Obamacare vs. The Church

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The Obama administration announced recently that it would not exempt non-profit religious organizations from meeting governmental health care requirements to provide reproductive health care services (for free) as part of their employee insurance programs.

This does seem a comeuppance for those Catholics who supported Obamacare’s passage, as the provisions do away with “conscience exemptions” in favor of a governmental mandate for contraceptives.

But, does this surprise anyone?  Rather than hide behind code phrases and innocuous sound bite terminology, I’ll try to put various positions plainly, then chime in with an opinion.

Pro-choice:  What? I said contraceptives, so why are we starting here?  Bear with me.

These are folks who vocally and stridently favor a woman’s right to abort their fetus at any time before birth as well as a far greater silent majority who believe it should be left to an individual’s choice to abort.  They object to any type of government ban and resist government intrusion of any type (parental or father consent, required pre-counseling, etc.) between making a decision and obtaining service.  Others would point to 20th century history of the dangers of women seeking illegal abortions and oppose a return to that possibility.

Many add that they personally would never have an abortion themselves, but, presumably, a “what if” mentality demands that options be kept open.  This is consistent with a Libertarian “less is more” regulatory aversion which warms to “liberty” as the ability to do as we please as long as no one else is harmed.  This societal free-will is as American as apple pie.

There is likely another subset whose opinions are primarily influenced by world population trends, the societal cost of unwanted children, or other observational poses about what is best for others.

Pro-life:  These, largely for faith based reasons, hold that a fetus is a human being, with intrinsic value ordained by their Creator of choice, and entitled to life regardless of the circumstances or impact upon the mother.  They believe “abortion” is an opiate of word choice, and prefer to use plainer language such as “killing” and “murder.”  One could, and many do, argue for killing a fetus in specific cases of rape or life endangerment to the mother while pregnant, but these are diversionary tactics that attempt to demolish a mountain by poking at an ant hill, statistically speaking.  I think that most would agree that the mountain has much more to do with convenience than a moral or medical need.

A subset here is a smaller group of people who don’t subscribe to a particular faith, but who have an appreciation for life should be cherished and protected.

Side note: Outside of the neatly opposed forces, are those who are actually close to the subject matter, who either suffer from a great guilt or who seek forgiveness, whether from a deity or societal approval.  They rarely get a chance to speak, hurt greatly, and should they reach out, they’re subject to manipulation (see Norma McCorvey in Roe vs. Wade).  They deserve far more compassion than those of us who sit on either side venting opinions in any format.  They’re not the point here.

Background: The sides thus delineated, abortion is not specifically required by Obamacare.  “Reproductive health care” in its “full range” is, including contraceptives that are used to prevent pregnancy and “emergency contraceptives” which are used to abort(kill) a fetus in the days and weeks after conception – essentially morning after pills.

And both sides want their 5 minutes on Fox News or CNN.

I heard on the radio this afternoon a Catholic woman who fervently supported the new regulation, herself a member of the same Catholic church that would define killing a fetus as putting one’s soul in jeopardy and require ex-communication from the Church.  Her argument was essentially that the Church has not evolved with societal needs or, particularly, women’s needs.  Her position (not to be misconstrued with a belief, as one might have in the Church’s teachings) is that the free access to contraceptives of both sorts (pre and post conception) is needed by women, particularly poor women, and that, overall, the societal benefit of Obamacare is consistent with the Church’s mission to help the needy.  It is, in fact, almost the same argument that Sister Carol Keehan, President and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, used to rally support when Obamacare was struggling for passage.  Ah, but there would always be an exception for faith based organizations…

Anyone who has paid any attention to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act knows that the end goal is nationalized health care.  It just couldn’t be done in a single step.  Create governmental insurance options, require people to participate, make them less expensive than privately purchased plans through the use of taxpayer subsidies, and everyone, whether an employer or mandated individual, will eventually buy in.  And a national plan can’t be effectively administered based on exceptions based on one’s race, gender, sexual preference, country of origin, political party, faith, or lack of same.  One size must fit all until end-of-life strategies sort themselves out into a dataset that calculates the cost vs. the value of life.

It’s here, and public rumbling or political fumbling aside, it’s here to stay.

Opinion: Everyone believes in a God, even if they do not.  One’s idea of God may be a creationist, all powerful force that does or does not seek a relationship with the individual.  It may be Mother Earth, whose blessings are abundant and whose needs must be held highest.  It could be that dazzling little bit of light caught in a crystal hanging by the window that binds one to some sense of spirituality beyond the physical plane.  Or, disavowing any such related notion, it’s No God (or No Apparent God) which allows for a delightful cosmic accident with no ultimate accountabilities and a working philosophy of being a God to oneself. 

As I’ve said somewhere else on this blog, my opinion is that there are those who know a God and feel a directing influence on their lives, there are those who seek the benefits of having a God without necessarily subscribing to a particular notion of the divine, and there are those who simply try not to think about it for fear of, not Hell, but the burdensome intrusion into how their lives might have to change if God were allowed into it.

Those are categories, and I cannot and would not “judge” where any specific individual lies within that framework.  On the one hand, the Bible tells me not to, and secondly, I’ve experienced enough and known enough people to understand that outward expressions can vary from overly reserved to overly demonstrative, and such books can’t be judged by their covers.  I shouldn’t judge, and I would be very poor at it anyway.

And political or social posturing aside, I have to turn to my own faith to inform what comes across as an opinion, but necessarily becomes a held belief, as to the rightness or wrongness of a thing.  If I trust in the Bible, then I understand that God ordained government.  This wasn’t done from the beginning, but rather when the Jewish people demanded a King like the surrounding Pagan nations had at the time.  God gave them one (and legitimized taxation was begot).  Government was placed with accompanying responsibilities over the people, regardless of its particular form.

In the U.S., we tend to think of “democratic” or “representative republic” terms, where the government is accountable to the people through the power of the vote.  From one system to another, it’s been shown that people can overthrow a government or gradually change one, but in Biblical terms, the government – and principally those who engage in policy and its execution – are accountable to God.  It’s one of many reasons that Christians are called upon to pray for governmental leaders, regardless of political leanings.  God’s commandments, whether on tablet or elsewhere within Holy writ, are not changeable by any established governmental authority – be it the US Government, a particular President, or even an international faith organization.

When the authorities force upon believers a command to do something that contradicts God, the right thing for a believer to do is to obey the higher authority.

So, when the government forces a faith based organization to fund an insurance program with provisions that are not reconcilable with church teachings, is that sufficient cause for disobedience?  My answer… no.

The government is not forcing anyone to use contraceptives (an issue for Catholics and some Protestants) or to kill a fetus (an issue to all Catholics and Protestants).

Assuming that every person who works for a Catholic organization would refrain from using contraceptive services afforded them in their insurance package due to their abiding faith and adherence to Church teaching (Catholic) and/or the Bible (Protestant), is forcing that organization to, in essence, subsidize a program that offers those services to others be cause for disobedience? 

Pay unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s. 

The problem, at its heart, is not a governmental one.  The greater failure belongs to those individuals who say they believe in something immutable then water it down or reinterpret it to fit their own views and priorities.   A flawed government should never be a surprise.  People are flawed.

4 comments :

  1. The Catholic and other churches thank you! We went to sleep Thursday night indignant that these groups would be forced to pay for care that they were against. We go to sleep Friday night knowing that they will not have to pay for this regulation; nay, we all will now pay for it. Free, as we all know it, is not free. You, I, anyone paying for a health care plan will now have to up for the cost.

    And did you catch what else he said? So that these women would have money for rent and other things. Obama continues to drag us down the road to class warfare.

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  2. We pay for the Cialis and Viagra and the Church openly recommends their use. Why should we complain about a woman's right to protect herself or the ensuing cost, which is actually minimal. Most young women use the pill for managing their periods or acne control. Would the cost of having them sick at home be any higher. Too much attention paid to this issue which should not be politicised by Congress or the Church.

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  3. First, thanks for posting.

    You've brought up three issues.

    1) Quality of Life Drugs - Viagra et al assist men who otherwise have difficulty in engaging in or enjoying sex. Whether that should be covered or not is debatable, but the larger issue is that if Obama's National Healthcare is to succeed, it must have full control over all medications. If it doesn't, then private insurers may still have a role in medications, which means doctors remain beholden to someone other than the governmental health care program. Universal doesn't just mean insurance for everyone, it means government controlled healthcare for everyone.

    If you wish to liken birth control pills to a recreational sex drug, you're mixing up what people use it as vs. what it actually does.

    If the rule had only covered contraceptives, there would have been less of an uproar. In that it covers the abortion pill, you've equated a pill that provides an erection with the destruction of what many regard as a human life.

    2) Cost factors - an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure... and cheaper too. I cannot find any evidence about "most" young women using the pill for the benefit of its side effects, though if I had an honest sampling, I might find that 2 of 3 girls said that was so. A larger sampling, I think, would squash my survey of friends or family to clearly indicate that it's prescribed as a contraceptive a vast majority of time.

    I'm not Catholic, and I'm not complaining about the contraceptives. I am worried about an association of the affordability of any pill to it's resulting savings. That's not bad in itself, and often good, even, but as England and other socialized medicine countries are finding, budget costs curtail medical procedures based on cost vs. life value. They simply can't afford it. As a country that on all fronts seeks to save a buck (for example, exporting jobs for cheaper goods), I see this mentality as a road that leads to poor ends, particularly the older one gets. We can laugh this off now, but by the time I'm in need of said services in 20 or more years, I expect to be denied access. Eh, well, I'll be old, right? Your turn will come.

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  4. 3) Not politicized by Congress or the Church? For the former, that's how everything is done, and you could even argue that the timing was to make an issue in a Presidential election year that otherwise was quiet on all fronts.

    For the latter, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing" (possibly said by Edmund Burke) comes to mind. One quote he's known to have said is "Nothing is so fatal to religion as indifference."

    The notion of separation of Church and State (not found in the Constitution but in other writings of Jefferson) is likely something you hold dear. The freedom of religion, a right established in the Constitution, should be even dearer as it is specifically granted. (See "Ultimate Power Grab, blog on 7/19/2009) The Obama Administration just said, in effect, that "we know what your beliefs are, but we don't care because the government has the power to do this." No separation, there. It's wrong, and persons of any faith should object to this policy. In fact, they should continue to object to it because the Administration's sleight of hand in requiring insurers to provide the same pills "free" adds to the cost of services, which requires that premium cost go up for everyone - persons of faith get their incremental share in paying for others contraceptives (which I'm okay with, but Catholics are not) and abortion pills (which everyone should be offended by - it's extremely rare that abortion pills are used for anything related to "the health of the mother." Everyone who politicizes this knows it's first and foremost a pill to rid an inconvenience, with a heart cry for the women who behaved irresponsibly and cannot afford the consequences of their actions. Both genders know the risks of unprotected sex, but killing an unborn child is not the solution.

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