Obama Administration Takes On Catholic Church, Rest of Us
February 14, 2012
Last August, the Department of Health and Human Services announced new regulations requiring all “new health insurance plans” to provide contraceptives (among other things—“well-woman visits”?) “without charging a co-payment, co-insurance or a deductible.” A narrow religious exemption was made only for such employer as
(1) Has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose;
(2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets;
(3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets . . . .
In other words, the new mandate would apply to Catholic hospitals, religious individual employers, and pretty much anyone other than an actual church—and as others have remarked, even churches might not qualify, if they try to evangelize and/or serve their surrounding community (if they do not “primarily serve persons who share [their] religious tenets”).
The government, by the way, explains that this regulation concerns “all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling.” It then tries to reassure us, “These recommendations do not include abortifacient drugs,” but that is not true; the Pill sometimes prevents ovulation and sometimes prevents fertilization, but sometimes kills the embryo after conception—i.e., is abortifacient (causes abortion).
(The Catholic Church, in case you were wondering, teaches that contraception is always gravely sinful, and that that teaching can never be changed.)
In other words, the new mandate would force Catholic hospitals and other employers to pay for sterilization and abortifacient drugs for their employees. The regulation would take effect in August 2012.
In response to criticism, Health and Human Services decided last month to “strike the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services” by keeping the policy exactly the same, but generously granting employers with religious objections one more year (until August 2013) to allow Catholic employers “more time and flexibility to adapt to this new rule”—i.e., either to stop being Catholic or to stop being employers.
Catholics, Protestants, and everyone else raised a ruckus, and the Obama administration again pretended to retreat, but even more insultingly (if possible) than before: Under the new policy, employers, instead of being forced to pay for insurance that includes contraceptives, will be forced to pay for insurance that includes contraceptives. The Reformed Pastor, Jill Stanek, Ed Whelan, Yuval Levin, and others can perhaps help you understand this distinction without a difference.
It strikes me that Obamacare, like much of modern law, leaves way too much discretion to regulators. Even if this were an appropriate rule (from a constitutional or a liberty point of view), shouldn’t it be debated and voted on publicly by our elected representatives? It’s great that people are getting involved and fighting the administration on this, but it’s unrepublican for the executive branch to be able to make up this sort of rule in the first place. We shouldn’t have to be petitioning the king for redress of this grievance, hoping that our benevolent sovereign will condescend to help us.
The National Review editors and Ed Whelan (two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight) situate the current controversy in the larger landscape of protections for religious liberty, and argue that the mandate is illegal. Others at National Review Online argue that some of these contraceptives are hazardous to women’s health and that the regulation’s defenders are otherwise using flawed statistics.
The Reformed Pastor argues that these policies are intended as steps toward more expansive policies, ones that would include all employers (even churches) and include conventional abortion. Deroy Murdock wonders why the Obama administration would pick this fight. Apparently commentators like Dick Morris and Rush Limbaugh are speculating that it’s part of an election-year strategy to paint Republicans as fanatics who would ban contraceptives if they could. If that’s true, it’s good, in a way—part of the argument is that liberals, who have been losing the battle of public opinion on abortion, are trying to move the national conversation to more favorable ground, contraception, where they reckon there’s a much broader consensus in their favor. In other words, the fact that they are trying to do that with contraception could indicate that we’ve gained a lot of ground in the larger culture war.
Thinking about this made me wonder: Just how unanimous is the supposed consensus, anyway? I assume that most people don’t want to make contraceptives illegal again (as they were in at least some states until the Supreme Court invented the right to them in 1965), but what fraction of the population believes that they are immoral, as the Catholic Church teaches?
I tried a few Internet searches, but I couldn’t find that any such polls have even been taken. Can anyone point me to any?
While looking, I did find Gallup’s polls on abortion (see also here—more up-to-date, but leaves out one of the three graphs). (The short answer: It depends on how you ask, but “Majorities believe abortion is morally wrong, legal access to it should be restricted”.) I also found that according to Gallup, after absorbing decades’ worth of liberal propaganda, Americans believe that 25% of the population is homosexual! No wonder they hesitate to identify the behavior as immoral (though note that again, it makes a difference how you ask).