Don’t let the Friday Afternoon Document Dump fool you. The “new” regulations on the Obamacare Contraceptive Mandate change nothing, except to make it look reasonable where it didn’t before. The Contraceptive Mandate keeps its essence. For that reason, the Roman Catholic Church and concerned Christian businesses are still fighting it.
What the Contraceptive Mandate is all about
The Contraceptive Mandate is part of the broader idea of Barack Obama’s health care plan: every patient, no matter what his or her circumstances, gets the same plan. One size fits all. (Sort of.) And that includes birth-control pills and any other appliance or operation to stop women from having children.
This is wrongheaded on many levels. First, these pills are a regular, predictable expense. No actuary would write an insurance policy to cover something like that. John Cochrane explained this nearly a year ago in The Wall Street Journal.
Critics are missing the main point. There are good reasons that your car-insurance company doesn’t add $100 to your premium and then cover oil changes.
Second, these pills have often deadly side effects. Joseph R. Mercola, DO, lists several:
A higher chance of getting cancer of the breast or cervix.
Blood clots in the deep veins of the legs. These might break off and get thrown into the lungs, killing the patient instantly.
Because the risks are so high, and other safer options exist, I ask ALL of my patients to stop hormonal contraceptives like birth control pills as soon as possible.
The US Constitution. Photo: National Archives of the United States
Third, the Constitution says:
Congress shall make no law…prohibiting the free exercise [of religion].
The Roman Catholic Church led the way in saying that women should not interfere with God’s timing on new lives. Many Protestant demoninations (and non-denominational pastors) teach the same. That means not using any contraceptives, and not having intimate relations except with someone you’re married to. The Contraceptive Mandate flies in the face of that.
Thus the Contraceptive Mandate makes no business sense, is not even healthful, and threatens freedom of religion.
What the “new” regulations say
Before last Friday, the Contraceptive Mandate said every employer had to “cover” contraceptives for those who worked for them. The only exceptions were churches or other organizations that served only members of the faith of their directors. So a Catholic hospital would have to put up a sign – “Catholic patients only” – to escape the mandate.
The government (source: The New York Times) says they offered the new version of the Contraceptive Mandate to correct such absurdities. (You can read the regulation change notice here.) Exactly what the latest proposal changes, is far from clear. At best, it’s an accounting gimmick, to try to say to the organizations involved, “You don’t have to pay for it, so how does this hurt you?” (In other words, as Kyle Denniston says on SCOTUSblog, the government wants to remove the standing of these organizations to sue them.)
Furthermore, this regulation covers non-profit groups only. It says nothing about someone running a business but wanting to do so according to Christian principles. That’s almost like asking a Muslim halal restaurant to offer non-halal food for non-Muslim customers who might walk in. (Or maybe those who run the government think they have the right to separate faith from business.)
What the critics say
The government’s critics are not likely to stop their lawsuits. For one thing, private businesses like Hobby Lobby already know this regulation does not even address them. So it does not diminish their standing at all. (Source: Steve Ertelt, head of LifeNews.) Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund, said as much to The New York Times. (See above link, and this piece in Newsmax.com.)
The Catholic Association pointed out to CNSNews.com that the new rules still do not address Catholic hospitals, schools, or other charities. The government even boasts they haven’t made more people exempt from their Contraceptive Mandate.
But to hear the critics on the left tell it, that the government said a word in this direction meant that Obama somehow turned his back on women. Andrew Johnson at National Review Online picked up this quote from Sandra Fluke, the woman who celebrated oral contraceptives as her pet cause:
If you take a step back and think about that, you work at a restaurant or you work at a store, and your boss is able to deny you leukemia coverage or contraception coverage or blood transfusions or any number of medical concerns that someone might have a religious objection to.
Leukemia? Did she seriously compare pregnancy to leukemia? (And by the way: the Jehovah’s Witness sect will not accept blood transfusions, but have never said a word about paying for them for other people.)
So the folks who are still objecting [to the Contraceptive Mandate] have some very extreme ideas about religious freedom and employee health care in this country.
Excuse me, but Sandra Fluke, not her opponents, is putting out the extreme ideas. Here, for instance (according to ABC News), she repeats the line about separating business and faith. That is nothing more nor less than saying that no person may buy or sell while sticking to Christian principle.
And he passes another law that gives to every person, high-ranking and lowly, rich and poor, lawful resident and inmate, a cattle-brand-like stamp on the right hand or on the forehead, and that no person may buy or sell unless he had that stamp. [Revelation 13:16-17, translated from the Greek by editor].