The Politics of the HHS Mandate Made Clear UPDATED

It’s all about getting votes for the incumbent, and staying in power. It’s a calculated risk, mind you, and one that looked like a good bet until the outcry from the Catholic Church, and others like-minded in their understanding of the First Amendment. The Administration thought it was prepared for this contingency, and waiting in the wings was an “accommodation” tailor-made to put to rest the fears of the affected parties.

There is only one problem. The affected parties aren’t your average, garden variety, don’t read the papers, tell me what I want to hear, give me something for nothing, voters. And so the “accommodation” was readily dissected by the affected parties and determined to be the chimera that it so obviously is, on the very same day of the Administration’s announced solution. Thus,

We will therefore continue—with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency—our efforts to correct this problem through the other two branches of government. For example, we renew our call on Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. And we renew our call to the Catholic faithful, and to all our fellow Americans, to join together in this effort to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all.

Since then, the Administration has taken pains to note that they won’t back down from the Mandate, and dialoguing with the Catholic Bishops isn’t something they are interested in pursuing. But they will talk to everyone else, on the subject,

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says the Obama administration plans to issue a rule “in the near future” on its compromise plan on contraception coverage and is meeting with insurers, clergy and health leaders to get feedback on how to make it work.

“We’ve begun outreach. I have talked to Catholic health leaders, I’m reaching out to priests. We’re also talking to union leaders, we’re talking to our partners at labor who run the self-insured plans to figure out a strategy,” Sebelius told reporters at a conference in D.C. on Tuesday.

There are just too many smart cookies on the staff at the USCCB, see? So the Administration won’t talk to our shepherds, because they prefer to speak to the sheep directly. If you were wondering what the photograph at the top of this post was about, the Bishops are Sam Sheepdog in this little drama, and the Administration is the cunning, and inept, Ralph Wolf.

You can underestimate ‘ol Sam, but he is an effective check on Ralph every.single.time. It’s akin to this scene from Ready, Woolen, and Able,

So the Administration, and their allies, are pulling out all the stops, in their best Ralph Wolf-like manner, and looking about as ridiculous in the process. Telling us sheep the sob stories of college girls who are being forced into poverty because of the “high cost of birth control,” for example.

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I know we’ve come along way from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, but the testimony of this young woman just reminded me of what a prophet Velvet Jones really was. It was funny back in the 1981, see, because it was so outlandish. Brought to life, though, in the here and now, it’s just sad. Thankfully, Ms. Fluke, who was the student that had hoped to testify to Mr. Issa’s committee, and walked out before the women on the panel actually testified, is not the sole feminine voice at Georgetown with thoughts on this topic. Angela Moribito, speaks her mind here.

But the saddest thing of all is how the Administration is playing their hand with who they hope is the average voter. They are pandering to “Joe/Jane Average Voter” and hope they have had the usual pre-election lobotomy. That way, their tactics of deception may actually catch on with the sheep, and they will hopefully trust Ralph (smart, and shiny!), and not Sam (true and virtuous). Which is why stories like this one are starting to appear in very un-ecclesiastical publications like the Business Insider, much to the Administration’s chagrin.

The Obama Campaign Just Told Some Massive Lies In The Fight Over Contraception

A few weeks ago, Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services mandated that all employers–even religious hospitals and schools–had to include health coverage for birth control, sterilization, and ‘morning-after’ pills in the health insurance plans they give their employees.

The Catholic Church and many other religious groups flipped out at the requirement.

Today the “Blunt Amendment,” which would allow employees with conscience-objections to opt out of that requirement, went down to defeat in the U.S. Senate by a 51-48 vote. And the whole thing will be disputed through lawsuits anyway.

But the Obama campaign still thinks it is a good political issue for them.

So they mocked up a scary image on the campaign’s Tumblr account that is extremely misleading.

The post says, “If Mitt Romney and a few Republican senators get their way, employers could be making women’s health care decisions for them.”

And they show this:

Five lies on one tiny slip of paper? Go see it for yourself, because once anything is on the internet, it’s for real. Right? So ‘ol Ralph wants you to fear that your current, and future, employer also wants to deny you access to contraception, even if you don’t happen to work for the Catholic Church or her affiliated institutions. Look! Squirrel!

Yesterday, ‘ol Ralph even argued that the HHS Mandate’s contraception provisions are cost-effective in a way that even left Mammon scratching his head.

During the subcommittee hearing, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) said that contraception provided by insurance companies to people employed by religious organizations under the future form of the rule Sebelius described would not be was not free.

“Who pays for it? There’s no such thing as a free service,” Murphy asked.

Sebelius responded that that is not the case with insurance.

“The reduction in the number of pregnancies compensates for cost of contraception,” Sebelius answered.

Murphy expressed surprise by the answer.

“So you are saying, by not having babies born, we are going to save money on health care?” Murphy asked.

Dr. Gerard Nadal, a molecular and microbiologist, has more to share on that bit of fuzzy logic. Mammon isn’t too keen on the plan not to pay him like we’ve promised, remember?

Joanne McPortland, blogger at the ironically named egregious twaddle sees the cognitive dissonance present in the works of apologists of the HHS Mandate. Especially after sitting in a graveyard during her lunch hour contemplating the importance of spending time well.

What am I doing with this day–this extra 24 hours in the year–that will have made any difference at all by the time I reach the inevitable hour?

It’s a pretty good bet that arguing with people in comboxes doesn’t qualify (though the heartburn might hasten the inevitable hour). Nor will reading more dispatches from the frontlines of the Pelvic Wars. Yesterday’s New York Times, for example, brought this completely unsurprising editorial attempt to wedge the attack on Catholic conscience even deeper into the health care battlefield. “Women’s Health Care at Risk,” reads the headline over the warning that “a wave of mergers between Catholic and secular hospitals is threatening to deprive women of access to important reproductive services.” So now we’re not just making women sick by refusing to pay for free contraceptives for our employees; we’re withholding critical care. That these “important reproductive services”–”Catholic hospitals have refused to terminate pregnancies, provide contraceptive services, offer a standard treatment for ectopic pregnancies, or allow sterilization after caesarean sections,” all of which violate Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life–are in actual fact nonreproductive services is something nobody seems to be willing to discuss. (Is it just me?)

As for me, I’ll be getting my information on what the HHS Mandate stand-off is really all about right from Sam Sheepdog himself. The USCCB website and their Media Blog make it easy to keep track of the truth in this imbroglio.

This post is getting rather long, but like Joanne above, I’m left wondering too. Am I the only one to notice how the daily scripture readings for Mass are dovetailing presciently with what is going on in this little game of Truth or Consequences? Like today’s Old Testament reading from the prophet Ezekiel, for example.

And if the virtuous man turns from the path of virtue to do evil, the same kind of abominable things that the wicked man does, can he do this and still live? None of his virtuous deeds shall be remembered, because he has broken faith and committed sin; because of this, he shall die.

You say, “The LORD’s way is not fair!”

Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair? When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die. But if the wicked, turning from the wickedness he has committed, does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

Or how about the Gospel reading, where Our Lord reminds us from his Sermon on the Mount,

Jesus said to his disciples: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.”

Gulp. Or as the Psalmist sings today,

If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?

Thankfully, Ezekiel reminds us of the way of truth,

Thus says the Lord GOD:

If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed, if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just, he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him;he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced. Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked? says the Lord GOD.

Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he may live?

Yes, indeed. And that’s why I’ll be sticking with Sam on this one.

UPDATE: Professor Janet E. Smith, on Ms. Fluke’s remarks on the HHS Mandate.

UPDATE II: Noted: Ms. Fluke is actually a 30 year old returning older student.

UPDATE III: The Anchoress on Pretending Contraception is the Crisis.

UPDATE IV: Sandra Fluke, et.al.,  in the Spotlight at the upcoming DNC.

  • Jacob

    It bothers me when an article doesn’t site it’s sources. The New York Times editorial is horribly guilty of this. I would very much like to see the sources and support of the claims that Catholic hospitals are refusing to treat ectopic pregnancies. Sloppy journalism and data seems prolific in this debate.

    • enness

      Well, on the issue of their allegation that these hospitals don’t offer a “standard” treatment (who detemines that, anyway?), it seems to me that that isn’t a “standard” patient. Not if you care about getting it right, anyway. I’ve read enough first-hand stories of people who were told they had ectopic pregnancies, or suspected ectopic pregnancies, only to find out later that it was a false alarm.

  • http://elizabethk-fthnfort.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth K.

    I had an a-ha moment about this a few weeks ago, and while now I realize that I’m not really all that clever, I’m really glad to see so many others arriving at the same conclusion about what’s really going on here. I think another piece of this is that it’s all aimed at the potential Republican candidates–Santorum more so than Romney, as the whole”they want to ban contraception!” works better with him as a candidate–but it could be used against Romney, too. And the truth is, they have to do this, or something like it: they’ve already lost voters like me, who gave Obama a knee-jerk vote last time (I’m sorry, I’m really really sorry) but who have finally wised up. They need to keep the voters who may be starting to notice that all that hopey-changey stuff looks a lot like what they said they didn’t like about George W. Bush and divert attention to the social issues, so they’ve magicked up this birth control “debate.” I’m hoping, like you, that people will wise up, and I’m praying that they do (and worrying that they won’t).

    • enness

      Better late than never. And you couldn’t be more right about Bush Lite — this is the news today: http://news.yahoo.com/u-offer-legal-backing-targeted-killing-source-002326453.html
      Granted, I thought Bush had far more redeeming qualities. But I am more inclined today than in the past several years to admit that we didn’t get here overnight (we rarely do) and I should have been a little more upset about some of what has happened.

  • http://www.withouthavingseen.com Ryan Haber

    Agreed. The Administration does not want intelligent discussion of its illiberal policy on:

    (1) Habeas corpus
    (2) Posse comitatus
    (3) Assassinations of American citizens by the US Govt
    (4) Freedom of the press
    (5) Independence of the churches

    I do not above mention how eagerly it avoids discussing exactly what the “8.3% unemployment” figure actually means, because that is not a question of liberty per se as much as the usual, run of the mill political spin. The above points, though, are serious assaults by the Administration on the very pillars of the liberal democracy – Western civilization, really – that we most cherish.

    • Frank Weathers

      Good points, Ryan. Unfortunately, Congress seems to be fine with these assaults on our constitutional freedoms. Previous administrations have been onboard with these developments as well. That Congress has been too is the tragedy.


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