Friday, February 10, 2012

Catholics: don't be fooled

If, like me, you signed the White House Petition protesting against the HHS Contraception Mandate, you have probably received a copy of this in your email:
Protecting the Health of Women While Accommodating Religious Liberty

By Cecilia Muñoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council

Thank you for using We the People to make your voice heard about the Obama Administration's decision to ensure that women have access to free preventive care with no co-pays, including contraceptive services, no matter where they work.

As background, the Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to cover preventive services, including preventive care for women, without charging a co-pay, starting on August 1, 2012. These preventive services include well women visits, domestic violence screening, and contraception, and all were recommended to the Secretary of Health and Human Services by the independent Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science.

The policies we have proposed exempt churches, other houses of worship, and similar organizations from covering contraception on the basis of their religious objections. But some religious organizations have raised religious liberty concerns about providing contraception in particular in recent weeks.

Today, President Obama has announced that his Administration will implement this policy in a manner that fully accommodates religious liberty while protecting the health of women. As the President said:

Nearly 99 percent of all women have relied on contraception at some point in their lives –- 99 percent. And yet, more than half of all women between the ages of 18 and 34 have struggled to afford it. So for all these reasons, we decided to follow the judgment of the nation’s leading medical experts and make sure that free preventive care includes access to free contraceptive care. Whether you’re a teacher, or a small businesswoman, or a nurse, or a janitor, no woman’s health should depend on who she is or where she works or how much money she makes. Every woman should be in control of the decisions that affect her own health. Period. This basic principle is already the law in 28 states across the country.
Now, as we move to implement this rule, however, we've been mindful that there's another principle at stake here –- and that's the principle of religious liberty, an inalienable right that is enshrined in our Constitution. As a citizen and as a Christian, I cherish this right. In fact, my first job in Chicago was working with Catholic parishes in poor neighborhoods, and my salary was funded by a grant from an arm of the Catholic Church. And I saw that local churches often did more good for a community than a government program ever could, so I know how important the work that faith-based organizations do and how much impact they can have in their communities.
Video of his entire statement is available here.

Here are a few basic facts:

Under the policy, women have access to preventive care with no co-pay that includes contraceptive services.
All churches and houses of worship are exempt from the requirement to provide coverage for contraception or refer for contraception.
If a woman's employer is a religious non-profit organization, such as a charity hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of its health plan, her insurance company -- not the hospital or charity -- will be required to reach out and provide her contraceptive care free of charge if she chooses to use it.
There are tremendous health benefits for women that come from using contraception. Contraception is a safe and effective way of preventing unintended pregnancies which can be associated with increased health risks, and doctors also prescribe contraception for medical and health reasons, including helping to reduce the risk of some cancers, serious infections and cysts. Yet many women skip contraceptive care because of cost.

President Obama is also committed to preserving religious liberty and he listened to the concerns raised by certain religious organizations and took them seriously.

You can learn more about the policy here.

This is an issue where people of good will on both sides of the debate have been grappling to find a solution that works for everyone, and the policy announced today has done that. The right to religious liberty will be fully protected, and a law that requires preventive care without co-pays will not discriminate against any woman, anywhere. Here are a few statements from groups involved in the issue:

Catholics United:

President Obama has shown us that he is willing to rise above the partisan fray to deliver an actual policy solution that both meets the health care needs of all employees and respects the religious liberty of Catholic institutions.

Catholic Health Association:

We are pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished.

Planned Parenthood:

The Obama administration has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring all women will have access to birth control coverage, with no costly co-pays, no additional hurdles, and no matter where they work.


Today's announcement makes it clear that President Obama is firmly committed to protecting women's health.
Thank you again for participating in the We the People platform to make your voice heard on this important issue.

My response: Catholics, DON'T BE FOOLED.

You notice that while including the "Oh, how nice of the President" cooing from the kept sycophants and purring toadies from the so-called "Catholics United" and the "Catholic Health Association," this email does NOT include the much-more cautious statement from the bishops (let alone hinting at their private, and serious, concerns about the impact of all of this on religious liberty).

It is insulting to insist that women receive "tremendous health benefits" from using contraception. Frankly, women might receive actual health benefits from chastity, which would include abstinence before marriage and life-affirming practices within it. No woman I know of has ever received health benefits from living in an unchaste, immoral, promiscuous, or sexually deviant manner--and no man ever does, either. But for the religion of Sex Without Consequences, there is no such thing as chastity or virtue; contraception is a sacrament; and every woman is a temple prostitute--and she simply MUST get free anti-child pills that attack her healthy fertility for the convenience of the man who is using her if she is to be a truly liberated member of our society.

We must remain firm in opposing this travesty. The Federal Government of the United States of America should not be allowed to erase religious liberty in their slavering haste to impose upon the populace the secular religion of Sex Without Consequences as a replacement for the worship of God. We will not surrender our religious freedom to these monsters of unchastity, these hobgoblins of harlotry, these venomous vampires of virulent vice. If the secular citizens of our nation wish to conduct themselves with so little regard for the Divine Image they carry, so sneering a contempt for His existence, let alone His will, that is their problem--but we Catholics should not be forced to become their pimps and the enablers of their unchaste and immoral lifestyles. If freedom of religion means anything at all, it means refusing to pay directly for what is gravely, vastly immoral without fear of consequence--and no real Catholic will accept this pseudo "compromise" for anything less than the mockery it is.


L. said...

Once again, I cringed a bit when I read my sex life described as being "for the convenience of the man who is using" me.

But TOTALLY think "Hobgoblins of Harlotry" or "Venomous Vampires of Virulent Vice" would be great names for rock bands.

Anonymous said...

I received this e-mail too. What next? Any suggestions how to respond?

freddy said...

I went to the USCCB website to send them a message applauding their efforts and promising prayers.

They have a link to continue to send messages to Congress -- very easy to use.

Anonymous said...

It truly is a mockery and insulting - I sputtered when I read that response in my email. Seriously?

This administration is fraught with many questionable moral positions, and has the added disadvantage of managing to sound condescending when describing the weather. This was absurd.

amanda said...

Erin, I think the Obama Administration is trying to get rid of all Catholic charitable entities, much as many adoption agencies have had to shut down over same-sex marriage. If they can get rid of private organizations providing such services as education, healthcare, social services, food, clothing, and shelter then it leaves only the government to provide these. From there its pretty easy to see where things are headed.

Red Cardigan said...

Messages to Congress, as Freddy suggests, are good starts. The administration needs to be reminded that their efforts here may not only be unconstitutional, but also subject to overrule by Congress.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I refrained from commenting on the post soliciting signatures on the petition. It would have been petty to show up just to say "No, don't sign it," or something like that. I've just been circulating a petition myself, on another matter, and if people don't want to sign, they don't have to, but everyone is entitled to make their case without constant carping from whomever may disagree.

By and large I agree with the policy decision behind this letter, but the letter is a bit disingenuous. If I had a chance to write it, I would have said, 'These are matters about which there will not be complete agreement -- the competing principles as expressed by various concerned parties are too far apart. This is what we think we can reasonably do.'

And it is. I'm glad to hear that the bishops' response was "more cautious." I had read that it was an unequivocal rejection. I agree that the Catholic groups cited are those who might be expected to coo -- although they have as much right to express an opinion as anyone.

Bottom line to me: So long as medical coverage is based on an employer mandate (which we might well modify or abandon), the religious scruples of the employer are not the last word for what the employee shall have covered.

The tweaking of the regs is a bit of a fig leaf. Somehow, the insurance companies will make sure that premiums cover what they have to pay out, and then some. They are not in business to subsidize health care, but to make a profit. But the bishops are not entitled to the substance of actually denying coverage to the employees of institutions that have some Catholic connection. That would be unfair to the employees.

If freedom of religion means anything, it means that the moral scruples of any particular faith may not be imposed over the rights conferred by a generally applicable law on all citizens. (Note: I did not say "constitutional rights." There is no constitutional right to medical insurance. There has been a statutory decision that it would be good public policy to provide a means of insuring everyone, or almost everyone).

Anonymous said...

The degree of cognitive dissonance required to justify the administrations position is - considerable, lets say.

Pregnancy is not an illness, it's the natural consequence of sex. Chemical birth control and sterilization are not health care, they are cosmetic preferences.
There is an absolutely free, absolutely effective means of preventing pregnancy if one so desires.

the religious scruples of the employer are not the last word for what the employee shall have covered.

Interesting, but inaccurate - for now, anyway, insurance via employer is a benefit, not a right, so how is it different that some insurance will not cover smokers, or maternity, or observably reckless behavior, without either a huge increase in premium or a special rider? Employers opt out of those coverages all the time, what about the cosmetic rights of their speed boat racing employees, because it's ultimately no different. And since when are we at liberty to tell our employers what to do, anyway?

Our cultural solipsism is astounding. I don't go to other people's houses and tell them how to behave - if I don't like their rules, I leave. That is the scope and limit of my "right".

freddy said...

Mr. Jenkins says, "If freedom of religion means anything, it means that the moral scruples of any particular faith may not be imposed over the rights conferred by a generally applicable law on all citizens."

Oh, boy.

Mr. Jenkins, have you ever studied history? Ever taken a course in logic? Ever heard of an interesting little book called,

First, taken as a whole, your statements echoes little gems from "1984" like "Freedom Is Slavery;" a government motto used to confuse and control the masses. Defining "freedom of religion" as "what religion may not do" is a ridiculous and insulting misuse of language.

Second, "rights" cannot be "conferred" by any law, "generally applicable" or not. Privileges can be granted, rights can only be recognized. For example, we don't have a right to drive: the various states recognize driving as a privilege that may be legally granted or removed. We do have the right to vote -- this right was extended to include those who were unjustly prevented from voting. Their right was *recognized*, not granted.

Finally, the US constitution recognizes the freedom of religion. It is one of the most basic rights recognized therein. Even during Prohibition, which you will remember was amended to the constitution, the government made no move to restrict the rights of churches to use wine during church services, whether Catholic or other (Volstead Act). To imply that a government mandate could trump a constitutional amendment in abrogating the freedom of religion is to ignore history.

Your statement shows nothing but a certain ignorance and an animus toward the Catholic Church.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Freddy, I read 1984 before you were born.

Your comment is an immature string of axiomatic assertions, which are neither developed by logical argument, nor substantiated by any commonly accepted authority.

Your triumphal paragraph about "freedom of religion" offers no evidence that you have ever studied a single line of case law expounding on the practical meaning of the First Amendment. Accordingly, you personally define "freedom of religion" as "whatever Freddy wants it to mean." (Cf. Humpty Dumpty in "Through The Looking Glass").

I can tell you're very passionate about this, but don't resort to logic until you can put some substance into your premises. Your choice of words reflects an extremely immature thought process. (There are many who agree with you in principle who can offer a mature argument... you have not risen to that level).

Now Cottage Child has offered a rational argument. I happen to disagree, but we can at least discuss why.

Insurance, up to now, has been a benefit, although for at least forty years it has been regulated by law, not simply left up to the whim of the employer. Also, benefits are often regulated by union contract.

The whole point of the current reform, which was duly legislated by congress, and has not been repealed, was to establish a mandate. It is indeed an act of discretion whether coverage of contraception shall be mandated or not, whether coverage of smokers shall be limited, or not, etc. That is in the nature of trying to establish any kind of universal coverage.

Pregnancy is not an illness, but maternity is not either, and prenatal care is certainly covered, as is delivery. This too, is a natural consequence of sex. There are medically valid reasons for a woman to choose to regulate conception, which is a biological process which medicine has certainly taught us a great deal about. It doesn't have to involve disease to be medicine.

The place where you work is not someone else's house. It is, more likely than not, a large economic enterprise, which could not function without the labor of a large number of employees. Further, it is your livelihood, without which you would be homeless or on welfare. It is not a strictly private arena. If we each owned our own little sole proprietorship, and each made our own living thereby, I would certainly agree with you. But we don't.

eulogos said...

I just read that prenatal care and delivery, far from being required to be covered, are not required to be part of any policy offered, and if you are in the default govt. insurance which is offered free, a maternity rider will cost you a couple thou a year.

Can anyone verify this?

If true, what a picture this gives. Want to contracept? Want to use the morning after pill? Want to be sterilized? All covered, and the pills are free. Bu want to carry a child to term and give birth? Cough up the dough!

Susan Peterson

Anonymous said...

Further, it is your livelihood, without which you would be homeless or on welfare.

There is no provision in the Constitution for a right to work, unfortunate circumstances notwithstanding. Ironically, it is the Catholic principle of solidarity that most closely calls for a moral model of work in order that others might provide for themselves with dignity. That has nothing to do, however, with providing - well - anything - above a reasonable wage and working conditions. Artificial birth control in its myriad forms is not a necessity to well being. Self control, on the other hand....

prenatal care is certainly covered, as is delivery

Again, inaccurate. It is not unusual to pay a higher premium for the choice (key word) of maternity coverage, should an employer choose not to cover it in their general policy.

The place where you work is not someone else's house.

Actually, often it is. It's where I work, and where I occasionally employ people.

It is, more likely than not, a large economic enterprise, which could not function without the labor of a large number of employees.

Which would not be an available argument had the employer not opened for business.

Employment is not slavery. One has a choice of where one works, and in what moral environment we would like to perform our jobs. It is important for employees to ask about and understand the benefits a company may or may not offer before accepting employment. If those benefits are not adequate, we are free to seek satisfactory compensation elsewhere.

L. said...

FYI -- Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") will in fact mandate most health care plans to provide maternity coverage from 2014.

But gee, why the heck SHOULD they? After all, "pregnancy is not a disease," it's a totally elective condition.

So why shouldn't consenting to the sex act be the same as agreeing to shoulder the financial consequences of any resulting pregnancy?

If contraception coverage is elective, then childbirth should be, too.

freddy said...

Mr. Jenkins: I must have struck a nerve!

First, you flatter me that I am younger than you: "I read 1984 before you were born." Kind of you, but illogical, no?

Second, you accuse me of immaturity, lack of logic, and misunderstanding of law. I agree that a comment box is a difficult place to frame a substantial and detailed argument, but you offer not *one* proof for your assertions.

In other words, you did not like what I had to say, so instead of either ignoring it or responding to it, you attack me.

I agree that the free excercise clause has promted some thony complications, and I chose a dramatic example of the federal government's response on purpose to illustrate my point.

If you want to discuss the evolution of the Supmeme Court's thought on the issue, from say "Reynolds vs. U.S.," through "Sherbert v. Verner," "Employment Division v. Smith," the RFRA in 1993 and its subsequent dismantling to "Locke v. Davey" "Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC" it might be interesting, but lengthy and I fear not terribly useful.

freddy said...


Siarlys Jenkins said...

Cottage Child, thank you once again for a thoughtful and mature presentation. Indeed, there is no provision in the Constitution for a right to work. While I would not say that the Catholic principle of solidarity is THE model promoting that all should be able to provide for themselves with dignity, it is one of the most beneficient moral points your church has given to the world.

Federal law has recognized for over a century that in a centralized, highly technological, mass production economy, employers have overwhelming power over those who "need a job" or "can't afford to lose my job." Therefore, with some initial grumbling from the Supreme Court, congress has recognized that our economy is almost entirely interstate commerce, and has made provision by statute to protect employees from undue coercion by employers. Perhaps you disagree, but that is the law, and it has been held constitutional over many decades.

I think L has covered both your and Susan's concerns about how maternity will be covered under the health care reform act, after 2014. It HAS BEEN TRUE, up to now, that employers either chose not to cover maternity, or required employees who wanted such coverage to pay a higher share-of-premium. But now, there is indeed a law which will mandate that maternity and pre-natal care be covered in all policies (after 2014).

I suppose some insureres may have moral scruples and complain that being required to provide this coverage offends their religion -- particularly those devoted to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But I have no sympathy. Just because the CEO doesn't intend to have children, nor believes in God, doesn't mean that the employer should not provide good Catholic employees with maternity coverage in their health insurance.

To say that "one has a choice of where one works" is a beautiful thought, but in an environment where people are happy to find a job at all, they are terribly vulnerable to being coerced to accept all kinds of impositions due to fear of losing the one they have. Employers have even used this power to infringe the virtue of comely young female subordinates. Of course that is illegal too now -- and rightly so.

c matt said...

you personally define "freedom of religion" as "whatever Freddy wants it to mean.".

Why should that be a problem for anyone of Protestant sensibilities? If anyone can interpret scripture for themselves, why should a much lesser document such as the Constitution be any more special?

(PS, the word verification is ridiculously difficult)

c matt said...

Not only does O not understand the Constitutional and moral problems with his mandate, he doesn't get the economics of it either. You can't simply "mandate" coverage for free with no economic consequences. The insurance company will cover its costs by increasing premiums, and employers will cover their costs by reducing wages, the size of the workforce, or increasing prices (we already have minumum wage laws, I suppose mandatory hiring quotas and price controls next?).

Siarlys Jenkins said...

c matt, you've said at least three different, and mostly unrelated, things, and I agree on one point.

Let's start there. Medical coverage is not "free." Someone has to pay for it. In any shared risk pool, some will come out ahead, in the sense that if I have no heart attack, I don't collect $100,000 in payment for my medical bills. But, the money for services actually delivered has to come from somewhere.

It can come from employers -- in which case it is part of the compensation for services rendered, just as wages or salary are. This is something many unions demanded in collective bargaining, and I approve of getting employers to pay more revenue to supporting workers' families, less to managers and shareholders.

It can come from premiums paid by individuals who are insured. That is the position I am in -- that is, when I can afford to pay Humana for a policy with a $6000 deductible, while also putting money into a Health Savings Account. I would prefer that actually, when I have the income to afford anything, but its not for everyone.

For universal coverage, some people will have their premiums subsidized. This may be a net benefit for society if it is done right, since small problems will be treated before they become big, since our compassionate culture will not simply turn away someone with advanced cancer and kick them to the curb... but there is a subsidy there. Depending on my income over the next couple of years, I may be receiving some of that subsidy in 2014. I'd like to be doing better.

The HHS regulations are simply standardizing what will be covered in a medical policy, now that there has been a discretionary policy decision to cover everyone. If there is no standard definition, some insurance companies and employers will charge huge premiums for next to no coverage, and say "See, we're complying with the law."

(We might have a fruitful discussion on the difference between insurance (shared risk) and prepaid medical (paying for things everyone WILL need on a regular basis).

OK, freedom of religion. When it comes to civil governance, the constitution is THE fundamental document. The Bible is NOT a source of precedent for the laws of the United States. To the extent that government is exercising powers, they had better be the ones duly delegated to it in the constitution. The constitution is "the supreme law of the land," so when it says "congress shall pass no law ... prohibiting the free exercise of religion," it means what it says, not what Freddy (or I) think it means. Cf. justices Antonin Scalia and Hugo Black. This is contract law, writ large, not the fundamental Truth of Creation.

I'm Protestant in matters of religion because, as John Wycliffe said, "man has no earthly spiritual overlord but Jesus," and, as James Otis said, only God is entitled to omnipotence, because only God is omniscient. Sure there is a truth that is independent of my mind, and yours, but the Bishop of Rome has no better idea than I do what that Truth might be. God expects each of us to struggle with finding that truth, not to beat each other over the head claiming to know all the answers.

Constitutionally speaking, the health care reform has a simple basis: health care delivery, for better or worse, has become interstate commerce. Therefore, congress has the power to regulate how it is financed and delivered. But again,you are correct that it must be paid for.