If the Obama administration thought they could sneak this one in (mandatory coverage of contraception) under the rubric of women’s rights, they must be surprised at the depth and breadth of protest it has aroused:
Abortion rights organizations, pro-choice Democrats, and the media have all characterized the debate over this contraception coverage rule as a struggle between the White House and the Catholic bishops. In its editorial supporting the decision, the New York Times praised the Obama administration for “with[standing] pressure from Roman Catholic bishops and social conservatives.” But that’s not accurate.
The list of Catholics who have lobbied the administration to consider a broader definition of “religious employer” than now exists — one that would cover institutions like Catholic universities and hospitals — includes politically progressive Catholics who have been close allies of the White House, like Father John Jenkins, the president of the University of Notre Dame who stood up to conservatives who wanted Obama disinvited from giving the school’s commencement address in 2009.
Those “progressive” Catholics who supported Obamacare—and without whose support it probably would not have been passed—feel double-crossed. But they have no one to blame but themselves for trusting that this administration would protect the rights of Catholic institutions (other than churches, which are exempt).
The controversy is part of a much larger power struggle which one could frame this way: how far is the federal government allowed to go to “protect” us? Health care insurance is a major front in this battle, whether it be the individual mandate (personal freedom) of the mandate for contraception coverage (religious freedom). At the same time we demand liberty, many of us demand coverage for the poor and the sick who are not able to pay for insurance, which is a contradiction that takes us out of the realm of what’s usually called “insurance” and into the realm of a government entitlement program. And, since health care is very expensive, that takes us into the realm of big bucks.
And these days, even the issue of religious freedom is poorly understood by many people. For example, in the comments section to the post I linked above, the lead comment at the moment contains this quote [emphasis mine]:
Many of us who have worked for Catholic institutions are not Catholic; many are Catholic, but all of us retain the American right to our own opinions and legal private behaviors. The government should not be attempting to force women to follow the church’s belief systems.
Keep in mind that these institutions are not funded solely by the church and the people who use them. They are heavily funded by the government and most would fail miserably without that money…
The real problem here is that a bunch of once revered, now mostly irrelevant old men are still trying to control women’s sexual behavior with a lot of verbal logistics that almost no women are willing to buy anymore.
I missed the part where Catholic hospitals were forbidding their employees to use contraception. I missed the part where not having something paid for is tantamount to stopping a person from getting it. But doesn’t this perfectly illustrate a certain liberal mindset? It goes like this: pay for it for me or you’re infringing on my right to obtain it.
By the way: when last I checked, contraception didn’t cost all that much, depending on what type is used. So I Googled it, and here’s what I found (these figures are from 2010, so I assume there hasn’t been a whole lot of change). If you go to the website, you can see that we’re talking about a range of from about $60 a year (for example the diaphragm, after an initial expenditure of a doctor visit and about $75 for the diaphragm itself) through $150 or so (condoms and a number of other methods) and all the way up to a whopping $600 a year max (for the most expensive type of birth control pill).
Compare that to the cost of a cell phone or cable TV, for example, which most low-income working people (which is what we’re talking about here) seem to be able to pay for. Is this cost really so onerous a burden that the consciences of Catholic institutions must be compromised in order to save its employees the money? But apparently, this is the hill on which the Obama administration wants to fight.
And that hill’s a slippery slope.