Today’s fake controversy: contraception and Obamacare

It's. . . THE BISHOP

Gail Collins has written an excellent column on the fake controversy that the Republican presidential candidates and the U.S. Catholic Bishops are making over the Obama administration’s rule that Catholic institutions that are not Churches and do not impose a religious test on its employees (universities and hospitals, principally) must offer insurance coverage for birth control.  She explains quite succinctly that the right to religious liberty does not imply a right to impose one’s belief on others:

Catholic doctrine prohibits women from using pills, condoms or any other form of artificial contraception. A much-quoted study by the Guttmacher Institute found that virtually all sexually active Catholic women of childbearing age have violated the rule at one point or another, and that more than two-thirds do so consistently.

.       .       .       .      .       .      

The church is not a democracy and majority opinion really doesn’t matter. Catholic dogma holds that artificial contraception is against the law of God. The bishops have the right — a right guaranteed under the First Amendment — to preach that doctrine to the faithful. They have a right to preach it to everybody. Take out ads. Pass out leaflets. Put up billboards in the front yard.

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

Right on.  I myself worked for two different Catholic universities for five years total–in one case, I was informed when I signed up for benefits that my health insurance policy wouldn’t cover birth control.  In the other case, I have no idea what the university policy was on birth control coverage–as I have never used prescription birth control in my life, I never had the occasion to have a request for coverage denied.  I don’t think it should matter that I’m not Catholic, either, as I believe that Catholic women employees deserve the same liberty of conscience, too.  If 98% of all Catholic women and men aren’t listening to them about birth control, that’s their problem to fix. 

Those of you who work for Catholic universities:  what’s the deal with your coverage, or un-coverage?  Was your uni specific about its rules?  Do you feel it is potentially a violation of doctor-patient confidentiality to work at a university or hospital that doesn’t cover birth control?  (How would they know, unless they were monitoring your chart somehow?)  

And let’s all congratulate Gail Collins for getting through an entire column in which she doesn’t mention the Mitt-Romney-strapped-his-dog-to-the-roof-of-his-car story.  Srsly, girlfriend:  it’s like Maureen Dowd’s inability not to type something snarky or dismissive in every column about someone whose surname is “Clinton.”  Get over the dumb dog story, willya?

22 thoughts on “Today’s fake controversy: contraception and Obamacare

  1. My university provided health insurance explicitly does not cover prescription birth control for women or vasectomies for men, and our local bishop has sworn to keep it that way.


  2. My university health insurance does cover birth control. More than a violation of patient-doctor confidentiality, I would think of it more in the way that since they accept Federal goverment money through financial aid and such, they should obey federal law. Didn’t Bob Jones University refused federal money for 20+ years, because they were not willing to change their ban on interracial dating? They based their ban on religious grounds, too. Maybe I am wrong, but i’d say that the same rule should apply here. If you accept federal aid for its students, obey the law.


  3. So Collins writes that “… the right to religious liberty does not imply a right to impose one’s belief on others.” I beg to differ. This is exactly what ALL religions do and believe that they have the right to do. Islam, Judaism, Christianity and probably the rest of religions are in the business of telling you what to do. Furthermore, sometimes I suspect that religions were created for the specific goal of imposing ones opinions on the many.

    Don’t you think that Maureen Dowd was born in order to bad mouth the Clintons and Obama was created so the faux left could do the same?

    And so on.

    My university is fine as long as you don’t ask them to cover acupuncture.


  4. Feminist Avatar: yeah, right! And monkeys might fly out of my butt, as Wayne and Garth might say.

    (IOW, I think Catholic unis are just as pathetic when it comes to maternity/paternity leave as most other unis. The rich and prestigious ones are probably better than the not-so-rich or prestigious ones, but I really can’t say for sure.)

    Apparently, a number of Catholic universities already offer birth control. I heard a story on NPR in which a whole bunch of them were named, including one of my former employers. It sure seems like the local bishops need to crack down on their asses first, rather than acting like the Obama admin was doing something that no Catholic university or hospital ever did before.

    Either that, or just admit that this whole $hitstorm is imaginary but useful as a political wedge.


  5. It’s the story that’s dumb and not the dog, right? Just wondering.

    Your dead but not dumb dog friend,

    PS: It is kinda revealing, though, isn’t it? The story, I mean? And, yes, shaz, Dogs Against Romney is way funny.


  6. Since we gays don’t depend on prescription birth control, I can’t speak to coverage or not. But I did spend considerable time on a Catholic campus where STD’s ran rampant because the university refused to acknowledge sex happens. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.

    For the dog question, I am with ol’ Gail in reminding people that he did strap the poor creature to the roof of the car. What type of inhuman jerk does that?


  7. Yes, the story and not the dog was dumb, Roxie.

    I agree that the dog-strapped-to-the-roof story was amusing the first 70 or 80 times I saw it mentioned, but I think Collins’s endless repetition of the story is strange. There are so many MUCH more policy-relevant things one could say about Romney’s history and career.

    BTW, Obama is supposed to make an announcement about his birth control coverage policy this afternoon. I’m assuming a cave-in, in spite of the fact that many states already require this of all Church-related institutions whose mission is not directly religion.

    We’ll see. But call me unsurprised if he ends up backing down quickly to the bishops and once again shoving women under the bus.


  8. I agree about the inevitable cave-in, H’ann, which to my mind is even more egregious considering that birth control is *wildly popular* among all Americans; moreover, Catholic bishops have almost zero clout in this country, even among Catholics. Caving to their special interest doesn’t actually GAIN Obama anything. They are not going to support him or vote for him or do anything but vilify him no matter which way he goes on this issue. It’s mystifying.


  9. Yeah, but as long as the Republicans keep putting up candidates who are openly in favor of turning the US into Gilead, and “realists” keep women persuaded that no third option is possible, shoving women under the bus doesn’t actually *lose* Obama anything, either.


  10. The guy has been getting too much of a reputation as a “fighter” lately because he hasn’t caved again on the payroll tax-cut extension (yet), so he seemingly had to cave on something. I can’t get news sites open on my BSU “computer,” so haven’t read the details.

    I thought the dog-on-car story was funny the first 125 or so times I read it, but it did become weirdly predictable, and less evocative when it emerged that the dog was in some kind of a container, and not just bungie-corded limb-by-limb to a ski rack or something, as I had imagined. If it turned out that the dog was being used as a drug mule to bring back cheap Canadian prescription drugs (to say nothing of contraceptives), *that* would be a story you could really get out there and run with.


  11. Re: the dog story: I understand it to be a conscious running gag. The fact that she shoehorns it in, in really bizarre and unlikely places, in virtually every column, suggests to me that it’s a fake tic that she’s very much in control of.


  12. I’m waiting for the Catholic (or any other religious) insurance company to denounce this as trampling on their religious and corporate rights. Actually, my first reaction to the whole snafu was a) since plans are purchased from insurance companies, why not simply make it legally binding on insurance companies not employers (done) or better yet, just create a national birth control dispensary system (haha) and 2) Catholics seem to be forgetting ye olde publick schoole fights over imposed Protestantism (which they, reasonably, rejected). Perhaps they ought to remember that the line between conscience and enforced conscience is quite blurry and best left alone? Finally, it’s telling that these issues arise over birth control and fertility treatment, not over vasectomies and viagra…


  13. Rachel, your prediction has come true:

    And while Obama’s new plan allows religious-affiliated employers to refrain from paying for contraceptive coverage — insurers would be obligated to provide the coverage for free — the bishops said the change doesn’t go far enough.

    “It would still mandate that all insurers must include coverage for the objectionable services in all the policies they would write,” the bishops said. “At this point, it would appear that self-insuring religious employers, and religious insurance companies, are not exempt from this mandate.”

    The bishops said the president’s plan will require “careful moral analysis” and may still change.

    But they made it clear that a “lack of clear protection for key stakeholders — for self-insured religious employers; for religious and secular for-profit employers; for secular nonprofit employers; for religious insurers; and for individuals — is unacceptable and must be corrected. And in the case where the employee and insurer agree to add the objectionable coverage, that coverage is still provided as a part of the objecting employer’s plan, financed in the same way as the rest of the coverage offered by the objecting employer. This, too, raises serious moral concerns.”

    This response seems to open the door to any insurer objecting to any HCA regulation on the grounds of “conscience.” I guess the U.S. Catholic Bishops don’t want to bother with policing and criticizing the Catholic hospitals, universities, and schools that already offer contraception coverage to their employees–it’s so much more fun and effective in an election year to take their fight to the President.


  14. Ugh. Sometimes I’d really really like to be wrong. Not most of the time, but occasionally. Like now. I’d also like someone to call out the Conference of US Bishops for being an all-make body trying to dictate their “conscience” onto women’s bodies, but thus far the gender analysis seems to be whispered, not shouted. Along those lines, it would be super great if the Obama Administration and HHS could actually go on the offensive about why they are right and why they are not violating religious freedom. Because if nothing else, when health and religion collide, the courts have generally sided with health.


  15. Obey the damn law, losers. We heard your opinion–did we ever!–and it didn’t prevail. Get over it. If you don’t like the law of your land, move someplace else you find more agreeable, or stay and take your punishment for lawbreaking. You’re not entitled to a conscientious- objection exception any more than I get excused from paying taxes for federal-government spending I dislike. Of which there is, alas, much.


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