Bishops vs. health care for women (cont’d.)

Bishops vs. health care for women (cont’d.) February 8, 2012

Lots being written and reported on this manufactured ballyhoo. Here’s some of it.

Kay at Balloon Juice cuts through the fog to explain just what would be covered by the guidelines the bishops are condemning:

Here’s the services that have to be covered with no out-of-pocket cost to the employee:

Well-woman visits, screening for gestational diabetes, HPV testing, STD counseling, HIV testing and counseling, breastfeeding support and supplies, contraception, and screening and counseling for domestic violence.

Most Americans think that’s a Good Thing. And an even larger percentage of American Catholics think that’s a good thing. As Lauren Fox reports for US News,Majority of Catholics Believe Employers Should Cover Birth Control“:

Six out of ten Catholics believe employers should be required to provide their employees with healthcare plans that cover contraception, while 55 percent of Americans at large supported the new requirement.

So what about the religious liberty of the majority of American Catholics who like the idea of preventive health care for women?

From Steven Benen, The Maddow Blog.

Steve Benen notes that there is “Broad support for contraception coverage,” and he even supplies a nice chart.

With such broad support across the board, he notes, “By the reasoning of the White House’s critics on this issue, people of faith are apparently hostile towards people of faith.”

If supporting the HHS guidelines ensuring preventive health care coverage for women makes you “anti-Catholic,” then most American Catholics are “anti-Catholic.” But then I suppose that if we accept the bishops’ attempt to redefine “Catholic” to mean, primarily, “opposed to preventive health care coverage for women,” then it’s probably true that most American Catholics are anti-Catholic. And good on them. If that’s all that remains of the once-proud word “Catholic,” then most American Catholics should be against it.

(That’s not just a snarky joke. The bishops are doing real and possibly lasting damage to their church and their faith, which also happens to be my faith. And when I tell people that I am a Christian, I’d like their first thought to be that this has something to do with Jesus and love, rather than having them say to me, “Oh, so that means you’re opposed to well-woman visits, screening for gestational diabetes, HPV testing, STD counseling, HIV testing and counseling, breastfeeding support and supplies, contraception, and screening and counseling for domestic violence, right?” So it’d be nice to have the bishops not committing so much money and effort to this particular re-branding campaign.)

The bishops have also been doing their damnedest to pretend that this is about abortion, rather than about contraception. They keep referring to contraceptives as “abortion-inducing drugs.”

That’s not accurate. Those who say that are saying something that isn’t true. Those who say that are trying to convince others of something that isn’t true.

William D. Lindsey commends the Philadelphia Daily News for correcting the false claims made by Philadelphia’s archbishop. Lindsey quotes from the paper:

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput is wrong when he claims that, under the new rule, Catholic-affiliated hospitals and colleges would have to provide health coverage for “abortion-inducing drugs.” The policy states plainly that the coverage is only for FDA-approved contraception. (The contention that birth-control pills act after conception is scientifically inaccurate: even the Catholic Health Association agrees. It headlined a 2010 article on Plan B emergency contraception, “Science shows it is not an abortifacient.”)

Yes, another archbishop who is either profoundly confused or else lying about what he calls “abortion-inducing drugs.”

I don’t think Chaput is confused.

A post at Ramonas Voices — “The Catholic Contraceptive Controversy: Where’s the Health Care Part?” — laments that this is being treated as another chapter in the abortion wars, when that’s not what it’s about:

This is not baby-killing, it’s responsibly managing an event as life-changing as it’s ever going to get. It’s the smart, sane way of controlling the use of our own bodies and, oh, by the way, preventing the birth of unwanted children.

We’re talking about birth control products already approved and already a part of most insurance policies. The only mandate is that insurance providers will now be required to provide those products without additional cost to all women who want to use them. The mandate isn’t for the use, it’s for the availability and the cost.

This is a manufactured Right wing controversy designed to kill yet another positive outcome of “Obamacare,” and the Catholic bishops are more than happy to become the spark that creates yet another phony firestorm.

This mandate already exists in 28 states, where Catholic institutions serving most of the country have been complying all along. That makes it very hard to believe the sudden expressions of shock and outrage over the idea of it being applied to the remaining 22 states.

That’s also why Mark Silk is wrong when he characterizes the HHS rules as nothing more than a political ploy the White House could use “to show how much they love the liberal base.”

Here again is that list of what this policy requires large employers to include in health insurance:

Well-woman visits, screening for gestational diabetes, HPV testing, STD counseling, HIV testing and counseling, breastfeeding support and supplies, contraception, and screening and counseling for domestic violence.

That’s only a ploy to show love for the liberal base if by “liberal base” he means “all American women” and if by “love” he means “adequate preventive health care.”

Seriously, here’s that list again:

Well-woman visits, screening for gestational diabetes, HPV testing, STD counseling, HIV testing and counseling, breastfeeding support and supplies, contraception, and screening and counseling for domestic violence.

People are angry about this? It offends their “conscience”? Nonsense. The word “conscience” does not refer to anything that might be offended by that.

Cheryl Contee isn’t buying this feigned outrage either. The end of her post — “The Absurdity of the Birth Control/Contraception Non-Controversy” — is particularly pointed:

If [Mitt] Romney wants to court a bunch of old men who certainly seem to expect their aging stiffies via Viagra and Cialis to be fully covered by health insurance but aren’t so sure about making sure that women are able to make decisions freely about if and when they make babies — then let him. This is a non-controversy that the media and some desperate reactionary Republican candidates who want to drag us back to the dark ages have stirred up. It’s time the [media] talked to some actual women — whose voices have mostly been lost in this discussion.

But Contee is restrained compared to Charlie Pierce, who looks back over the past decade and concludes that maybe the bishops and their defenders shouldn’t be complaining about being “beat up” over their opposition to this policy. “No, This Is Why We’ve Been Beating Up on the Church“:

George Weigel, alleged Catholic public intellectual and full-time fluffer of the Clan of The Red Beanie … said the following:

“This has struck a tribal nerve in Catholicism,” Catholic scholar George Weigel said to Chuck Todd on the Daily Rundown. “The Catholic Church has been beaten up over the last 10 or 11 years and I think Catholics are tired of the government and others beating up on the church.”

Holy mother of god, to coin a phrase.

Here is a pre-eminent Catholic “scholar” — Chris Matthews called him that last night while running the clip of Weigel’s stunningly ahistorical assertion — arguing that the Catholic laity is going to rise up and smite the president over birth control because they’re tired of the beating the institutional church has taken over the last decade.

And what are we talking about here?

The Church has been “beaten up” over the last 10 or 12 years because, at its highest possible echelons, it functioned as an international conspiracy to obstruct justice regarding the crime of sexual assault. … Most Catholics I know don’t believe the Church has taken a beating over the last decade; in fact, they believe a lot of ermined layabouts haven’t gotten half of what they deserve.

Lindsey makes the same point in a post on “‘Catholics’ in Anti-Contraceptive Crusader Mode“:

I’d like now to cite two points of evidence that should, I would argue, give pause to think for anyone inclined to give the bishops the benefit of the doubts as they beat their warm drums to place a Republican in the White House:

1. In the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, a trial date has just been set for Bishop Robert Finn, who is under criminal indictment for failure to report suspected child abuse to criminal authorities in the case of Father Shawn Ratigan.

2. And in the archdiocese of Philadelphia, where the former secretary for clergy, Monsignor William J. Lynn, is also under criminal indictment on similar charges, and where the district attorney has just contended that the diocese kept a priest in ministry four decades after it knew of his sadomachostic activity with youngsters, the archdiocese has just been labeled an “unindicted co-conspirator” in Lynn’s trial.

As the bishops go on the political warpath right now, and as Catholics of the right and center line up behind them, it might be important to keep those two pieces of information in mind — if one really does care about the moral standing and moral credibility of Catholic teaching in the public square.

If Lindsey is right that the bishops are hoping this 22-state faux-kerfuffle will distract us from what he discusses there, then they can’t be pleased with Cardinal Egan for pushing it back into the news, as Andy Newman reports, “Cardinal Egan Criticized for Retracting Apology on Sexual Abuse Crisis“:

In a interview with Connecticut magazine published on the magazine’s Web site last week [“Cardinal Egan: Ten Years After,” by Tom Connor], a surprisingly frank Cardinal Egan said of the apology, “I never should have said that,” and added, “I don’t think we did anything wrong.”

He said many more things in the interview, some of them seemingly at odds with the facts. He repeatedly denied that any sex abuse had occurred on his watch in Bridgeport. He said that even now, the church in Connecticut had no obligation to report sexual abuse accusations to the authorities. (A law on the books since the 1970s says otherwise.) And he described the Bridgeport diocese’s handling of sex-abuse cases as “incredibly good.”

Michael Brendan Dougherty is not impressed with the cardinal:

In short: Egan coddled child-abusers, and persecuted decent priests during his ignominious reign as a Prince of the Church. His entire interview reeks of a narcissism and self-regard that is so palpable it makes your eyes water.

Bonus points to Dougherty by starting with a quote from St. John Chrysostom: “The road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.”

Melissa Rogers contemplates what the end-game of this political power-play by the bishops might be and if there might be “A win-win solution for HHS regulations.”

Rogers points to Hawaii — one of 28 states requiring contraceptive coverage already — as an example of how women who work for Catholic institutions might still receive coverage for the health care they need without violating the institutions’ religious beliefs forbidding such coverage:

In terms of its definition of a “religious employer,” the state of Hawaii’s contraceptive coverage law has some of the same defects as the interim federal rule. But it appears to have taken some noteworthy steps to ensure that employees of objecting religious organizations may readily gain access to affordable coverage of contraceptives. Under Hawaii law, religious employers that decline to cover contraceptives must provide written notification to enrollees disclosing that fact and describing alternate ways for enrollees to access coverage for contraceptive services. Hawaii law also requires health insurers to allow enrollees in a health plan of an objecting religious employer to purchase coverage of contraceptive services directly and to do so at a cost that does not exceed “the enrollee’s pro rata share of the price the group purchaser would have paid for such coverage had the group plan not invoked a religious exemption.” A New York law has similar provisions.

Again, these state laws are far from perfect. Further, we need more information about how they have worked in practice for all concerned.

John Aravosis is less optimistic than Rogers. Given that the religious right has been crying “religious liberty!1!” a lot lately, Aravosis is deadly serious when he asks this question: “Should Catholic hospitals be permitted to refuse to treat me because I’m gay?

That’s a loaded question. But just in recent months we’ve seen “religious liberty” and “conscience clause” invoked to defend the “religious liberty” of not signing legal marriage certificates for certain kinds of people, the “religious liberty” of not filling out prescriptions for certain kinds of people and especially the “religious liberty” to bully certain kinds of children with legal impunity.

So, yeah, Aravosis is asking a loaded question, but he didn’t load it.

(Rob Tsinai has a similarly cynical — and very, very funny — take on New Hampshire’s recent fight for the “religious liberty” of all businesses to refuse to serve GLBT people.)

OK, once more, with feeling:

  • Well-woman visits
  • screening for gestational diabetes
  • HPV testing
  • STD counseling
  • HIV testing and counseling
  • breastfeeding support and supplies
  • contraception
  • screening and counseling for domestic violence

People claim to be upset by this?

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