In another effort to impact healthcare, the Obama Administration, acting through the Department of Health and Human Services issued a ruling last week, mandating that all employers provide free access to contraception for their female employees. As a result, the Catholic church, which is vehemently opposed to all forms of birth control, mounted a protest. In response to this, president Obama announced a modification to the rule last Friday. Under the proposed accomodation, Catholic-affiliated employers would not have to shoulder the costs of contraception. Instead, these costs would be paid by the insurance companies.
At first, it seemed that the accomodation would be accepted. After some discussion though, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a statement rejecting the proposed change, while at the same time Catholic Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, called upon both Catholics and non-Catholics alike to oppose the Obama policy. In addition, Catholics have derided the policy as an “attack on religious liberty.”
Cardinal Wuerl, during an appearance on the Fox News program “America’s Newsroom,” had this to say regarding his hopes for support from the citizenry;
“There’s one thing in the heart of this nation that we’re counting on, and that’s the basic fairness of the American people.”(1)
[SOAPBOX=ON] Alright Cardinal Wuerl, I’ll give it to you in all fairness. There are a number of things that I find problematic about this whole affair, mostly on the part of the Catholic church, but also on the part of the government. First of all, the “attack on religious liberty” is not coming from the government in this case. It is once again, coming from the church! Freedom of religion also entails freedom from religion. I find it unconscionable that any Catholic-run hospital or other employer would seek to impose its religious proclivities on employees that, in many cases, may not even be Catholics themselves. (Not every employee of places like Mercy Medical Center in Merced, California is a Catholic!) That would be tantamount to saying that, if I work for a Catholic-affiliated hospital, that all of my choices in life must be in line with Catholic doctrines and dogmas. I have one thing to say to that; go fish.
On the flip-side of the debate, I’m wondering why it is that the proposed coverage for contraception is only for females, and not males as well. Is the government suggesting that women have more sex than men do? Why make contraception and / or safer sex the responsibility of the woman, by default? In my not-so-humble opinion, the man is just as responsible for this! Also, why make it mandatory for employers to provide contraception for free? Just like the sex act is a choice, practicing safer sex is also a choice, albeit a prudent one. It is for this reason that I disagree with the Health and Human Services policy. This would be along the same lines as the government telling insurers and employers that they now have to pay for things like tummy tucks, breast augmentations and plastic surgery, all of which are elective procedures.
It is things like this that drive the cost of healthcare and health insurance up, instead of down. It is also things like this that show just how power-hungry the Catholic church still is. It’s no wonder we have people like Nicki Minaj, openly mocking the church during a protracted “self-exorcism” performance at Sunday night’s Grammy Awards. If the church would just stop trying to run healthcare according to the Vatican’s edicts, and start acting in the best interests of all of the citizens it serves, maybe things would get a whole lot better.