Cardinal Timothy Dolan is leading the charge against Obama’s HHS Mandate, which requires all employers — even Catholic ones — to provide health plans that cover “preventive health services” for women. Listening to him speak on the subject, you’d think a mandate that businesses must pay for employees’ contraceptives and abortions would utterly and absolutely destroy the Catholic Church — and America! — as we know it.
It’s about religious freedom, he insists, and it’s a slippery slope towards the removal of that freedom:
[T]he Obama administration’s decision to force Catholic and other religious employers to violate their conscience will not stand. Americans will recognize it for the unconstitutional detour that it is, and urge their elected representatives to repeal it. I believe the trigger for this will be a very simple question. Americans will ask themselves: if this, what next? What other constitutionally protected freedoms might an increasingly powerful federal government revoke? What other mandated violations of conscience lie ahead for other groups of American citizens?
It’s a terrifying dystopian vision, enough to strike fear into the heart of all who hear it.
Or it would be, if only it were true.
But for more than a decade, Cardinal Dolan’s own diocese has been paying for health plans that cover contraception and abortion. And the sky has yet to fall.
Dolan has spoken of “the possibility that ministries may yet be forced to fund and facilitate such morally illicit activities,” but that ship sailed before he ascended to the rank of Archbishop. Workers in the Catholic Health Care System, more widely known as ArchCare, receive health coverage through their union membership in 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.
A few Catholic employees expressed concerns in the plan’s early days, through the latter half of the 1990s, but complaints dwindled by the turn of the century. Bruce McIver, president of the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes of New York, recalls that
Eventually the Catholics just said, you know, we are going to ignore the issue and pay into the fund, and people are going to make their own choices about contraception and so forth. During union negotiations, I don’t remember it coming up in the last dozen years or so, ever. In a place like New York, their employees, not all of whom are Catholic, would react pretty badly.
This essentially gets at the core of the issue.
Not everyone employed by a Catholic health care provider will necessarily be Catholic, and those who are Catholic will not necessarily follow the party line on birth control within their own families — the Guttmacher Institute (PDF) says 98% of Catholic women use contraception. Rather than try to impose the employer’s view of contraception on employees, the ArchCare workers have decided to accept that preventive women’s health care is part of health insurance in New York, and that individual employees must decide for themselves how to ethically use the benefits they’ve earned with their hard work.
That’s the way it should be. It’s the only way to be fair.
And contrary to what Cardinal Dolan insists, anything else is a violation of employees’ religious freedom at the expense of a wealthy and powerful Catholic Church.