1. This Is Old News.
President Barack Obama’s policy on health insurance for contraception is not a departure from current law. It does not deviate from the established rules. And Catholic institutions have been abiding by these same rules for more than a decade.
So when the clerical lobbyists suddenly jump up screaming that this is a brand new cause for outrage and alarm, then they just look silly. And transparently dishonest.
Anyone pretending this is a brand new thing introduced by Obama is just not acting in good faith.
President Barack Obama’s decision to require most employers to cover birth control and insurers to offer it at no cost has created a firestorm of controversy. But the central mandate — that most employers have to cover preventative care for women—has been law for over a decade. This point has been completely lost in the current controversy, as Republican presidential candidates and social conservatives claim that Obama has launched a war on religious liberty and the Catholic Church.
Despite the longstanding precedent, “no one screamed” until now, said Sara Rosenbaum, a health law expert at George Washington University.
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.
Michelle Goldberg: “Bishops’ Enraged Response to Obama Policy Is Misplaced“
From the enraged response to Obama’s policy, one would think it represented some sort of radical break with the status quo. … But many Catholic institutions are already operating in states that require contraceptive coverage, such as New York and California. Such laws are on the books in 28 states, and only eight of them exempt Catholic hospitals and universities. Nowhere has the Catholic Church shut down in response.
… Somehow, Catholic institutions have continued operating. Nationwide, major Catholic universities including Fordham, Georgetown, and DePaul all offer birth-control coverage. So does Dignity Health, until recently known as Catholic Healthcare West, the fifth-largest health system in the country. In Massachusetts, the six former Caritas Christi Catholic hospitals, which were recently acquired by Steward Health Care System, all complied with the state law.
… Obama’s policy, says Sarah Lipton-Lubet, policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, “really is completely constitutionally unremarkable. There is a whole host of anti-discrimination and labor laws that institutions that operate in the public sphere like religiously affiliated hospitals and universities comply with, or are supposed to comply with.”
And make no mistake: health plans that exclude services used only by women constitute a form of discrimination. That’s why in 2000, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that employers that cover prescription drugs but do not cover contraception are in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Such employers have “circumscribed the treatment options available to women, but not to men,” it said. The EEOC’s ruling made no exemptions for religiously affiliated organizations.
The largest Catholic university in the nation has admitted to providing contraception coverage as part of its health care benefit package, further undermining the GOP’s claims that Obama’s regulation requiring insurers and employers to offer reproductive health benefits represents and “unprecedented” war against religion. …
… DePaul’s home state of Illinois is one of 28 to have adopted a contraception coverage requirement. Eight of those states provide no opt-out clause for religious institutions and the administration’s new rule would expand conscience protections to those parts of the country.
Lon Newman has five questions for the Catholic bishops seeking to abolish contraception coverage for all American workers. I’ll just quote two here:
In Wisconsin, we have a Medicaid family planning to prevent unintended pregnancy. It has been very successful. It saves taxpayer dollars by reducing unwanted pregnancies and abortions among participants. Medicaid payment records show that many Catholic hospitals, clinics, physicians, and pharmacists are participating in the program. These institutions provide birth control services and receive public insurance (tax) dollars in payment. There is no reason for the bishops to wait to exercise their conscience “rights.” They could stop accepting payment for family planning services now. Why wait?
In Cardinal-designate Dolan’s former diocese, there is a nettlesome question of who is an employee of the archdiocese and who is not. Today, diocesan attorneys will argue that sexual assault claims against priests working in diocesan religious orders should be thrown out because the priests were not employees. The bishops need to clarify how they are accountable and responsible for the sexual health and morality of the employees of these separately-incorporated religious affiliates – until they engage in criminal sexual behavior.
What is being insisted upon is not religious liberty or even 1st Amendment rights. What is being insisted upon is a principle of power. … It isn’t a moral issue, and it isn’t a religious issue: it’s a power issue. The Roman Catholic church has to conform to the law in 28 states; the Bishops don’t want that rule extended to all 50, because…well, because they don’t want to comply with it if they don’t have to. Have they suffered in those other 28 states, or removed their presence there? Apparently not. Have they campaigned relentlessly to have the law overturned in those 28 states? Apparently not. So the moral issue is not the absolute here; it’s the issue of a shift in power. What they don’t want to give up, is any more power.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
2. These Are Old Men.
Those are the two variables driving all of this: old and men. It’s not religious — it’s about gender and generation.
Most Catholics want their health insurance to cover contraception. Most non-Catholics want their health insurance to cover contraception. Most women want their health insurance to cover contraception. Most young men want their health insurance to cover contraception.
Most everyone wants this, except for old men. Old men find the idea upsetting.
Rachel Maddow: “The Men Who Stare at Zygotes“
The old boys club that dictates beltway wisdom has never been more unified than it has been this week in wagging their fingers at the Obama administration, saying what a political misstep it is to have health insurance cover contraception, to do what 28 states already do in a variety of ways, to give exemptions for churches, but to otherwise say that anybody else who provides health insurance has to cover contraception as a basic part of health care.
And the old boys club that dictates common wisdom has also never shown more stupefying ignorance for the fact that they are, in fact, an old boys club. And not everybody is an old boy.
Sarah Posner: “Obama’s winning hand“
I recently was talking with a friend, whose 84-year-old mother, a lifelong and devoted Catholic, recently stopped going to Mass. She was fed up, he said, with the “anti-Obama” lectures she heard at church. I would love to see Obama invite my friend’s mother — from a Midwestern swing state, by the way — to the White House for a meeting.
The religious outreach gurus will no doubt ask, How many people does she represent? Oh, I don’t know. Tens of millions?
I’m just tired of being a political pawn in partisan politics. I’m tired of my health needs and those of my daughter, my friends, and my friends’ daughters being nothing more than something to bat back and forth on the national stage.
Amanda Marcotte: “The real divide here is on gender, not Catholicism“
The polling data makes this clear that there’s no conflict between Catholics and everyone else. But there are two groups that show huge divergences in the polling data on this: men and women.
… The religious arguments have no real effect on men’s support or non-support of it; they either think it’s a benefit or they don’t. And the majority don’t. The spread between men and women on whether or not contraception should be a covered benefit is 15 points. The non-existent spread between Catholics and non is drawing a bunch of attention, but here is the real story. The only reason this is controversial is that a majority of men oppose it.
- Steve Benen: “It’s about contraception, not religion“
- Rikyrah at Jack & Jill Politics: “The GOP’s War on Reproductive Rights“
- Susie Madrak: “Why Aren’t Republicans Listening to Catholic Bishops on Unemployment Benefits?“
- Raw Story: “Contraceptive use drives teen pregnancy rate to 30-year low“
- Charlie Pierce: “The Clan of the Red Beanie Stalks the White House“