Old men pretending to be newly upset at old news

Old men pretending to be newly upset at old news February 10, 2012

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.

Nick Baumann: “Most of Obama’s ‘Controversial’ Birth Control Rule Was Law During Bush Years

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.

Igor Volsky: “Nation’s Largest Catholic University: We Offer ‘A Prescription Contraceptive Benefit’

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.

RMJ at Adventus: “O what a paradise it seems!

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?

Karoli: “Religious Groups Come Together to Endorse Obama Administration’s Contraception Policy

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.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I’m really tired of having to wait for stupid old men to either stop being stupid or stop being alive so that we can get things done.

  • Trouble is, that by the time our current crop of stupid old men are no longer alive (I don’t hold out any hope for them becoming less stupid), a new crop of what are currently stupid young men will have matured.

  • Anonymous

    Apropos of the current discussion of choice that’s been ongoing, I thought I’d inform y’all that *BUFFY COMICS SPOILER* Buffy Summers has decided to have an abortion.  Whedon discusses Buffy’s big choices

  • Tonio

    “Old men find the idea upsetting.” Any thoughts about why? Could it be at their ages, they feel more possessive about not just male privilege but paternal privilege?

  • J_

    Must be nice to be able to do or not do things you don’t feel like doing because of ‘religion.’

    I’m now wondering what aspects of my job I can get away with not doing and/or what classes of people I can choose to treat a little bit worse on the grounds of my religion. That is, atheism.

  • Anonymous

    Of course, but they’ll be stupid in different ways.  It’s no coincidence that we get our first African-American president after the generation that voted against integration has started dying off in earnest.

  • Lori

    You know what is really, really offensive? The fact that we’re even discussing the (supposedly) delicate consciences of these particular old men. This entire manufactured controversy is a disgrace. When the Catholic hierarchy tries to manipulate public policy using the Church’s conscience the entire world should either point and laugh or gasp in horror that they would have the unmitigated gall to even bring it up. 

    The bankruptcy filings for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee appear to reveal 8000 cases of child molestation and 100 offenders, 75 of whom were priests, who had previously not been reported. 


    Timothy Dolan is currently Archbishop of New York and is about to be elevated to Cardinal. He was previously is the  Archbishop of Milwaukee and he’s suspected of having hidden $130 million of church funds there in order to keep the money from going to abuse survivors. 


    I very strongly doubt that Milwaukee is an isolated case. I think there are thousands upon thousands of unreported victims across the country who have still not gotten the help they need or any measure of justice for what was done to them. I think there are hundreds if not thousands of rapist priests and other Church officials who are known to the Church and are still being protected by the them. 

    The sex abuse scandal is not in the past. The Church is still engaged in an active cover-up of child rape and other sexual abuse, and of the Church’s role in facilitating it. It is likely that priests known to the Church to be child rapists are still being allowed to serve as priests and are continuing to victimize Church members. It is highly doubtful that there is a single Archbishop who is not directly implicated in the cover-up and facilitation of abuse. I doubt that there are many Bishops who aren’t also directly implicated. 

    None of these people should be able to even suggest that the Church should be exempt from the law because providing comprehensive insurance coverage in its role as a secular employer offends its conscience without being directly and very publicly asked why health insurance is more offensive to the Church than child rape. 

    The fact that the insurance issue became a controversy at all is ridiculous. The fact that this ginned up controversy is still raging days later is beyond ridiculous. The fact that anyone is supporting the Bishops’ on any issue of the Church’s supposed conscience is a disgrace. 

  • Archer

    But it’ll possibly be a new and fresh kinds of stupid. Honestly, after seeing the same stupid recycled over and over for practically my entire life, fresh stupid sounds good.
    My personal problem with waiting for a generational die-off is there are individuals of that generation of which I am rather fond. The idea I have to wait for them to die for the world to improve seems perverse.

  • Anonymous

    Walking down the street, I happened to run into Brer Republican this morning.  I asked him what he thought of the contraception mandate controversy.  He had a message of encouragement for President Obama.

    Brer Republican: Oh please, Mr. President.  Whatever you do, don’t back down on this issue. Just you show those stupid old men who’s boss.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know how this is supposed to work:

    On a conference call with reporters Friday, a senior administration official announced that the White House will move the onus to provide women free contraceptive services to insurance companies if their religiously-affiliated employers object to providing insurance coverage that covers birth control. 

    “All women will still have access to free preventive care that includes contraceptive services,” the official said. “The insurance company will be required to reach out directly and offer her contraceptive coverage free of charge,” if the employer objects to providing that coverage in its benefit package.


  • Lori

     Politico is hardly the source of all wisdom (do we really need to review their “fact checking” issues?) and
    the headline of the piece you linked to is a perfect example of their usual low level of reporting.  “President
    Obama contraception-rule fight marks return of culture wars”. There is no
    “return of the culture wars”. The culture war never left and no one
    with 2 functioning brain cells thinks they did. Women certainly know that it never did. 

    Throw in the fact that people openly acknowledge that the GOP is working this in order to draw attention away
    from the economy, which is a total losing issue for them, and the whole thing
    is sort of pathetic. 
    Obviously the fact that this is a pathetic fake controversy ginned up truly vile people for their own ends doesn’t mean that the Church isn’t going to get its way. It very well might. However, this is not going to be the issue that saves the GOP come November. 

  • What’s more, it merely underscores that to Republican leaders, women’s health care needs are nothing more than something to be used as a “political strategy.”

  • Anonymous

    So the Obama administration “accommodation” on this is … what exactly?  The Catholic Church will no longer be required to purchase birth control for their employees?  Instead they will be required to give the insurance company fifty bucks, who will purchase it for the employee instead?  Or is that insurance companies and their armies of actuaries are actually pretty good at math and have figured out that’s mostly cheaper and more effective to just cover the pill than to not, and they’ve all just agreed to just pretend?

    Analogy Time with Entirely Fictional Scenarios:

    Is this like the time your grumpy old male relative gave you $20 and told you to buy someone the Twilight books because he didn’t want to be seen buying them, or is it like the time he wouldn’t tip the waitress because his coffee took fifteen seconds too long, so you put in a couple of extra bucks, and got great service afterwards?

    Either way he’s a grumpy old fart with bad manners, right?

  • Anonymous

    Well, everyone ‘knows’ it is only a war when the unprivileged fight back. The rest of the time it’s merely cultural colonialism – and there aren’t headlines in that!! :P

  • Anon

    Also, with 2012 shaping up to be the year of the Great Gay Marriage Showdown, I doubt that this is going to be the main culture war fight this election.

  • Nathaniel

    The difference now is 8 years. 2004 was when it really hurt John Kerry. In 2012, its a bit more ambiguous, and has the chance of providing equal enthusiasm for both sides.

  • Daughter

    I posted this on my Facebook page this morning; let’s see if I get any responses:

    I am one of 98% of American women who use birth control.I was on the pill for many years before I became sexually active, because I had very irregular and often painful periods.I continued to use the pill after I got married, and it was effective–I only have one child. It was a high-risk pregnancy, which is why I chose to have no more children. I delivered her at a Catholic hospital, and they had no problem prescribing the pill for me to prevent further pregnancies.I am now on the IUD, which my doctor recommended because it’s safer for women over 40 than hormonal birth control.Protect women’s rights. If you agree, share your story!

  • Daughter

    I agree. When you have Republican legislators making speeches like this one, times have changed.

  • hagsrus



  • Either way he’s a grumpy old fart with bad manners, right?

    Either way, women have guaranteed access to contraceptive care and we don’t have to listen to this any more! Win-win! Back to Left Behind!

  • Daughter

    Good question. On another post (here? another site? can’t remember), someone commented that the cost of one healthy pregnancy is equal to 40 YEARS of birth control. It’s much, much cheaper for them to pay for the birth control.

  • Lori

    I agree. When you have Republican legislators making speeches like this one, times have changed. 

    Wasn’t that great? My heart really went out to her over the loss of her husband and I appreciated the fact that every point she made was just dead on. 

    There is still a long way to go, but I honestly think we’ve turned the corner on QUILTBAG rights. It’s getting more and more difficult to successfully paint non-heterosexuals as less than fully human. I can remember a conversation 15 years or so ago where I said that I was doubtful that we would have full marriage equality in my lifetime. Things have changed so much that now I’ll be amazed and horrified if we don’t. 

    Sadly, there’s a cloud attached to that silver lining. As the GOP War on Women demonstrates, getting broad legal recognition on your civil rights does not keep the bastards from trying to hold you down. Every new generation of women has to fight to be treated like human beings and I have no doubt the same will continue to be true of QUILTBAG folks for the foreseeable future. 

  • Lori

    Yup. Some of the people that women have to fight to be considered human are other women. Never surprising, but also never not sad, frustrating and shitty. 

  • Lori

    Either way, women have guaranteed access to contraceptive care and we don’t have to listen to this any more! Win-win!  

    Sadly, I doubt it. This “compromise” doesn’t make a damn bit of sense and is likely to run into practical problems because it’s illogical. When that happens women will get screwed over. 

    Worse, the Right is going to take this as a victory and you know what the Right does when they feel like they’ve won—they take it as a green light to grab more wins. Paying blackmailers is pretty much always the wrong decision and I have no doubt that this is not going to be the exception to that rule. 

    When you’re talking about controversy, and Catholic conscience and all this blah, blah, blah we have to keep in mind that this particular Catholic is currently ahead in the polls for the GOP presidential nomination.


  •  At something of a guess, I’d say it’s simply unchallenged privelege. Younger men are more likely to have had their privelege challenged, and women never had male privelege (err, obviously).

  • Marshall Pease

    This is what the Reformation was all about: freedom of conscience vs. state-supported religious tyranny. As Evangelicals, we should be solid against expecting the state to do our duty to God for us. Against anybody who seeks to interfere with our personal relationship with God.

    I tried to send this message to President Obama at whitehouse.gov but he’s not accepting comments this morning.

  • Ethan

    From the linked page at Pandagon…

    The framing of this entire debate over the contraception mandate is so incredibly frustrating, because […] it profoundly misunderstands American Catholics, who are basically
    indistinguishable from the public at large both politically and

    Well, nice to know that nothing distinguishes American Catholics from everyone else in the US, either politically or culturally.

    Lest this be taken as trolling, this was in the lead paragraph on the page. I’m not sure what degree of seriousness I should offer what follows after that line except to lament that “Dennis the Peasant” devoted far more calories to deconstructing such articles than I can bear to muster.

    Carry on, then.

  • Anonymous

    “and women never had male privelege (err, obviously).”

    Umm, actually, some of us did :)

  • Tonio

    Amanda Marcotte at Slate suggests that Obama’s “compromise” is actually a crafty political maneuver that forces the GOP to be more blatantly anti-contraception. Apparently under agreement, the insurers will have to reach out directly to employees and provide them contraception coverage for free.


  • Anonymous

    Could you do us a favor and not try to make *this* thread also about you?

  • Anonymous

    Could you do us a favor and not try to make *this* thread also about you?

  • Sadly, I doubt it. This “compromise” doesn’t make a damn bit of sense
    and is likely to run into practical problems because it’s illogical.
    When that happens women will get screwed over.

    I don’t really understand. Aren’t insurance companies already regulated and forced to provide different kinds of care anyway? How would making them do one more thing — especially something relatively cheap?

  • My concern would be that insurance companies might seek a way to play with the requirement to notify the affected women of their right to get free contraceptive coverage.  You know, like bury the “notice” on page 83 of some document filled with illegible legalese so women don’t know they have this option.

  • What would be equally delightful is if the insurance companies told Catholic employers that the premiums they will have to pay will not change simply because they chose a plan that doesn’t include contraceptive coverage, since the cost of contraceptive coverage is negligible compared to the rest of the health care costs the plan covers.

    Wait, am I actually looking to health insurance companies to champion people?  Be on the lookout for flying pigs, folks.

  • Lori

    I don’t really understand. Aren’t insurance companies already regulated and forced to provide different kinds of care anyway? How would making them do one more thing — especially something relatively cheap?  


    The compromise puts us in uncharted and really pretty weird territory. Insurance companies are going to be forced to provide no co-pay care directly to members of a group health plan, going around the company’s primary client, which is the employer. I’ll be thrilled if it works the way it’s intended to, but my dealings with insurance companies lead me to think that’s far from guaranteed. 

  • Kiba

    You know what is really, really offensive? The fact that we’re even discussing the (supposedly) delicate consciences of these particular old men. This entire manufactured controversy is a disgrace. When the Catholic hierarchy tries to manipulate public policy using the Church’s conscience the entire world should either point and laugh or gasp in horror that they would have the unmitigated gall to even bring it up.

    I could not agree more!

  • P J Evans

    And contraceptives are, statistically speaking, safer than pregnancy, too. (Pregnancy is dangerous. To both mother and fetus[es].)


    Meanwhile, in another reality:

    I think I finally understand why a Bush staffer referred to liberals as “the reality-based community” like it was an insult.

    Because reality is so much less attractive to these people than a fantasy world where they are heroes standing up against great evils.

    Sure, reality has great evils they could stand against, but that would require work and they might end up actually being silenced and oppressed, and that’s much less satisfying than going on at length about how they are being silenced and oppressed.