The Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate has been a cause of much debate lately. Through the Affordable Care Act, many private health care plans will have to cover women’s preventative services without charging a co-pay. This will begin in August, 2012, and the services include well women visits, domestic violence screening, and contraception [Fact Sheet: Women’s Preventative Services and Religious Institutions]. On February 10, 2012, President Obama caved in to the backlash of the religious right and tweaked the original HHS mandate. It releases the religious employer’s requirement to provide contraception coverage. An important point here is that the insurance company will still be required to offer contraceptive coverage free of charge.
To avoid all kinds of institutions claiming religion so they won’t have to pay, some criteria needed to be established. (1) It has religious inculcation as its primary duty. (2) It primarily employs people of the same faith. (3) It primarily serves people of the same faith. These criteria cover most small churches, but the larger Catholic hospitals will not satisfy these criteria [Jonathan V. Last, The Weekly Standard]. This, I believe, is the source of all the uproar among the right wing opposition.
The main argument of opposition is grounded in the first amendment of the Constitution, and in particular the first part which reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In Jonathan Last’s article (linked above), he mentions Cardinal Roger Mahony’s quote, “I cannot imagine a more direct and frontal attack on freedom of conscience… This decision must be fought against with all the energies the Catholic community can muster.”
What the opposition has failed to do is to give me any kind of data, or offer any kind of evidence that would suggest HHS is making the wrong decision. Upon recollection of the following cartoon, I came up with the Republican Method.
The Republican Method goes like this: The conclusion is that Obama is wrong. What facts, evidence, or obscurities can be conjure up to support it? It shouldn’t be surprising that Republicans have chosen to flee to the Constitution for support, an important document that can be interpreted in more than one way.
Obama says in his remarks on February 10, “Now, as we move to implement this rule, however, we’ve been mindful that there’s another principle at stake here – and that’s the principle of religious liberty, an inalienable right that is enshrined in our Constitution. As a citizen and a Christian, I cherish this right.” He clearly respects the Constitution and has taken it into consideration.
The way Obama, many democrats, myself, and many others interpret the Constitution, an important document to all of us, this mandate in no way breaches the first amendment. To Catholics, Republicans, and many others, it is a breach of the first amendment. What we need to come to terms with is that if we use the Constitution alone, there is NO WAY of deciding who is right. Neither side will concede. What is the next course of action, if we are to resolve the issue? My suggestion is the scientific method. Let’s look at the facts and evidence.
What happens when women have free access to contraception? R.M. who writes for the Economist, wrote an article that really helps answer this question. “A large body of evidence shows contraception use has helped women avoid unintended pregnancies, which in turn has led to lower abortion rates, healthier babies, stronger marriages, and improved social and economic conditions for women.” He further emphasizes that studies have shown unintended pregnancies are bad for parental relationships, greater availability of contraception doesn’t lead to an increase in sexual activity, hormonal methods of contraception are useful in the treatment of menstrual disorders, and oral contraceptives reduce a woman’s risk of developing certain cancers.
Cardinal George is quoted as saying [Ed Morrissey, HotAir.com] “even if contraceptives were used by a majority of couples only and exclusively to suppress a possible pregnancy, behavior doesn’t determine morality. If it can be shown that a majority of Catholic students cheat on their exams, it is still wrong to cheat on exams.” Cardinal George is equating cheating on exams with using contraception. I think cheating on exams is bad. But, if studies showed me that cheating on exams resulted in the evidence of the previous paragraph, I would change my mind about cheating on exams. In light of all this evidence, Catholics and Republicans are ignoring it. There is a word for that… when you ignore evidence and believe something to the contrary… oh, yes: IGNORANT.
The Catholic Church, bishops, cardinals, and the pope should take this evidence as a sign from God. They could put a stop to all of this ridiculousness if they simply interpret the Bible or God as suggesting “contraception is okay.” After all, 98% of Catholic women ages 15-44 who have had sex have used contraceptives. It would be prudent if we could clear their names with God.
3 thoughts on “Contraception and the "Republican Method"”
Ok, I’ll start by addressing the things you wrote in your blog and then branch out from there to the articles cited.
As far as the republican method thing; to an extent I agree, however I would say the label is a bit of a misnomer and should more properly be renamed the political method. Both sides do it; it’s not specific to republicans. If you can’t see that as true, perhaps you’re not as objective as you think you are.
The problem with the mandate is the issue of religious liberty. While Obama has “been mindful” and taken into consideration that we all have “an inalienable right [the principal of religious liberty] that is enshrined in our Constitution,” he then decided to go ahead and alienate that right for some of us. You said that the way you and many others interpret the Constitution, the HHS mandate in no way breaches the first amendment.
I would first ask; how does this mandate not violate the first amendment? Because this is the real issue, not contraception. You quoted it yourself in your post, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It’s the second part that is being violated quite clearly. I realize that you think the Constitution can be broadly interpreted, and it can in some instances, but those 7 words, “…no law… prohibiting the free exercise thereof [religion]” is pretty clear and not one of those instances. How else can this be interpreted to coincide with the mandate?
I’m Catholic. Using contraception is not morally acceptable based on my Catholic beliefs. The Catholic Church and any other religious institution that holds the same view should not be forced to provide something that clearly violated their right to freely exercise their religion. You said to me in a private message “We should never interfere with people's freedom of religion (or for that matter, FROM religion)” and I agree, but it goes both ways.
While people should be free from religion, if they so choose, religion should also be free of people, or in this case government. So my second question would be; Why is it not OK for me to tell you that I think what you’re doing is wrong, and force you to comply with what I believe, but it’s completely acceptable for you to tell me that my views are ignorant, and I have to comply with what you believe? Just because your belief system for determining what you believe is moral is not classified as a “religion” doesn’t mean that you get to arbitrarily impose it on others.
I’m not, nor is the Catholic Church suggesting that you be forced to give up your contraception by law; however you want passage of a law that forces us to distribute it. That is a complete contradiction of what you said earlier in my view and a clear violation of the first amendment.
The main problem here is the violation of my religious rights, but somehow it’s been turned around to a discussion of whether we can decide if we all agree on the Catholic Churches religious teachings. Just because you don’t agree with my religious beliefs doesn’t mean that I don’t get to exercise those beliefs… and that’s exactly what the Constitution says.
So I would ask that you first, answer those two questions. How does this not violate the first amendment in your view, and why do you get to impose your morality on me, especially when I’ve made no attempt to do the same to you?
The violation of my religious liberties are the real issue here, not, do you believe what I believe.
Now with that out of the way I’ll address why I believe what I believe… probably sometime at the end of next week because I’m pretty loaded up with tests, projects, and homework the last couple weeks before spring break.
I know that this may not be exactly the response you were looking for, but this being the actual issue; I felt I should address it first. I’ll get the second part out to you ASAP and we can hash it out next.
Thank you for your comment, Jay, and don't worry about taking a while to do so. It always takes a while to articulate what you are trying to argue. Often times, I find when I'm writing away, arguing some point, I find a contradiction or another angle of which I had not previously thought which usually changes my mind about how I want to articulate such argument. And so it goes.
First, I will concede the “Political Method” is more appropriate. However, I will inform you of my opinion on the “Political Method” spectrum. If we could simplify the spectrum of Ultra Conservatism to Flaming Liberals as a line (which I realize is an oversimplification), I see the “Political Method” used in decreasing quantities as we move from right to left, the Republicans and Democrats in the middle of that line, not too far separated.
One of my major points that I want you to recognize has come to fruition with your response, and that is that your interpretation of the constitution is your only argument. I tried to convey that there will not be any resolution in debating how we should interpret the constitution, but rather what good comes from such a mandate. I've recognized the bad: a few people think they cannot practice their religion somehow. The good outweighs that.
So, I will return to the first amendment argument of things, as I predicted, and we will ground the totality of our debate there. You asked me how the mandate does not violate the first amendment.
In its original form, without Obama's tweak, the mandate did not break the first amendment. As soon as he caved, and released Catholic institutions (with religious inculcation as their primary service) from providing contraception coverage, he in part made a law that “respects” the Catholic institution. It does not respect any other religious institutions. So, why are we making this amendment. The Blunt amendment would even further “respect” the Catholic establishment.
Secondly, the mandate in its original form nor in its present prevents you from practicing your religion in ANY WAY. You, Jay, and all of your fellow Catholics, are completely free to never use contraception for as long as you live. This mandate will not make you use contraception at all. You can easily say, “no thanks.” Furthermore, this mandate does not stop you or Catholic priests, bishops, cardinals, and the like from preaching to the masses that they should never use contraception and that it against God's will. And the masses are completely free to practice their religion and never, ever, use contraception (although it appears that an extremely large percentage of those masses are not listening and using contraception anyway, which I say, “good for them, as it leads to healthier living”). Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is going to make them use contraception.
As soon as you move into the public sector, and you have “Catholic” institutions that employ people that are not catholic, and religious inculcation is not the primary (nor secondary, nor anywhere on the list) duty, and where people are still COMPLETELY free to practice not using contraception and not accept the free coverage, I feel you are really “reaching” when you say your rights are being infringed upon. What about the rights of all the non-Catholics employed in these institutions?
When you look for “signs from God,” do you ever consider looking at data? This seems like the most obvious sign “God” could give us.
Have you even wondered why Catholics oppose the use of contraception? Have you ever searched your own heart, mind, and “soul,” to determine the morality of an issue? If so, has it ever contradicted what someone has taught or told you?
In answering those questions, understand I'm not trying to pull you away from your religion. I feel like you can remain a devoted Catholic and disagree with a few things they may have labeled as “sin” when you have done your own moral searching and are content and right with “God.” After all, I think that is what “God” would find important for you, Jay.
In no way am I trying to make an argument with the previous paragraph or try and justify my opinion of the mandate. That was just some stuff to think about. Regardless of whether anyone ends up believing or not believing contraception is okay, the issue is still at hand for those that don't believe. But I remain firm in that their rights are in not way being infringed upon according to how I interpret the constitution.