Compromise on insurance birth control mandate?

President Obama has announced a compromise he is willing to enact on his mandatory abortion pill and contraceptive mandate.  Employees of religious institutions that don’t believe in that sort of thing will have to ask the organization’s insurance company for the coverage, whereupon the insurance company will have to provide it free of charge without raising the institution’s rates.  Thus the insurance company, not the faith-based employer, will be paying for the morning after pills and contraceptives.  And the faith-based employer would not be directly providing for them.  Rather, the employee would get them off the books.

See White House compromise still guarantees contraceptive coverage for women – The Washington Post.

Does this really solve the problem?

Aren’t all of the expenses of an insurance company ultimately and necessarily passed on to the customers?

And isn’t the result exactly the same apart from the moral casuistry of trying to shuffle around the responsibility?

And the administration isn’t saying  how this would work with institutions, such as many non-profits, that are self-insured, in which employers collect premiums but then pay for employee health expenses themselves.

The Roman Catholic bishops note other problems:  The government’s apparent dispensations apply only to non-profit organizations.  A Catholic or other pro-life business owner would still have to directly provide free abortion pills and contraceptives, which would mean for the Catholic, being forced by law to be complicit in a grave sin.

Also church-related insurance companies (like Concordia Health Plan and its numerous Catholic equivalents) are not exempt from having to provide this kind of coverage.

Because of earlier H.H.S. machinations, the Morning After pill is now available over the counter.  What insurance plans cover non-prescription medication?  Your health insurance won’t pay for a bottle of aspirin or Nyquil.  And yet the Obama administration is insisting that this over-the-counter medication be covered free of charge, without even a deductible.  The agenda here is clearly that of pro-abortion fanaticism.

The Church of Planned Parenthood

Mollie Hemingway on the uproar over the Susan G. Komen foundation (which is devoted to fighting breast cancer) and its short-lived decision to stop giving money to Planned Parenthood.

If you thought that the media were irreligious, you were proved wrong. They couldn’t be more religious. It’s just that their church is Planned Parenthood. Their sacrament is abortion. Any attack against their church, such as Susan G. Komen’s decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood, has been met with the most fervent defense of the faith I’ve ever seen. Never mind that Planned Parenthood doesn’t even do mammograms. Never mind that the money in question is a small fraction of either organization’s budget.

Over at GetReligion, I look at some of the more egregious examples. But even these are only a small fraction of what’s coming down the pike in an unrelenting barrage in defense of Planned Parenthood.

And the Church of Planned Parenthood reigns supreme. They have vanquished their enemies and accomplished what they wanted. Komen funds will once again be funneled to a $1 billion organization that terminates 330,000 pregnancies a year.

via The Church of Planned Parenthood – Ricochet.com.

I offer this just as a brief introduction to Mollie’s in depth analysis of the story and its media coverage at the said Get Religion site  here.

LCMS President’s statement on HHS mandate

Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, has issued a statement on the federal government’s mandate that religious organizations must provide free abortion pills and contraceptives to their employees in their insurance plans.  He clarifies what this will mean for Lutheran organizations and expresses his strong opposition:

A Statement on Recent HHS Decision and Religious Freedom

We are deeply distressed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) recent decision to require nearly all private health plans, including those offered by religious employers, to cover contraceptives. This will include controversial birth-control products such as “Ella” and the “morning after” pill, even though the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that such drugs can cause the death of a baby developing in the womb. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) objects to the use of drugs and procedures that are used to take the lives of unborn children, who are persons in the sight of God from the time of conception, and we are opposed to the HHS’ decision mandating the coverage of such contraceptives.

This HHS action relates to a provision in the “health care reform” legislation (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) signed into law in 2010. The church’s benefits partner, Concordia Plan Services, which provides health care coverage to nearly 48,000 people, has been actively monitoring this legislation and, as a result, Concordia Health Plan (CHP)—the LCMS church workers’ health plan—has been maintained as a “grandfathered” plan. As such, employers and workers participating in CHP would not be subjected to the mandate. However, many religious organizations do not have grandfathered plans and cannot avail themselves of the extremely narrow religious-employer exemption, which only is applicable to religious employers that primarily serve and employ members of that faith.

For centuries, Lutherans have joyfully delivered Christ’s mercy to others and embraced His call to care for the needy within our communities and around the world. In a nation that has allowed more than 54 million legal abortions since 1973, we must consider the marginalization of unborn babies and object to this mandate.

In addition, I encourage the members of the LCMS to join with me in supporting efforts to preserve our essential right to exercise our religious beliefs. This action by HHS will have the effect of forcing many religious organizations to choose between following the letter of the law and operating within the framework of their religious tenets. We add our voice to the long list of those championing for the continued ability to act according to the dictates of their faith, and provide compassionate care and clear Christian witness to society’s most vulnerable, without being discriminated against by government.

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, a church body of sinners redeemed by the blood of Jesus, has affected the lives of millions of people with care, aid, housing, health care, spiritual care and much more. We have been a force for good in this nation, promoting education (the nation’s largest Protestant school system), marriage and giving people the tools and assistance to be good citizens. We live and breathe Romans 13:3–7. The governing authorities are “God’s servant for good.” We pray constantly for our President and those in authority. We have sent our sons and daughters to fight for this country. We have provided military chaplains, elected officials, officers, including some who have held the highest military offices and other appointed positions in this country. Our people have and are serving as congressmen and women and senators.

Increasingly we are suffering overzealous government intrusions into what is the realm of traditional and biblical Christian conscience. We believe this is a violation of our First Amendment rights. We will stand, to the best of our ability, with all religious and other concerned citizens, against this erosion of our civil liberty. Come what may, we shall do everything we can, by God’s grace, to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison
President
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

via Steadfast Lutherans » Harrison issues “A Statement on Recent HHS Decision and Religious Freedom”.

I would just add that we cannot take much solace from “grandfathered plans.”  Where I work, we have one, but that applies only to 2015.  And if the plan changes–if rates are adjusted or the coverage is modified–the grandfathered status goes away.

Again, this is not just a Catholic issue.  All conservative Christian ministries and pro-life organizations are being put in the position of having to pay for abortion pills.

Pro-abortionists have the money and the power

Russell D. Moore at Christianity Today on the Susan G. Komen foundation’s caving to Planned Parenthood:

This is an important victory for Planned Parenthood and the abortion rights lobby. First of all, the association with Komen is a key piece in Planned Parenthood’s effort to present itself as a “women’s health provider” rather than simply as an abortion provider. Beyond that, the surrender of the nation’s leading breast cancer awareness group to this kind of political pressure proves the clout of Planned Parenthood and their allies.

Evangelical and Catholic Christians, and our pro-life allies of all faiths, might be tempted to draw some wrong conclusions from this tragic affair. After all our years of trumpeting opinion polls showing a “pro-life majority” in the United States, this demonstrates that, when it comes to money and power, the pro-choice forces aren’t sustained simply by the penumbra and emanations of an old Supreme Court decision.

Some pro-life persons might wish that the Christian churches had as much influence in the public arena as Planned Parenthood, that we were able to mobilize as many callers and threaten as many boycotts. Some might see this as a sign that we need more money and respect. After all, if some Christian foundation had more financial firepower than Planned Parenthood, Komen might have stood firm.

In all of this, though, we can gain an opportunity to see what the abortion culture is all about: cash. Planned Parenthood and their allies use the thoroughly American language of freedom of choice and women’s empowerment, but what’s at stake, as seen here, are billions of dollars. That’s why, despite their talk about adoption as a “choice,” Planned Parenthood and others hardly ever lead women through an adoption process relative to how often they promise them the “fix” of a “terminated pregnancy.” There’s a profit motive involved in every abortion.

Christians shouldn’t be surprised by any of this. Money and power, abstracted from the lordship of Christ, always lead to violence. Pharaoh ordered the execution of the Hebrew children because they threatened his position in “the 1 percent” of ancient Egypt. Herod carried out the same decree because he wanted to protect his kingship, a kingship that carried with it the financial support of the Roman Empire.

No one, Jesus told us, can serve both God and Mammon. In saying this, Jesus personalized money in a disturbing way. When capital becomes God it, somehow, is no longer something, but someone. The demonic force of rapaciousness so distorts the soul that, when it’s threatened, someone is going to die.

The answer for those of us who cherish the lives of women and their children, regardless of stage of development, isn’t to long to compete with Planned Parenthood in the influence that comes with massive amounts of wealth. It’s instead to see, first of all, how our own captivity to Mammon devolves us in the same way.

via The Pink Ribbon and the Dollar Sign | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

The author goes on to exhort Christians to stop their emphasis on money and power.

He is surely right to criticize the worldliness of contemporary churches–manifested especially in those that proclaim the “prosperity gospel,” but also in the general deference we tend to pay to wealth and power.

And yet, if we are to battle legalized abortion, don’t Christians have to pursue the power to change the laws?  Don’t pro-life organizations need more money?  Might we become so spiritual that we withdraw from the world’s concerns and thus become complicit in the institutionalized slaughter that is the abortion industry? Don’t the world’s battles require the world’s weapons, and isn’t this legitimate in our vocation as citizens in God’s kingdom of the left?

By the way, I like Dr. Moore’s phrase” Evangelical and Catholic Christians, and our pro-life allies of all faiths.”  This is not just a Catholic issue!  All conservative Christian organizations will be put into the position of having to pay for not just birth control pills but also abortion pills.

UPDATE:  See also Mollie Hemingway’s more hopeful article in Christianity Today entitled “The Komen Fiasco’s Silver Lining.”   She points out how at least the affair unveils (1) that the Komen foundation funds abortions (2) that Planned Parenthood, contrary to the common assumption, does NOT provide mammograms  (3) that the media is flagrantly biased in favor of abortion (4) that Planned Parenthood practices extortion.

How our government thinks of religion

Joseph Knippenberg at First Thoughts finds a telling quotation from Leondra Kruger, Assistant to the Solicitor General, arguing at the Supreme Court in the Hosanna-Tabor case:

The government’s interest extends in this case beyond the fact that this is a retaliation to the fact that this is not a church operating internally to promulgate and express religious belief internally. It is a church that has decided to open its doors to the public to provide the service, socially beneficial service, of educating children for a fee, in compliance with State compulsory education laws.

Mr. Knippenberg points out that this mindset helps explain why the government is requiring religious institutions except for churches to provide their employees free Morning After pills and birth control devices, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs:

The reasoning here is perfectly consistent with the thought animating the narrowly-drawn exemption to the widely reviled contraceptive mandate. Whenever a church or house of worship ceases to be simply inward-looking, when it in any way engages or serves the wider public, it becomes subject to much the same sort of government regulation as any secular entity. Relgious freedom is a purely private freedom. The moment you enter the public sphere, you’re subject to regulation. The public sphere is by definition secular, not pluralistic, with its tone, terms, and limits set by governmental authority. . . .

The logic of its argument in these two cases is that any religious institution that is public-serving has to behave in many instances (those determined by the state) like every other public-serving organization. The religious presence in the public square can’t be distinctive except in ways the government permits.

Pursued consistently across the board (and the Obama Administration hasn’t yet done this), this approach would gravely threaten religious freedom. It’s one thing to say (as some have, though I disagree with them), that if you take public dollars, you have to be thoroughly secular in your operation. Anyone can escape the secularizing effect of public money by refusing to accept it. It’s quite another to say that if you serve the public, your religiosity can’t permeate your efforts and your organization. This would require almost every religious organization I know of to choose between reaching out as a bearer of good news and a helper of widows and orphans and remaining faithful to the very understanding that inspired its outreach. Under these circumstances, a church can’t remain a church.

via The Obama Admininstration’s Crabbed Vision of Religious Liberty » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

Declaring war on religion

Michael Gerson on the Obama administration’s mandate that Roman Catholic institutions, as well as those of other churches and pro-life organizations, must provide employees health insurance that will give them free birth control, sterilization, and abortifacients:

The religious exemption granted by Obamacare is narrower than anywhere else in federal law — essentially covering the delivery of homilies and the distribution of sacraments. Serving the poor and healing the sick are regarded as secular pursuits — a determination that would have surprised Christianity’s founder.

Both radicalism and maliciousness are at work in Obama’s decision — an edict delivered with a sneer. It is the most transparently anti-Catholic maneuver by the federal government since the Blaine Amendment was proposed in 1875 — a measure designed to diminish public tolerance of Romanism, then regarded as foreign, authoritarian and illiberal. Modern liberalism has progressed to the point of adopting the attitudes and methods of 19th-century Republican nativists. . . .

The implications of Obama’s power grab go further than contraception and will provoke opposition beyond Catholicism. Christian colleges and universities of various denominations will resist providing insurance coverage for abortifacients. And the astounding ambition of this federal precedent will soon be apparent to every religious institution. Obama is claiming the executive authority to determine which missions of believers are religious and which are not — and then to aggressively regulate institutions the government declares to be secular. It is a view of religious liberty so narrow and privatized that it barely covers the space between a believer’s ears.

Obama’s decision also reflects a certain view of liberalism. Classical liberalism was concerned with the freedom to hold and practice beliefs at odds with a public consensus. Modern liberalism uses the power of the state to impose liberal values on institutions it regards as backward. It is the difference between pluralism and anti-­clericalism.

The administration’s ultimate motivation is uncertain. Has it adopted a radical secularism out of conviction, or is it cynically appealing to radical secularists? In either case, the war on religion is now formally declared.

via Obama’s radical power grab on health care – The Washington Post.


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