No longer reluctant on the church vs contraception brawl

Timothy Dolan really doesn't like The Pill.

I had quite the busy weekend, dominated by a research paper and a 2 year old that would not stop. This was a post I wanted to write on Friday and given that I’ve written about the subject twice now, it behooves me to comment on the developments of the administration’s decision to modify the contraception ruling. Effectively, they removed the onus of responsibility from employers who object on a religious basis to the health insurers to provide birth control with no co-pay to employees. Sarah Kliff has the details:

As it stands, church-run hospitals are required to cover contraceptives at no cost to employees. A slew of Catholic groups have opposed that requirement. So on Friday, the White House rolled out a new rule, where insurance companies, rather than faith-based agencies, will offer birth-control coverage directly to these employees and foot the bill. “If a charity, hospital or another organization has an objection to the policy going forward, insurance companies will be required to reach out to directly offer contraceptive care free of charge,” one administration official explained.

After releasing a tentatively positive statement, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops later rejected the proposal as so much hogwash:

In their later statement, they said they still had “serious moral concerns,” noting that the proposal didn’t contain provisions for religious employers who self-insure, meaning the employer takes on the underlying risk of covering employees’ health care.

The bishops also said that the current structure of the proposal meant that if an employee and insurer agreed to add contraception coverage to a health plan, it would still be financed in the same way as the rest of the coverage offered by the employer.

President Obama on Friday announced a new policy that no longer requires a broad swath of religious organizations to provide employees with contraception coverage in health-insurance plans.

“These changes require careful moral analysis, and moreover, appear subject to some measure of change. But we note at the outset that the lack of clear protection… is unacceptable and must be corrected,” the statement said.

The Bishops are unsatisfied that somewhere in the fungibility time-warp that is money in this economy, some of what they put out will be used to buy things they view as sinful. I have some news for the bishops: It will. In fact, it already does! In my last post I asked why health insurance benefits are different that traditional wages. To my knowledge, they are essentially two-sides of the same coin (pun intended). So what makes health insurance morally implicative where traditional wage is not? In the ecumenical minds of the Bishops and nowhere else.

After this I really am no longer reluctant to posit an opinion on this subject. Faith-based institutions will be three-degrees further from any implication of sin, which is two-degrees more than the paychecks they cut. I see no reason after this ruling why there should be religious objections over health insurance coverage of contraception. Unless, that is, the Bishops want to argue that no one, regardless of religious affiliation or place of employment, should have access to birth control. Which is a losing argument for them, and would effectively tell me that this really is about contraception – not religious liberty and the 1st Amendment.

Yet this diatribe may be besides the point. As it turns out, it’s already federal law that employers with 15 or more employees who offer prescription drug benefits are required to offer contraception. Including religiously affiliated institutions:

In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn’t provide birth control were in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex. That opinion, which the George W. Bush administration did nothing to alter or withdraw when it took office the next month, is still in effect today—and because it relies on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. Employers that don’t offer prescription coverage or don’t offer insurance at all are exempt, because they treat men and women equally—but under the EEOC’s interpretation of the law, you can’t offer other preventative care coverage without offering birth control coverage, too.

[…] Not even religious employers were exempt from the impact of the EEOC decision. Although Title VII allows religious institutions to discriminate on religious grounds, it doesn’t allow them to discriminate on the basis of sex—the kind of discrimination at issue in the EEOC ruling. DePaul University, the largest Roman Catholic university in America, added birth control coverage to its plans after receiving an EEOC complaint several years ago. (DePaul officials did not respond to a request for comment.)

Strange that I don’t remember national uproars over the tyrannical imposition of religious liberty then, and stranger still that the George W. Bush administration did nothing about it after taking office. This subject may be moot by today, but I won’t be surprised to see it show up in campaign literature this fall.


One response to “No longer reluctant on the church vs contraception brawl

  1. Pingback: Return to sender | Punditocracy·

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