, you can't offer other preventative care coverage without offering birth control coverage, too.


Ann said...

And insurance belongs to the employee not the employer - TNR report.

dr.primrose said...

I wonder if the bishops realize how much backlash this is causing.

I have a friend who's a very observant Jew who spent an hour in my office yesterday just ranting about this. He says that he observes kosher because he wants to, not because the government forces him to. The problem here, he says, is that the RC bishops have massively failed, in the marketplace of religious ideas, to convince the members of their own church, much less the American public, that birth control in sinful and wrong. And having failed to do so, they're seeking to impose their religious beliefs by government coercion. Once the church operates in the public sphere, like hospitals and colleges, they're subject to the same rules as everyone else.

He was particularly incensed about Boehner. Boehner is from Ohio, which has had an insurance rule like this for the last 10 years that, he says, doesn't even have an religious exception. Where has Boehner been for the last 10 years, he asks, when his own state has a rule that's less deferential to religion than the proposed federal rule?

annski said...

And where are the John Boehners and Marc Rubios of this country when it comes to trampling on the religious liberty of Jehovah's Witnesses who have been subsidizing the blood transfusions of others for decades?

Evidently religious liberty is only important when it comes to compromising women's health.

dr.primrose said...

Gail Collins's column in today's N.Y. Times has similar themes to my friend's rant.

"Catholic dogma holds that artificial contraception is against the law of God. The bishops have the right - a right guaranteed under the First Amendment - to preach that doctrine to the faithful. They have a right to preach it to everybody. Take out ads. Pass out leaflets. Put up billboards in the front yard.

"The problem here is that they're trying to get the government to do their work for them. They've lost the war at home, and they're now demanding help from the outside.


"The churches themselves don't have to provide contraceptive coverage. Neither do organizations that are closely tied to a religion's doctrinal mission. We are talking about places like hospitals and universities that rely heavily on government money and hire people from outside the faith.

"We are arguing about whether women who do not agree with the church position, or who are often not even Catholic, should be denied health care coverage that everyone else gets because their employer has a religious objection to it. If so, what happens if an employer belongs to a religion that forbids certain types of blood transfusions? Or disapproves of any medical intervention to interfere with the working of God on the human body?"

She starts her column with a story from many years ago about her mother-in-law's confessing to a priest that she used contraceptives.

"'You're no better than a whore on the street,' said the priest."

Well, no wonder the RC hierarchy failed to convince their own people that birth control is sinful and wrong!

IT said...

INterestingly NPR's story tonight argued that the bishops are winning the battle. I don't know anyone who likes this battle, so I'm at loss...

Ann said...

probably a case of "family" gathering around -- people want what Obama is offering but feel the need to defend their group. Also I don't think people understand what they are talking about. They think it is just the big bad government picking on the poor church.

Paul said...

There is actually some commentary suggesting that Obama has chosen this fight for his own political advantage. There is a demographic called Obama Independents who supported him in 2008, and who he needs in 2012, which skews heavily young, female and secular. There is no constituency more devoted to birth control than young women.

JCF said...

Can you imagine all the "Bain Capital" (etc ad nauseum) companies who would find "ethical objections" to minimum wage laws?

IT said...

And it was already law under Bush.... of course!
so this is as usual mostly manufactured

JCF said...

Indulging in my EWTN vice: funeral mass of Cardinal Bevilaqua (of Philly). Homilist is going on about (I sh*t you not):

"The Cardinal LOVED children. He had a party for 400 children. 'Now that was a party for children!' He loved to watch them opening their presents. He loved to watch them put his [word in Italian. His hat, I think] on their heads. Etc etc etc"

THIS IS 2012. The Cardinal died *the day before* he was to be compelled to testify re child abuse in his diocese (the county is investigating his death, for suspicious circumstances).

And this priest is going on and on about how "the Cardinal loved children"???? Can you effing BELIEVE the tone-deafness?! :-0