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.

Mark Steyn compares the new mandate to Henry VIII’s claim of supremacy over the church.  Paul Rahe offers some harsh words and some historical context.

The National Review editors and Ed Whelan (two, three, four, fivesix, 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).

14 Responses to “Obama Administration Takes On Catholic Church, Rest of Us”

  1. The only polling I’ve been able to find is on the current kerfuffle. I suspect pollsters don’t bother with the question you ask because they assume that virtually all Americans agree that artificial birth control is moral. I think honest polling might reveal more dissent from that position (and not just among Catholics) than is assumed.

    Excellent post, and thanks for the links. BTW, I’ve added you to my blogroll–a dumb omission allowed to stand for too long. Mea culpa!

    • Not at all, sir! And thank you, you’re very kind.

      By the way, what is the standard “netiquette” on that? What’s supposed to determine who goes on a “blogroll” and who doesn’t? I’ve been conscious before that I wasn’t playing by the same rules as others, but I wasn’t sure what their rules were. (I would have assumed that, given how far out of my blog’s league your blog is, the conventions would never require you to link to me…)

      As to public opinion on contraceptives, I think you could be right. I wonder whether Pew, Gallup, etc. take requests…

      • Snoodickle Says:

        As an opponent of abortion, I have to ask the question, doesn’t birth control (which I don’t consider to be anything close to abortion) actually lead to less actual abortions?

    • Ah, here we are! Courtesy of Pew: Pew estimates that 8% of the general American public, 15% of Catholics, and 27% of Catholics who attend mass every week agree that it’s wrong to use contraceptives.

      If you also include people who either said they didn’t know or said that it depends, that’s 16%, 23%, and 37%, respectively.

  2. LovebeingCatholic Says:

    At one time I thought the same thing as Snoodickle, that birth control leads to less abortions. But contraception is a frame of mind as well as a physical barrier to conception. This audio may help those outside of the Catholic faith understand why the Church has this teaching in the first place.

    [audio src="http://www.audiosancto.org/aurss/20120122-The-Sanctity-of-Marriage-We-Are-Left-to-Battle-Paganism-On-Our-Own.mp3" /]

    This audio is just one sermon that was recorded during Mass, but there are hundreds of sermons and topics to listen to.
    The home site is: http://www.audiosancto.org/

    Hope this helps!

    • Thanks!

      For any readers who can’t listen to a forty-minute sermon right now, I’ve transcribed the relevant excerpt. The speaker quotes what seems to be the same document by Pope Paul VI that was quoted in this link above (though a different translation). Here is the relevant excerpt from that link:

      Pope Paul VI predicted grave consequences that would arise from the widespread and unrestrained use of contraception. He warned, “Upright men can even better convince themselves of the solid grounds on which the teaching of the Church in this field is based if they care to reflect upon the consequences of methods of artificially limiting the increase of children. Let them consider, first of all, how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality. Not much experience is needed in order to know human weakness, and to understand that men—especially the young, who are so vulnerable on this point—have need of encouragement to be faithful to the moral law, so that they must not be offered some easy means of eluding its observance. It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion” (HV 17).

      No one can doubt the fulfillment of these prophetic words. They have all been more than fulfilled in this country as a result of the widespread availability of contraceptives, the “free love” movement that started in the 1960s, and the loose sexual morality that it spawned and that continues to pervade Western culture.

      After quoting part of that same document, the speaker expounds,

      What is the Pope saying? He’s saying, in a very polite and papal way, that the use of contraception may very well result in men treating women with all the respect and reverence normally afforded to ladies of the night. And then when we look around at our sick society, what do we see?

      See, precisely because contraception, and sterilization for that matter, turn the garden into a playground, they produce a certain mentality, and that mentality is that this act is all about pleasure. This act is all about pleasure, and it doesn’t have any necessary connection to babies at all. That’s the contraceptive mentality.

      Now obviously even the word contraception—“against conception”—clearly indicates the reality of the act; so that anyone who actually entertains this contraceptive mentality, this kind of an idea, is already profoundly disconnected from reality . . . . The real horror is that once this kind of idea begins to take root in a society, the idea that this act is all about pleasure and doesn’t have any necessary connection with babies, once this idea takes hold in a society, then three things are certain to follow. . . .

      The first certain result is abortion. . . . Abortion is a perfectly predictable result of the contraceptive mentality. Why is that? Because when a couple has been engaging in this sort of behavior, while somehow believing this is only for pleasure and doesn’t have any necessary connection with babies, and then the woman finds herself pregnant, then one perfectly predictable reaction—granted, this is not the only possible reaction, but it is certainly one of them—this reaction to an unwanted pregancy goes something like this: Hey! Where did that come from? That’s not part of this deal. I wasn’t in for that. Let’s just—we were just supposed to be having a good time, no babies. Get rid of it.

      So abortion is the first certain result of a society adopting a contraceptive mentality, the idea that this act is all about pleasure and doesn’t have any necessary connection with babies.

  3. […] around the same time that the Reformed Pastor and I were wondering whether there were any polling data about contraceptives as such (that is, what share of the […]

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  8. […] countless Catholic and other institutions and individuals to pay for things they consider immoral (it is).  Via Wintery Knight, Life News .com has some of Biden’s breathtaking dishonesty in text […]

  9. […] for it, as the government has been doing for years by subsidizing Planned Parenthood, and as the Obama administration is doing more directly with the HHS mandate.  Note that this is the official policy of the Democratic Party, in the platform—not only […]

  10. […] Obama has started trying to outlaw the church; if Obama is re-elected, Catholics could go to jail.  Romney and Ryan make it clear that a […]

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