Contraception clarity

Contraception clarity
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For the first time in however many decades, contraception has emerged as a contentious issue in American politics, though observers seem fairly divided as to which party is poised to benefit the most. The roots of the schism lie in Obamacare, which, in a most novel fashion, is slowly starting to evolve from mere totemic abstraction into an actual, enforceable law with real-world consequences.

As we may remember, the President’s Affordable Care Act placed a number of new legal obligations on employer-based insurance plans, including a list of medical services they would henceforth be expected to cover for all employees under all circumstances. Most famously, this necessitated a ban on denying coverage on the basis of so-called “pre-existing conditions,” but also stipulated that anything involving “preventative care” must be provided in all plans without any obligation of co-payment. On January 20, President Obama’s secretary of health clarified that “preventive care” includes birth control, morning-after pills, female contraceptive devices, and even sterilization surgery, since pregnancy tends to be among the medical conditions women are most eager to prevent.

The problem is that not all American employers — the ones who have to foot the bill for all this stuff — are necessarily down with contraception. Catholic employers, for instance. The Obama administration, however, specifically refused to grant conscience exceptions for all but the most religiously strict employers (such as, say, a nunnery) meaning most broad-based Catholic organizations, including Catholic schools, charities, or hospitals are still on the contraception hook.

Of course, all evidence suggests this is exactly what their employees want. As the White House itself noted, studies have found that 98% of American Catholics claim to use birth control without qualm, and the health insurance regimes of many states already demand mandatory contraception coverage without faith-based exemption.

Yet in what is probably yet more evidence of the disproportionately large influence right-wing Catholics have over the American political discourse, the issue is now in its second week of news cycle-dominance. Spurned on by the US Council of Bishops, who have released a number of angry press releases on the matter, the Republican presidential candidates have made outrage over the birth control mandate one of their leading talking points on the stump, while GOP leaders in Congress have already begun planning to repeal the offending regulations.

The issue, conservatives say, is primarily one of religious liberty. No government should ever have the right to step between a faith-based employer and their employees, and undermine religious values by distributing morally objectionable material. It’s basically a fresh spin on the ol’ “condoms-in-schools” argument: regardless how medically necessary or desired contraception may be, the right of religious leaders to opt-out of supplying any product that violates their beliefs should ultimately take precedence over any imagined right to the product itself.

Republicans are gambling that this somewhat complex philosophical argument is a winning one, since it’s not really about contraception at all. The bigger story, as they see it, is the sheer spectacle of Obamacare itself, and the extremely top-down, authoritarian, busybody way it way it goes about aggressively modifying millions of private, personal health insurance plans across the nation. Obama’s tone-deaf, one-size-fits all approach to contraception coverage is a symptom of a larger, tone-deaf, one-size-fits all approach to governing in general, and who knows what realm of your life will fall victim to his central planning next?

On the other hand, I can’t help but feel that contraception is a very dangerous bit of political fire to be playing with. As I portrayed in an earlier cartoon, it doesn’t take much for wild, ignorant misconceptions to evolve out of a few oft-repeated hot-button phrases, and I’m not convinced it’s really in the GOP’s best interests for the words “Republicans,” “oppose,” and “birth control” to be constantly appearing in the headlines, regardless of what clarifying phrases fall in between.

Listening to FOX News radio last night, the dominant topic of caller interest was not how to best create workable contraception opt-out clauses for faith-based employers, but rather outrage that the GOP was once again clamouring to “tell people what to do with their bodies.” With birth control having a literal 99% approval rating among the American public, even the most casual misconception among swing voters regarding what exactly Republicans are opposing has the potential for very serious consequences.

Obama, in typical fashion, has since caved somewhat on his original policy. On Friday he revised his central planning rules to exempt faith-based employers from covering contraception in their insurance plans, but added a new rule stating that dissident employees would still be eligible to gain access to birth control from the insurance companies directly, so long as they were comfortable making a special appeal. This has, of course, satisfied no one; liberals are aghast at the compromise and conservatives are vowing to pledge forward with a complete repeal of all language in the Affordable Care Act that makes contraception coverage mandatory, period.

To liberals, this episode thus bears all the hallmarks of everything they hate about the president: clumsy overreach in a moment of opportunity followed by a hurried retreat the second controversy beings to boil. Obama apologists, however, argue that this may actually be one of the most “crazy like a fox” moments of his presidency, providing the end result is a public with a somewhat hazy, though permanent, mental association between the GOP and puritanical hard-liners who hate legalized birth control. For a president who doesn’t have a whole lot of winning economic issues in his quiver, a retreat to the culture wars may be his best hope for re-election. A rare strategy for a Democrat, but then again, we live in unusual times.


  1. Jon Bennett

    Part of me wonders if this was a political ploy by the Obama reelection committee to motivate the Catholics and SocialCons to vote for Santorum in the primaries. That way, the electorate can be distracted from the economy (in which Obama is clearly a failure) and this election can be a joint referendum on Republicans trying to "legislate morality."

  2. diceman

    Jon you're close but no cigar. It was a ploy to get Obama's demoralized base energized. Nothing pisses off professional women (who went 60% for obama in 2008) more than a perceived attack on their autonomy. National polls already show that the contraception mandate issue is playing into Obama's favor, 60% of the country couldn't care less about this.

  3. Jbot

    That's a good point. I hadn't considered that. It would be the perfect way to mobilize liberal female voters who may feel disenchanted with Obama since he's not been playing ball with a lot of those who are further on the Left.

  4. LorenzoCanuck

    To say that 98% of Catholics “approve” of contraception is actually highly misleading. For one thing, the actual study that measured this restricted its sample to women of child-bearing age who were sexually active but not desiring to have children, certainly not representative of the whole Catholic population! More here

    Whatever Obama’s intentions, the effect of his policy has been to arouse almost the entire Catholic hierarchy in America (which, speaking as a Catholic, is a very rare thing indeed) against him, and even many of his “liberal” Catholic supporters. Even Joe Biden (!!!) had reportedly warned Obama that this was an overreach and would have dire consequences. I dunno about you, but that sort of thing doesn’t really give credence to the theory that this is part of a clever gamble.

  5. LorenzoCanuck

    diceman, I’m not sure what polls you’re looking at, but the ones I’m seeing aren’t exactly favourable to Obama:… You seem to have gotten your numbers reversed; 60% of people actually have heard of this issue.

  6. Jon Bennett

    "Polls can say anything you want them to say. 27% of people know that!" – Homer Simpson

  7. Fitzgerald

    If conservatives are making a complex argument based on religious liberty, not a personal distaste for birth control, someone needs to inform Republicans post haste.

    There's always a disconnect between what the conservative intelligentsia thinks is wrong with what Obama's doing and what the base thinks is wrong with what Obama's doing. Considering that most of the people in office belong to the latter camp, can you really blame Obama for saying that this is about women's access to birth control?

  8. Jon Bennett

    I dunno. It's being sold as a pretty clear-cut 1st Amendment issue: Should Churches be forced to go against their dogma by government behest (and thus clearly violating the Establishment Clause of the Constitution)?

    I actually think it's simpler than that–Government has no right to force anybody to pay for anything besides their taxes. But the religious angle does make it an obvious Constitutional question.

  9. Guest

    "thus clearly violating the Establishment Clause of the Constitution"
    Are you sure about that?

    "Government has no right to force anybody to pay for anything besides their taxes"
    But no government behaves like this. Governments require those found guilty of civil and/or criminal offences to pay fines. Governments require people and organisations to pay charges for services run by government. Governments require organisations to pay charges for private services (e.g. must have accounts verified by independent auditor). And healthcare is cost of doing business just like auditing is. You could argue all these are behavioural taxes, of course… but you could equally say that health cover is an employment tax like social security.

    And why only this issue? Are republicans also championing the rights of members of the peace churches not to pay those proportions of taxes which go towards the military?

    Actually, I'm a bit troubled by the fact that religious freedom seems to be trumpeted most when it involves a religious organisation wanting to dictate the private ethics of individuals. The organisations are only paying for abortions if their employees request them, after all. Why should the state intervene to support the religious employer's message when the employer has failed to convince?

  10. @ThePsudo

    It worries me that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" can be interpreted to mean "Congress is entitled to make laws disrespecting established religion."

    Peace churches are tax-exempt; the institution doesn't have to pay for anything that goes against institutional standards. If Catholic institutions are forced to pay for abortions or birth control, they would have to defy their own principles in a way that peace church organizations do not.

  11. Republicalifornian

    Well said.

  12. Nicolasrll

    I'll freely admit that I'm no constitutional scholar, but it seems kind of obvious to me that *of course* Congress is entitled to make laws disrespecting established religion. Otherwise you could opt out of any law you wished by arguing that it infringes on your religious beliefs. If Catholics don't like contraceptives, they should come up with a secular reason-based argument for why their employees should not be allowed to obtain them from their insurance providers. "I don't approve of contraception" is a great argument for not using contraception yourself, not for trying to prevent others from using it.

    But like I said, I'm no expert on the constitution, and not even being American I may be misinterpreting what the 1st amendment is for what I'd like it to be. Did I get it right?

  13. Guest

    Tax-exempt means exempt from business rates, doesn't it? They still have to pay employment-related taxes and other taxes.

    Or is the military budget hypothecated entirely from business rates?

  14. @ThePsudo

    Some quick research says they are exempt from corporate, most income, and state sales taxes, but not payroll taxes. I assume sin taxes still apply, but what irony if they didn't!

    Sources: I found an IRS webpage that describes what practices may result in tax-free income for tax-exempt agencies. I know from working as a cashier that schools and churches don't pay sales tax. Churches pay payroll taxes, though. Apparently the only organizations that are exempt from payroll taxes are businesses that are organized in territories (not the states or DC), Indian tribal governments, and some public colleges. My source is for the 2010 tax season (for fiscal 2009); I don't know if anything has changed.

  15. Jon Bennett

    The phrase "Free Exercise thereof" removes the ambiguity. "Respecting" in this case means "In regards to," not "respectful of."

  16. Republicalifornian

    You seem to be confusing dictation of private ethics with a refusal to pay. Employees of these organizations have access to contraception with $20 in their pocket and an open grocery store. The Catholic organizations are not doing anything to prevent their employees from using contraception; all the state has to do is nothing, and these employees can go buy whatever contraception option they prefer. The Catholics are objecting to the state intervening to force them to pay for it, since it's against their religion. It's about as clear cut 1st amendment as it gets.

  17. Guest

    What about if an organisation is opposed to blood transplants? That cuts out lots of operations or makes them much more dangerous.

  18. Jon B

    My guess is that an insurer who didn't provide lifesaving surgery will find it difficult to find clients, and a company offering that insurance won't get many qualified employees. However, if they chose that sort of spotty coverage, that is their right.

  19. Guest

    "can you really blame Obama for saying that this is about women's access to birth control?"
    But it is about women's access to birth control. I get that that the formal legal argument is about the contracts a religious organisation enters into, and sure, Obama and others may not be conveying the nuance of such a position, but however you dress it up, the decisions made by the President and the legislature directly affect access to birth control. The "intelligentsia" are living in a different world if they think otherwise.

  20. Republicalifornian

    No. They don't. They affect the cost of birth control, in regards to who bears it. Employees of these organizations have access to birth control right now.

  21. Guest

    If they can afford it. And that's not a trivial matter. The point of health insurance is that it pools risk to avoid the full cost falling directly on the person who needs it.

    But we're not talking about legalisation, we're talking about access. How much something costs relative to your personal finances is one of the main ways society decides who can access what.

  22. @Cristiona

    Birth control is hardly back-breakingly expensive.

  23. Guest

    Seriously? Generic of what I take is over 100 USD a month and it is because I HAVE to take it – the others do not work (I get very sick near my cycle otherwise) or cause me to have hot and cold flashes that cause me to be unable to sleep properly (which just adds to my other problems).

    Just glad the doctor didn't put me on the non generic one that's over 300 a month right? Because wow without my medicaid (I'm disabled) it would take 3/4s of my ssi check.

  24. Jbot

    Republicans pretending to care one whit about religious liberty is pretty hilarious.

  25. Republicalifornian

    Could you please elaborate?

  26. Iokobos

    This presumes there has been some obstacle put between women and birth control. I am aware of no such obstacle. People just don't want to 100% subsidize it. Pretty cut and dry to me.

  27. Paul

    You give the Republicans way too much credit by using the word "philosophical". They're being cunts on a social issue because there is no enthusiasm for their piece of shit party this election cycle. This is literally all they know now.

  28. @MHR_Topher

    I think I can speak for most people on both sides, but comments like that are generally bad for any sense of logical conversation and hurt dialogue.

  29. Jbot

    Appeal to ridicule is de rigueur for those on left.

  30. Republicalifornian

    Comments like these are more indicative of the worth of your own ideas, rather than the people you are attacking. And I would say the same about an attack on Democrats.

  31. RJM

    Honestly, as someone who has to take birth control pills for reasons other than preventing pregnancy (boo, hormone imbalances!), I am just finding this whole hooplah aggravating. Yes, Obama overreached… by some of America's standards in today's world. I think there is only so much that we can respect the wishes of religion when it overlaps with organizations whose primary purpose is not one of faith. (I am saying this as a Christian, by the by.) An insurance company's primary concern should be providing the needed products for those they insure. Their faith should influence their decisions, but not dominate it. I do think there needs to be a sit-down discussion, or a long series of debates, to redefine where the line is in today's world. I do like Obama's current compromise, and I think it is a good choice, and now I feel like the GOP are just being a bunch of jack asses.

    Also, I think more than anything, the rederict the GOP is using is ridiculous. An 'attack' on religious freedom? The beginning of a Nazi Germany America, Obama-style, where the Christians are the persecuted? Wonderful, GOP. Stay classy. Man, and to think up until now I was actually considering voting for the republicans.

  32. Jake

    Funny thing is its the Catholic Democrats like Joe Machin who have. This is because it was many Catholics who supported Obamacare who now feel betrayed by it. So it has become a religious issue as a result.

  33. Republicalifornian

    By the by, I'm a Christian and my wife took birth control prior to the time we started trying for our daughter.

    An insurance company's primary concern is diffusing risk by taking small payments from many individuals to pay out to the few who encounter awful circumstances (and make money in the process). Using insurance to cover small, routine payments is horribly inefficient, but that's where we are with our messed up system. There is nothing that dictates that contraceptives need to be part of the basket of goods that an insurance company provides.

    I understand that some people (perhaps including yourself) are thinking about the rights of the women involved and that that is informing their positions on this issue. Please try to understand that for others (which does not include me), this product is immoral. They are not preventing the previously mentioned women from following their own personal ethics (with their own personal wallet). They are objecting to paying for something they conclude to be immoral. This is an attack on religious freedom (although you're the first person I've heard to bring up Nazis).

    Also, Obama's second compromise is nonsense, but I'll address that more later.

  34. AshburnStadium

    What I see are Republican attempts to install a totalitarian system very similar to Nazi Germany here in the States. Instead of going after the Jews like Hitler did, they are going after the Muslims.

    They are also trying to put a zero-tolerance policy for anything they find offensive, including drugs, extra-marital (including gay) sex and anything that gives the poor any relief. Nazi Germany also played ball with the big corporations as well. Herr Doktor Ferdinand Porsche was close friends with Schicklgruber, that "paperhanging son of a bitch," as Patton called him.

    The big interest in drug-testing everyone? Who does that benefit? I should know – I worked for one in the early 1990s. Only the big clinical laboratories that do the testing like Quest Diagnostics (my company was swallowed up in a merger that eventually led to Quest's existence).

  35. Virgil

    Well, is it really ridiculous to request that Catholic money not subsidize abortifacients? Its not just birth control that's covered.

  36. Pete Zaitcev

    The Congress really should just strike down the Obamacare in its entirety. It would leave with the old system, however, which was only slightly less bad, in fiscal sense. I am very concerned that they would attempt to modify Obamacare instead, adding more loopholes, well-intentioned or not.

  37. Republicalifornian

    I agree and disagree with the post (shock!). I agree that Republicans might be doing themselves more harm than good with this issue. I disagree that Obama's "second compromise" changed anything.

    Contraceptives didn't suddenly become free. The insurance company is going to have to pay the contraceptive provider for the goods provided. Now, ask yourself, where are they getting the money to do so? To perhaps be overly simplistic, there are two places that insurers get money: employers and individuals. Is the individual paying for it? No, Obama specifically said that individuals who apply for it from their insurance companies will not pay anymore. Therefore, the employer is paying for it. It may not explicitly be called out anymore, but there is no one else to pay for it. There are no other revenues to match against those costs. The insurer is not tapping some hidden fund of money to pay for the contraception. It's still a cost to the employer, regardless of whether that employer feels it is moral or not. Follow the money.

    That's why Obama's Friday announcement is nonsense. If you can't see through it, you're not thinking critically enough.

  38. Nicolasrll

    Now, I don't have a very positive opinion of religion in general, so despite my best efforts some of this bias may be showing in my opinion on this issue; but it really seems to me that if a law is valid for non-religious institutions, it should be valid for religious institutions as well. You don't get to opt out of a rule that applies to everyone else because of your supernatural beliefs. There's an argument to be made that government should not be imposing regulations on insurance policies, though I would strongly disagree with that. But if we're going to be imposing regulation on health insurance, then those regulations should apply to everyone. We can't all be 100% happy with the way the government spends money and passes laws, and sometimes it will do things we don't approve of. When that happen, you vote for a representative that will govern in a way more closely aligned with your priorities. I can't think of any reason why religious arguments should be exempted from that rule.

  39. SES

    I agree. I don't understand why so many people seem to think that "religious freedom" means "special loopholes to accommodate your beliefs." If employers have to provide insurance that covers contraceptives, then employers should have to provide it, period. I would think that exemptions would violate the religious freedoms of everybody else. If you don't have to follow a basic labor law just because you believe you shouldn't have to, why am I punished with that extra burden?

  40. @ThePsudo

    Do you oppose conscientious objectors? That movement began as a religious rights movement, and even when it is not religiously motivated it is a personal morality issue of a very similar nature.

    This is not an issue of disagreeing with how government spends it's money, but disagreeing with how government forces us to act in our own lives. When should government be allowed to force a person to act contrary to their own conscience? Surely there must be tight limits to that if we are to call ourselves a free society.

  41. Virgil

    I disagree. This goes to separation of Church and State.

    Philisophically, there is always an "is" and an "ought". What is done according to law (positivism) and what ought to be done morally (natural law). Organizations that concern themselves with morality (not just religions incidently) need to be able to live in accordance with their conscience and should not be forced to do things that they do not want to do. The government should not be able to force Catholics to pay for abortion and birth control any more than the government should force Jews or Muslims to eat pork.

    The reason for permitting these exemptions is simple. If they do not exist, the government is left as the sole arbiter of right and wrong. One does not need to go far into history to learn how that story ends. Freedom has only made headway in the West because of this right to disagree. Without it we end up with the "general will" of the French Revolution…elected and despotic.

  42. robota rozum

    The dietary requirements you refer to have no practical consequences. If a hypothetical religion demanded that children eat no food for a hypothetical week-long holiday, surely you agree that the government would (and should) intervene, no?

    In any situation where two bodies disagree, one is going to win. When the choices are government of all or church of some, the only reasonable choice is government of all.

    In the same way that we are not fundamentally Germans, French, English, we are not fundamentally Catholics, Protestants, Muslims. We are fundamentally Americans, and a consequence of that is we subject ourselves first and foremost to American authority. Please note that this does not preclude conscientious objection: it just means that you go to jail instead of complying with whatever law. The idea is that if you are in the right, people will agree and democracy will run its course. No one in America is ever forced to do anything. If you don't want to pay for abortion, don't pay taxes and accept the consequences.

  43. @ThePsudo

    How can you claim no one is ever forced to do anything? People are forced to go to jail. Occasionally, people are forced to die. Your claim is clearly ridiculous.

    Why should we knowingly create more motivation for citizens to conscientiously object? The basic principles of liberty and order suggest we should seek the opposite. Soothing social unrest is the expected result of democracy running it's course, the reason we value democratic politics. I see no way in which sticking pins into conscientious objectors is a political virtue.

  44. Rebochan

    I like how you're equating people who refused to be forced to ship out overseas and shoot innocent people with people demanding that women not be allowed to have birth control.

  45. @ThePsudo

    I like how you're equating refusing to pay for someone else's birth control with refusing to allow them to have any.

  46. Rebochan

    Jehovah's Witnesses have to pay for blood transfusions in their insurance premiums despite being religiously opposed to them, your point?

  47. Republicalifornian

    Not if there's not an individual mandate they don't. They could choose to self insure or an enterprising insurance company could come up with a policy that covers just the medicine that they approve with premium costs that match the services provided.

  48. robota rozum

    People only choose to go to jail. The government does not (ideally) barge into your house and throw you in jail for no reason. You choose to break the law, which is exactly identical with choosing to go to jail if you are caught, tried, and convicted. In the same way, you choose to be executed in capital cases. You can't simultaneously choose to commit a capital offense and not be executed the same way you can't simultaneously choose to be Muslim and Atheist. They are mutually exclusive.

    You mention order. The only way to truly have order is for one authority to supersede all others. I ask you, which choice of the one authority is better: the government of all or the church of a few?

  49. ThePsudo

    Any reasonable government will not throw you in jail for no reason, but they have a lot of latitude to pick the reasons. When the government chooses reasons like "being black and using a drinking fountain designated for whites" or "being drafted and refusing to kill the enemy" to throw you in jail, it is reasonable and responsible to seek to do those things without the government-imposed consequences. Telling, say, a Catholic school that they must pay for things their religion finds sinful is identical in principle, though on a much smaller scale.

    I disagree with your premise that true order only comes from one authority superseding all others. That is a definition of order that could be termed "jurisdictional consistency" in that appeals to higher authority eventually stop at one particular institution; a supreme court of the world, if you will. That ideal seems to inherently conflict with diversity and plurality, and certainly is not a virtue in my mind. I meant something more like "social coexistence," where ideological and demographic factions exist and intermingle but do not unnecessarily impose upon each other or pick fights one with another. From this perspective, the question should not be "Why should anyone be granted an exception to this law?" but rather "Why should we impose a law that offends people who have done nothing wrong?"

  50. Republicalifornian

    The point of religious freedom is to allow everyone to live in accordance with their personal beliefs. You believe contraceptives are fine? The go ahead and spend your resources on them. The Catholics are not trying to prevent that. They just want to live the way that they believe and not have their resources spent on activities they find immoral.

    Also, remember that this law is very new. One of the conditions for its passage was the belief that there would be exceptions that allowed people to live according to their religious beliefs (including the current VP). Take that away, and this "rule for everyone" would have been just a failed bill.

  51. guest

    First -my biases. I am a complete outsider geographically (Australian), interested political observer (generally conservative leaning) and conservative Christian.
    This is not so far removed from ordinary people's concerns so far as I am concerned. I don't drink but chair a social club. Do I care if other people drink? Not at all. Do I want my membership fees going down someone else's gullet? Absolutely not. As an employer would I care if people want to use contraception – not at all. Would I want o be paying for them to do so, particularly when it comes to abortion – something many people and organisations find absolutely repugnant, absolutely not.

  52. Virgil

    Excellent point! And may I say, that while I will imbibe socially I would be grossly insulted were the government to attempt to stick you with my bar tab.

  53. Matt Richardson

    Note that no one's using these funds for abortions. Nowhere in the law are abortions mentioned – just contraception.

  54. Virgil

    Except that the morning after pill is considered a form of contraception. This is an abortifacient, and is considered abortion according to Catholic teaching. Morally, it'll be enough to force every Catholic hospital to close rather than to comply.

  55. Mel

    The morning after pill Prevents contraception. Not abort anything. Learn some facts and stop listening to FOX NEWS

  56. ThePsudo

    What about Discovery Health? "scientists aren't completely sure how it works"

  57. Iokobos

    It prevents implantation of the blastocyst (ie the developed, already fertilized egg) onto the uteran wall, which is required for the next stage of fetal development. Depending on what your definition is of when life starts, this is an abortion.

    p.s. I beileve you meant to say "prevents conception" – which would be wrong. Learn some biology.

  58. Rebochan

    Wow, so Catholic hospitals love humanity so much they'd rather see close their doors than have to update their practices to the rest of the 1st world. Clearly, the example is to make religious exemptions.

  59. ThePsudo

    Secular society is willing to make reasonable accommodations for diversity. Why aren't you?

  60. Iokobos

    Their love for humanity stems from their adherence to their dogma. The government wants to tell them when and where their dogma applies. I support them taking their ball and leaving the playground. It wouldn't last very long, only until the next election.

  61. @ThePsudo

    How would you respond to a law that requires you to defy your conscience? Not just misuse of tax funds (an ugliness necessitated by a democratic system), but a mandate that you personally do something you find morally repulsive? Everyone must buy a $5 protest sign from the Westboro Baptist Church. You must personally sign a check, and fill out a government form proving you did so. It's not a lot of money and only takes 5 minutes. Does that policy still seem so harmless when it's your own conscience under attack?

    If there were some overwhelming reason to defy conscience perhaps it could be justified. What overwhelming purpose is served here?

  62. Rebochan

    Sorry, but "my sky bully told me so!" isn't your conscience, it's an excuse.

  63. Jon Bennett

    Constitution says it is

  64. Rebochan

    Not really. The separation of church and state should mean that the religious get treated the same way as the non-religious. Not that favored religions gets their own special set of exemptions and benefits.

  65. ThePsudo

    The Supreme Court ruled that laws can "neither advance nor inhibit" religion under the 1st Amendment. Causing people to act against their religious principles is inhibiting religion. That is constitutional necessity. Laws mandating employers provide health insurance are not a constitutional necessity. If those principles are in conflict, then religious freedom wins.

  66. Rebochan

    You're trying to use a constitutional amendment that was meant to protect personal rights as an excuse to deny other people rights and create two sets of laws, one for Christians, one of the rest of us. And then claiming the Christian's rights are more valuable.

  67. Republicalifornian

    He's trying to use a constitutional amendment that was meant to protect personal rights as an excuse to protect personal rights. No one is seeking to prevent non-Catholics from acquiring contraception (which has not even been established as a right). Catholics are seeking to protect their own personal right not to have to spend money on a practice they find immoral.

    The First Amendment was created to protect us from people like you.

  68. Iokobos

    What right is being denied? There is no right to birth control. There is no right to health care. There is no right to make other people work for your benefits.

  69. robota rozum

    If I may, the full ruling states that laws "must not have the **primary** effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion". Healthcare's **primary** effect is not inhibiting religion, therefore the ruling does not apply.

  70. Nicolasrll

    Though of course I can't speak for the Obama administration, I would think that the whole reasoning here is that government has a responsibility to make sure that as many people as possible can afford as good a healthcare coverage as possible. Birth control, AKA being able to control your own reproductive mechanism if you so desire it, meaning you are able to prevent unwanted and/or dangerous pregnancies, is considered to be part of healthcare, so government feels justified in mandating that health insurance policies cover it. On the other hand, the "violation of conscience" that we're talking about here does not involve forcing people to actually do something to themselves that they disapprove of, like forcing people to take contraceptives. It involves making sure that employees of the church are able to perform a certain action, which involve only consenting adults, that the church disapprove of.

    Of course, every piece of legislation that the government enforces involve some compromise between freedom and the public good, liberty and security, etc etc, and reasonable persons with different priorities can disagree on whether or not a law is just or not. But in this case it seems like the "public good" part of the equation is rather clear cut, while the "freedom" part is somewhat hazy: does your personal freedom really extend to cover what others do to their bodies, especially when there are obvious health issues involved?

  71. @ThePsudo

    Yes, we are talking about forcing people to actually do something that they disapprove of. We are legally mandating employers be party to actions that conflict with their personal choice. Paying for it and doing it are morally identical; so says the law that makes it murder in the first degree to hire a hitman, and the Supreme Court decision that declared campaign donations protected speech under the 1st Amendment (Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission, 2010 ), and basic rational sense. If donating money to a charity is helping that cause, so is providing money for birth control engaging in birth control.

    That government has a responsibility to ensure the best possible health care is provided to the most people is an ideological position. The Constitution doesn't say so, and a large portion of the populous disagrees.

    That the government has a responsibility neither advance nor inhibit religion is an established principle of Constitutional law. Individuals are free to obey or defy religious principles all they like, and congress shall make no law limiting that freedom. Employers are individuals, too. Forcing Catholic institutions to defy Catholic religious principles is in conflict with Catholic employers' freedom of religious expression to exactly the same extent that forcing their employees to adhere to Catholic principles would be.

    Rights can be limited when they conflict with other rights, but they cannot be limited in pursuit of the public good; elsewise, we could execute murder suspects without trial, or forcibly and indefinitely quarantine AIDS patients. Rights in general would be threatened by such a compromise.

    Bottom line: Personal freedom does not allow you to force others to be party to your own choices. Employers and employees get the same protection under that principle.

  72. Rebochan

    So it's okay for my employer to force me to follow his religious beliefs by not offering me full insurance coverage?

  73. ThePsudo

    Take your paycheck and go buy all the birth control you want. They can't stop you. There is no way they can force you to follow their religious beliefs.

  74. Rebochan

    But they already are by denying me the right to full insurance coverage through my employer for no other reason than they claim it goes against their religious beliefs.

  75. Rebochan

    Oh, and by the way? They can totally fire me for using birth control. Currently, the law protects the rights of employers to judge my personal life by their religious standards and sack me regardless of my performance.

  76. ThePsudo

    There is no "right to full insurance coverage" in US law. And I'd like to see a source about a Catholic organization (school?) firing someone for using birth control; I don't believe it.

    Here, study constitutional rights:

  77. Jake

    Even if religious groups could do that it wouldn't be under the 1st amendment. It would be basic contract law which is another part of the Constitution. The secular atheist employer could simply put it into your work contract that no one who works for him/her can use birth control. The employer doesn't HAVE to hire you.

    And Psudo is right there is not right to health insurance in the US. Most business offer it as a result of the free market. One company trying to get quality workers over another company.

  78. Jake

    Companies do it all the time in a less extreme way. Major Coca-Cola employees (celebrities mostly) can't drink Pepsi or vice versa or at least be seen drinking it.

  79. Iokobos

    "The right to full insurance coverage through my employer" – where exactly does that right come from?

    Ah, the generation of entitlement and ignorance.

  80. robota rozum

    Since you ask, I would write letters to my Congressperson requesting that the government accept credit cards. As an environmentalist, I would be deeply offended by the waste of paper of checks.


  81. @ThePsudo

    Write letters? I hope you mean emails. =]

  82. Iokobos

    That uses electricity, which means burning coal or gas…

  83. RA Bartlett

    Well one reason is that a lot of women do require birth control for reasons other than "I want to experience pleasures of the flesh but not have to have children."

  84. @ThePsudo

    They have access to birth control whether Catholic institutions are required to pay for insurance for it or not.

  85. Rebochan

    By that logic, why pay for anything? All health care is available for a cost.

  86. ThePsudo

    Good question. Why should employers pay for employees health care? I'm an employee, and I pay for my own health care; my employer offers a health care plan, but I opted out of it in exchange for higher take-home pay.

  87. Iokobos

    My gosh, an epiphany!

  88. @ThePsudo

    Flippant and irrelevant. What grounds does government have to violate freedom of choice here?

  89. Chillybeans

    Flippant and irrelevant. What grounds does your religion or my employer have to violate the freedom of choice of my genitals?

  90. Jon Bennett

    1st and 10th Amendments. Buy your own birth control.

  91. Chillybeans

    So they get freedom of religion because they own the business, and I don't because I'm just the employee? Nice.

  92. @ThePsudo

    Employees have freedom of religion, but they don't have free access to employer's money.

  93. Rebochan

    So basically, churches should be allowed to be terrible places to work that can deny you healthcare and benefits everyone else is required to provide? Man, you make religion sound better and better every day!

  94. Jon Bennett

    Well, then don't work for a Catholic charity.

    Meanwhile, it's still unconstitutional to require ANY health insurer to provide birth control or to require businesses to insure employees at all; exempting the Catholics only removes the violation of the First Amendment.

  95. Jake

    Actually no company is required to provide health insurance. Health insurance coverage was a result of the free market fighting for quality workers.

  96. @ThePsudo

    No one is preventing you from doing whatever you want with your own genitals (in private). They are refusing to pay their money for your choices.

  97. Chillybeans

    Then maybe we should have single payer health care instead of being forced to get it through our employers, except the Republicans don't like that much either.

  98. @ThePsudo

    Maybe inducing Peter to pay Paul and Mary's health care costs should not be your top priority.

  99. Rebochan

    Since Paul and Mary already get emergency room care at taxpayer and hospital expense, Peter might want to move to a country where such concepts as "not letting sick people die because they're poor" are not considered basic moral principles.

  100. ThePsudo

    My car is breaking down. I'm poor. Will you buy me a car? Or are you going to violate my mobility rights?

  101. Rebochan

    You're not even trying anymore. You can save for a car. You can take a bus. You can carpool. You can walk.

    If you have no ability to afford necessary medication, you are completely screwed. Sorry if I made the mistake of believing we lived in a first world country where being healthy or having control over reproduction were not supposed to be left for the wealthy and those chosen by fate.

  102. ThePsudo

    People can save for birth control, or get it free from countless clinics nationwide, or through Medicare (since apparently we're assuming poverty), or cancel cable TV to cover the cost, or turn to private charities, family, or friends to help. The transportation metaphor is an exact match.

    Being healthy is important, and so is escaping poverty. But they are not constitutional rights, and government cannot guarantee those outcomes no matter the laws in place. You're confusing goals with rights, and violating rights in their pursuit. That is legally and morally wrong.

  103. Republicalifornian

    If someone's on their deathbed, I doubt contraception is the answer.

  104. Rebochan

    At the same time, as many people have pointed out, there's plenty of legitimate medical reasons for people to be on birth control and a blanket "NO! SEX IS BAD!" memorandum is punishing their health and well-being purely to avoid offending people who are not being forced to take birth control.

  105. ThePsudo

    Not take it, just pay for it. Just like my Westboro example requires people to pay for gay-bashing, not personally bash gays. Just like donating to charity isn't doing good yourself, but paying for good to be done. Paying for something is morally the same as doing it yourself. People have a right to express their own moral views; a real right, expressly stated in the US Constitution as a limit to government power. That takes moral and legal precedence over the imagined "right" to have other people pay for your health care that is neither listed in the US Constitution nor a limit to government power.

  106. Republicalifornian

    Don't want my taxes to pay for what your genitals are doing either. How about we get the government out of healthcare, remove the regulatory barriers that prevent insurance companies from being responsive to customers and let everyone buy a policy that matches his/her personal beliefs?

  107. @Cristiona

    Let the people make choices? That way leads to madness, sir!

  108. Jon Bennett

    And then our entire Medical System will be as overclogged as our Emergency Care system

  109. Jon Bennett

    This was supposed to be under the "Single Care system" comment….

  110. RA Bartlett

    Hey, who knows more about not letting bureaucracy get in the way of their conscience like the Catholic hierarchy?

  111. Mel

    Wasn't protestantism an OBJECTION to Catholicism and its authority figure dominating their lives?

  112. ThePsudo

    Isn't religious freedom intended to diffuse religious schisms? Government forcing Catholic organizations to pay for birth control is force and Catholic employers doing nothing to provide or deny access to birth control is not.

  113. Rebochan

    Bull. They're demanding that Catholic employers offer the same insurance to their employees that everyone else gets to have. Employees should not have to suffer for working for a religious organization.

  114. Republicalifornian

    Why are you trying to force everyone into a one size fits all solution?

  115. Clark

    As an atheist (European) I can’t help but feel like most religious people/organisations/companies feel they are intitled to more than people without a religion. Look at this discussion. If we’re both taxpayers and have a company, why does your company get to pay less to its employees healthcare than me? Just because you believe in a God? I don’t believe in God, so that’s an empty argument to me.

    To be honest, when it comes to money, I don’t care what you believe. I care that you are exempt from things that I am not, simply because of your religion.

    Seeing how a government is supposed to be there for everyone equally, it is not such a stretch to require everyone to do their part equally. There are a million reasons to argue one person specifically shouldn’t be required to pay for something (‘I don’t use the train, why are my taxes being used for railways’) which is why everyone has to pay anyway. Healthcare leans on the fact everyone does their part, regardless of personal feelings about what it is used for. You might not like the money being used to let someone have an abortion, but someone else might not like you being insured to have a heart transplant.

    In conclusion, I find the idea of a ‘religious company’ reprehensible. The people running or owning it might have done so out of a certain religious principle, but the company should be religion-neutral for the law and the government. A company is a company and every company has the same obligations.

  116. Jon Bennett

    Because no one should be forced to insure against an elective, non-disease treating medication; but religions even moreso due to a specific clause in our constitution to avoid this sort of argument.

  117. ThePsudo

    The hormones in birth control pills do treat actual ailments, too. That's not a justification to thwart religious expression, just a fact-checking nitpick.

  118. Jake

    True but then its not BIRTH CONTROL. Its a hormone pill or w/e else. Viagra was for your heart but then it became an ED bill. Thus when it was used for the heart it was a heart pill and now its a ED bill. If a birth control (BC) pill is used for BC then its a BC pill if it used for hormones then its a hormone pill. Hence I shouldn't have to subsidize someone's sexual acts. No one will die if they do not take birth control AS birth control. Again if it used for hormones then its not considered a BC pill anymore but a hormone pill.

  119. ThePsudo

    Defining drugs by intent rather than content draws a ragged, blurry line that is going to result in enforcement problems. If Catholic employers are allowed a loophole to the medical coverage mandate for birth control, their employees could have them cover the same medication on the theory that it's not birth control when it's used for hormone regulation or to fight acne or whatever. That new controversy is going to undermine the religious exception.

  120. Jake

    I agree. There should be "personal exceptions" for secular people or secular groups. For example, a Catholic insurance company doesn't have to cover abortions but a secular one does. What if there is a Pro-life Atheist insurance company or Pro-life Science Insurance Group? Religious group are just asking for what they have under the Constitution. Non-religious groups just never really have made the same argument under a secular or scientific reasoning, which there actually are valid ones for.

  121. Iokobos

    You care that some are exempt from what you are not. So in your selfishness you want others to be as miserable and overcharged as you are instead of working to improve your own situation.

    Oh, you're a european. That answers a lot. The laws and culture you were brought up in are the #1 reason America was founded. Your ancestors decided they were OK with that and stayed. Mine were not OK with them and left in search of something better. You are free to live your life as you see fit, I'll thank you to butt out of mine.

  122. Kento Ikeda

    It is amazing that most of Europe had secular governments and universal health care back in the 18th century.

    Health care is very, very expensive in the United States. For everyone, not just the very poor or the very rich or whoever you need to feel is most burdened through your ideological system. A state health insurance system can do a lot to control costs if efficiently administered, as it has in Japan.

  123. ThePsudo

    Japan also has the benefits of a culture that promotes healthy habits, a population that is a fairly narrow subset of the gene pool (so fewer genetic conditions and genetic predispositions come up), and a rather small geographical area to serve. The United States has the opposite of those factors. Even with identical health insurance systems, US health care would probably be significantly more expensive.

  124. ThePsudo

    Amish-owned businesses are facing similar uncertainty:
    They're also exempt to Social Security and Medicare. Precedent!

  125. Rebochan

    It's an odd one though. I'm not entirely comfortable with it on the "religious double standard" idea…on the other hand, do the Amish actually have much in the way of money anyway? Their entire society is based around subsistence, after all.

    One of those things that shows reality is unfortunately grey.

  126. Jake

    Now Republicans are fighting to give secular business exceptions too. So this should resolve the issue on that front.

  127. Iokobos

    The #1 way to exempt everyone will be to repeal the damn law. Health care is not a right, it is unsustainable as a government entitlement, and it cannot meet the needs of a broad and varied populace. Central planning fail.

  128. Puddle

    So, what happens when Scientologist-controlled companies exempt coverage of psychiatric medicine? Scientology as a cult has often tried to get around restrictions by saying Scientology is in the context of the workplace is a business strategy.

  129. Justin Ash

    does that plaque say "Guns, God, and Gays"? Haha xD

  130. Nick Wood

    Im split on this one. On one hand, i find the Catholic church's stance on birth control to be profoundly backwards and cruel. On the other hand, i dont know if I want my tax money going towards condoms and birth control pills when it could be paying for yearly checkups and cancer surgery for people who couldn't otherwise pay for it.

  131. Jason

    I am in favor of women choosing contraceptives if they want to, but to force churches to do something that goes against their beliefs is a direct violation of separation of church and state! Of course, when it's what you believe in, you don't give AF how unconstitutional it is. People only care about their beliefs, and NOT the right of others. You would gladly point out the violation of separation of church and state when a teacher leads a prayer in class, and I would too, but when it goes into your favor, it's suddenly OK??? HYPOCRITES!!!!!