Tuesday, January 24, 2012

An Immodest Proposal

[This post is satire, in case the title didn't give it away.]

You have, by now, read about the slight kerfuffle between the Obama administration and the Catholic Church; the Obama administration wants to force Catholics to pay for birth control, abortifacients, and sterilizations for its employees, while the Catholic Church holds to the quaint view that people who are bound and determined to go to Hell ought to pay for their tickets themselves.

Of course, the Obama administration thinks that fertility is an illness, pregnancy a disease and babies a punishment, so it's not that surprising that they think of sex rendered purposefully sterile as healthy. In fact, I think that most of modern America thinks of sex as an activity somewhere in between a mildly athletic sport, sort of like golf, and a cheap alternative to professional adult entertainment--to which it is probably inferior but less expensive and more accessible.

That being the view modern Americans have of sex, it then follows quite naturally that the government would be concerned that people should have access to contraceptive sex rather than the other sort, which leads to unwanted constituents and unplanned voters. Just as the government wants its citizens to have phone service, Internet access, and cable television, then, the government also wants its citizens to have contraceptive sex, and views any sort of morality issues about sex in general or contraception in particular as being somewhat on a par with the moral concerns of those weirdos who don't own TVs and have never seen a Kardashian.

Having decided that contraceptive sex is "healthy," then, the government wishes to force health insurance plans to cover contraception and to force churches to pay for such plans, even when the Church in question has clearly stated moral principles which say that sex isn't just for entertainment and that contraceptive sex is intrinsically evil. In our diverse nation, there's just no room for the kind of diversity that calls evil, evil and good, good; we only like it the other way around, because the other way around lets people screw each other without ending up becoming parents.

Since, however, it is clear that the government of the United States of America in the year 2012 is ready to stand up and fight for the principle that people have the right to sex without consequences, the question becomes: why are contraceptives not freely available in every store, over the counter? Why should a woman have to have the inconvenience of interrupting her work schedule to visit a doctor to get her stash of anti-child pills? Why should a shy, blushing teenage girl who has only had sex with six or seven guys so far have to sneak out to a clinic for her Depo-Provera (tm) shot? Why shouldn't all of these things be available at the local Walmart (tm) in the aisle with the condoms, or at the pharmacy counter like the annual flu shots? And why shouldn't they be available for purchase with cash, tax credits, or even food stamps, if they're so terribly important to our nation's committment to the ability of all people everywhere to have as much sex as they want without getting pregnant? Why should health insurance be involved at all?

Do we make people use health insurance to buy golf balls or pay for cable TV? Of course not. So why should we make people use health insurance for contraceptive sex, when it's the one and only form of sex our nation finds good, virtuous, moral, noble, chaste, holy and wise?

Imagine the outcry if men had to visit doctors to get condom prescriptions and then had to use health insurance to pay for the visit and to get the condoms. Why, there would probably be marches on Washington, as men demanded the right to latex, available when and wherever they want to buy it. If my local big-box store can sell (yes, this is a real thing) a "date night" condom pack which comes with vouchers for free movie tickets (I guess the idea that the girl only owed you sex if you paid for the movie tickets is antiquated these days), then why in the ninth circle of Hell can't we just throw boxes of birth control pills up there right next to these products?

Sure, if we make contraception that available, we'll have to realize that children as young as eleven or twelve might buy it. So? We send teaching materials into the classrooms of children that young to make sure they know correctly how to masturbate as well as perform oral, vaginal, and anal sex, so it's a bit naive of us to expect that they'll magically wait until they're eighteen or so before trying out any of that stuff. Again, it's clear: America stands for contraceptive sex, and if you need contraception at eleven in order to fool around with your science report buddy without getting pregnant, then it's your constitutional right to be able to get it without Mom or Dad finding out. And, sure, you can already get it for free at most Planned Parenthood outlets, but maybe it's easier for you to pick it up when you're buying school supplies--so, again, why not?

The only liberty America really stands for any more is sexual libertinism. So maybe the government can avoid this showdown with people of faith by admitting that making women go to the doctor for their "I'm sexually available without consequences!" drugs and devices is an old-fashioned idea that needs to go away. The War on Fertility won't be won by forcing Catholics to pay for other people's contraceptives; the War on Fertility will be won when you can pick up your birth control pills in the aisle next to the soap opera magazines or condoms or other cheap symptoms of a culture that is rotting from the inside.


John Henry said...

The satire went right over my head, Red.

Red Cardigan said...

Well, John Henry, otherwise I would have had to put a bunch of disclaimers in there explaining that, no, I don't think that birth control should be sold over the counter. I've learned my lesson the hard way. :)

LarryD said...

Your scenario doesn't go far enough, Erin.

1) Sports franchises need to have "Give-away" nights; i.e.: Free condoms to the first 10,000 fans.

2) Prizes in cereal boxes ("Get your kicks in every box of Kix!")

3) Oil change shops - "Free KY lubricant with every lube job!"

I'm sure there are other opportunities one can think of. In order to really push this nation over the edge, the marketing and availability has to be 24/7/365.

Not only that, Erin, some people just can't be bothered with all the buying and getting and taking and using - so sterilizations have to be just as easy and accessible. Maybe a barber shop chain can team up with a doctor's office and offer vasectomies? Their slogan can be: "Need a clip? And a snip? On top and below? We got both in one convenient location at Skip's Clip n' Snip!

Jacque said...

BRAVO!!! This is your best yet Erin.


Anonymous said...

The President should simple use an "official, politically correct, medically approved, algorithm" to decide which men must be sterilized, sign the executive order, and be done with it.

What's the big deal?

eutychus said...

Bravo, indeed!

Siarlys Jenkins said...

You are all wrong. The principle involved has nothing to do with the right way to have sex or the value of contraception.

The real issue is one of protecting employees from having their own individual choices limited by the preferences and religious affiliations of their employers.

The regulations do not require the RC church to pay for contraceptives for nuns, nor dispense them to students in parochial schools. A broad regulation, generally applicable to employers of employees, will apply to such massive institutions as hospitals, colleges, and social service agencies, to the extent that they employ people whose primary reason for being their is that they need a job to support their families.

The church has, quite properly, been denied a special exemption from these generally applicable laws.

If the church was granted such an exemption, then Jewish and Muslim employers could require employees to agree not to eat pork, or could refuse to hire women in positions where they might have to drive company cars, etc.

All that is going to happen is that an employer (in this case, a large quasi-business institution with a Roman Catholic affiliation of some kind) is going to be paying for medical coverage, which includes a variety of medical procedures and pharmaceuticals, which the individual employee may use to pay for medically accepted items that no obedient Roman Catholic would seek, obtain, or use.

Obedient Roman Catholics don't have to, but the church may not use its position as employer to limit the options of its employees. Period.

Since a majority of confessing Roman Catholics also use contraception, the church seems to have some work to do in house before it goes parading in public wailing martyrdom.

(Larry -- your examples are not employers, and therefore are bad analogies).

T. O . Meehan said...

Erin, I welcome this latest intrusion by the Obama administration. The Catholic vote in the USA is the bell weather. If the Bishops want to settle this, all they have to do is make a point of getting this affront aired from the pulpits in late October. No endorsement of course just the facts about this assault on our church. That will put Obama back in the law school faculty lounge where he came from.

Tarcisius said...

Excuse me, SJ, but are you saying that the employees that work at these institution have to be provided the insurance to perform that which the employer considers grave evil? That would be like forcing a Jewish company to serve ham sandwiches at lunch meetings.

The problem is that the regulations are wrong, not that Catholic organizations are being denied exemption from them. However, requiring a Catholic-affiliated organization to pay for something that contradicts Catholic principles sends the message that the Catholic Church doesn't really think these things are wrong. This is known as scandal.

You say that the Catholic Church has to correct the problem of “confessing Roman Catholics also [using] contraception,” but how can we do that without public example? People have also argued that we can’t tell Catholics what to do in their bedroom until we fix our structure. Which is it? I would argue that you can’t fix the problems separately; they have the same origin, they are the same problem. We can’t fix internal issues without also providing a public rebuke; or as they say, leading by example.

We are called to assault the gates of Hell. The laymen are the soldiers in this battle, but without public example via our leaders, we just mill around. Lack of direction (bad catechesis) is why so many Catholics are misguided about Church teaching. We cannot make the enemy feel at home in our camps, and should never have to provide for the twisted desires of the wolves.

Insurance companies are not required to cover every single permutation of every single possible treatment, so why should they be forced to provide coverage for what amounts to a preference? It is not medically required, and is actually harmful. Insurance companies do not cover smoking by paying for the cigarettes, but by treating the problems caused by said smoking. And this isn’t required either! Insurance companies would consider a smoking habit as a liability, so why in the reason of man would they pay to enable this activity?

eulogos said...

What if one of the medical services offered under many insurance plans was euthanasia for the dependent elderly? You could cover your aged grandmother under your plan if she lives with you and you provide her support...and if you judge it to be the right time, the plan will cover euthanasia drugs. Grandma might object, but she isn't right in her mind, you know? If she were really aware, she wouldn't want to live that way, not being able to recognize her family. It is only compassionate to end her life before she further loses her dignity.

So, when society gets to that point, would Catholic institutions be wrong to refuse to pay for this?

"Choices" are not an intrinsically good thing. Some choices are wrong. Some "pharmaceuticals" can be used in ways that are severely immoral. The fact that something is a "choice" or that it can be called "medical treatment" or brought about by a "pharmeceutical" does not make it morally acceptable.

And we are responsible if we assist the immoral choices of others. If you know Tom intends to kill Bob, and you buy him the gun, well you have moral culpability for Tom's act of murder. If you know Betty intends to poison Sally Ann, and you buy the poison for Betty, you are morally culpable for Betty's action. Would you buy the poison?

Suppose Edgar has stated that he is going to drink himself to death. This is a choice. Would you buy him the booze?

Suppose someone wanted to cut off his own hand, because he had developed a conviction that it was alien to him, not a part of his body. Would you pay for that?

Suppose a large percentage of the population of your country believed that cutting off parts of young girl's genitals was necessary to her proper development as a woman. Would you be willing to pay for medical insurance with coverage for that? After all, if you don't cover it, it will be done by unqualified practitioners in unsanitary ways. Do you have the right to prevent people from exercising their cultural beliefs?

If Catholic institutions pay for contraception, they are facilitating the objectively immoral actions of others. If they pay for sterilization, they are facilitating medical assisted self mutilation. If they pay for abortive contraception or the morning after pill, they are assisting in the act of killing a human being. This is analogous to the situations I described above.

We simply cannot agree to it.

Susan Peterson

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Feel free to assault the gates of hell, but if you have to cross my property to get there, you are trespassing unless you first ask my permission. If I really believe that the gates of hell are just across my property from your band of saints, permission will not be unreasonably withheld.

Since hell is not known to be a physical location directly accessible from earth by any material means, I might be forgiven for a bit of skepticism.

If you argue that the regulation is a bad regulation, period, per se, for anyone and everyone, we have a wholly different argument. Forget about religious freedom, just argue that this is bad policy. I might even agree.

I am glad that SOME health care reform bill passed in 2010. I believe we are better off with it than with nothing. But, there are many ways it could have been done better, and many ways it could be improved.

As for the religious implications: If we were talking about requiring all employers to provide all employees with a free lunch allowance, and a Jewish employer tried to stick in a provision that their employees could not spend the lunch allowance on a ham sandwich, I would reject the Jewish employer's argument, just as I am rejecting the RC church's argument. The Jewish employer does not have to SERVE ham sandwiches on the premises, but the lunch allowance is part of the employees' compensation, and the employer may not limit how they spend it, or what they eat.

Again, there are good reasons to sever medical insurance from employer negotiated and paid health plans. But, President Obama had to content with substantial sentiment from those already insured who wanted to keep what they already had, because they were used to it, or because they didn't know what they might get in its place. So, for now, we are stuck with employer paid medical insurance being what a majority of those who are covered depend on.

If we start talking about the difference between medical insurance, and pre-paid health plans, the fact that all care actually provided has to be paid for by someone... we might arrive at a framework that would be more fiscally sound, more prudent, more realistic... but that is not what we have now.

Footnote to Meehan: What on earth (or in heaven) makes you think any sizeable number of practicing Roman Catholics are going to change their vote based on some homily from a priest? Most of them are using contraceptives themselves. As one young lady said, in favor of restoring the Latin mass, 'Father, if you're mumbling in Latin with your back to me, you won't have much chance to try to tell me how I should vote.' Or, as the late Lee Sherman Dreyfuss told Cardinal Carol Woytyla some decades back, "They're good Catholics, but they think like Protestants." Thank God for that. They're Americans.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

This is going to look a little wierd, because I am replying to Susan while my reply to Tarcisius and Meehan is (I hope) still pending approval.

Fundamentally Susan, it doesn't matter whether you agree to it, and you aren't being asked to agree to it. Indeed, choices are not an intrinsically good thing, but my choices are MINE to make, not yours to make for me. I have doubts that my soul would be saved by your making the right choice when with every fiber of my being I wanted to make the wrong choice. But you, or your church, are not being asked to choose, merely to stand aside and let other people make their own choices. And I consider that YOU might be making the wrong choice, as well as I.

Rather than do a tit-for-tat response, I'm going to make a comparative comment on the closing chapter of A Canticle for Liebowitz, which is a great book if you haven't already read it. Human "civilization" has re-emerged some 3000 years after a horrible nuclear conflagration, but a new nuclear attack has left thousands with severe, probably fatal, radiation burns.

The government offers a form of euthanasia for the fatally and painfully burned. A mother, out of compassion for her suffering baby, is taking her to a "Green Cross" euthanasia station. The Abbot of the Albertian Order of Liebowitz abbey ORDERS the woman in the name of the church not to subject her daughter to euthanasia. An EMT offering her transportation tells the abbot he has no authority to say such a thing.

My own take is, the abbot has every write to tell her in the name of the church, with whatever spiritual authority the woman may recognize, that it is a sin to take her daughter to the euthanasia station. He may use the word "command." But, he has no authority to MAKE her do what he says. The command has only the force the woman's faith may give to it.

You have chosen examples -- deliberately I'm sure -- that inspire general revulsion. IF every employer had a mandate to provide a keg of rum to every employee, that would be binding on the church's institutions, if they employ employees. But, there is no such mandate, for good and obvious reason. It is GENERALLY inapplicable, therefore it is also inapplicable to the church.