Since when does religious freedom equal the freedom for religions to control the lives of people, even people who don’t believe in their religion? Religious freedom is the freedom for people (not corporations as people, not churches as people, but real people) to practice whatever religion they please, without interference from the government. So how does it make sense for a religion to scream when they are not allowed to infringe on people’s freedom?
The health care reform law, already passed by Congress, requires health insurance policies provided by employers to completely cover preventative care, which includes birth control. This was not particularly controversial. Even before health care reform, a majority of states (28, including the home states of both Romney and Gingrich) had laws or regulations requiring the same thing, and I didn’t hear anyone screaming that they were waging war on the Catholic Church.
In fact, the new federal rules went a step further and exempted all churches, missions, or other places of worship that are opposed to birth control (while eight of those 28 states had no exemption for religious organizations of any kind).
Personally, I think even that exemption is silly. The sad truth is that churches own a lot of businesses, and those businesses employ a lot of people who do not belong to that church. Is every doctor, nurse, x-ray technician, and janitor who works in a Catholic hospital a Catholic? Of course not. But Catholic leaders are insisting that they (suddenly) be allowed to deny coverage for birth control to non-Catholics?
What’s next, allowing the Rastafarian church to sell ganja (marijuana) on the street? If not, then why would we exempt the Catholic church from following the law?
Note that the new rule does not require Catholic hospitals or clinics to provide birth control. And just because insurance policies offer contraception for free doesn’t mean that you are forcing anyone — Catholic or not — to use it. You are just giving people the freedom to choose what they believe and do. Why should the Catholic church be able to deny access to anyone for free birth control (even if they are Catholic, but especially if they are not)?
What makes this doubly ironic is surveys have shown that the vast majority of even Catholic women (greater than 97%) have used some form of birth control during their lives, even though the Catholic church says that using birth control is a sin. Not only that, but 60% of Catholics say that insurance should cover access to birth control (the numbers are even higher for non-Catholics).
And what pisses me off about this is that over half (58%) of women who use birth control do so for other health reasons, including reducing the risk of ovarian cancer, treating fibroid tumors and anemia. Not to mention that some forms of birth control (like condoms) reduce the chance of getting or spreading STDs (including AIDS). Does the Catholic church give a damn about women’s health?
I’ve also heard the argument that Catholic churches shouldn’t have to pay for someone to use contraception, but amazingly even this argument is completely false. Studies have shown that providing free birth control does not increase health care premiums or costs, it reduces them. The cost of birth control is far smaller than the health care costs for a pregnancy (not to mention the expense of raising a — possibly unwanted — child).
Or even more ironic, the cost of birth control is less than paying for an abortion. The simple truth is that if you stop providing birth control, not only will the cost of providing health care go up, but the number of abortions will increase. Even when abortion was illegal, this was true. Is that what Catholic churches want?
So now Obama has compromised, but I think in this case he did it brilliantly. Instead of requiring churches to provide insurance that pays for free birth control, he will now require insurance companies to pay for birth control, but only to customers who specifically request it. Churches don’t have to pay for birth control, and it actually saves money for insurance companies. Nobody is forced to use birth control, but it is there if someone asks for it.
Many Catholic leaders are happy with the compromise, including the head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (who were were one of the main groups fighting the new rule), and the head of the Catholic Health Association. The president of the University of Notre Dame applauded “the willingness of the administration to work with religious organizations to find a solution acceptable to all parties.”
So will the Republicans stop trying to make this into a campaign issue?
Hah. Rick Santorum, who has previously declared that all birth control should be illegal, said “This is a war of government trying to use its power to force you to do things.” Newt Gingrich dismissed Obama’s compromise, saying “I, frankly, don’t care what deal he tries to cut.” Mitt Romney called it a “deception” and the Heritage Foundation declared it an “accounting trick”.
What unmitigated BS.