I’ve held off getting deep into the fray of this contraception versus women’s rights issue, because the cost of filling my gas tank, which will soon overtake my weekly grocery bill, has absorbed most of my attention. But not anymore.
I was born and raised Catholic. However, a) I am not a practicing Catholic, yet do maintain a strong belief in God; and b) I don’t wear my religion on my sleeve, because I believe religion is a private matter. I am also in the camp of women’s rights. If you’ve read some my earlier posts, I have an extremely low tolerance for sexual harassment, especially in the workplace, and equal pay for equal work is still a fiction for many women, regardless of their profession.
With that said, the continuing brouhaha over the Obamacare mandate requiring contraception coverage, “this is a women’s rights issue”, Sandra Fluke’s testimony before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, Rush Limbaugh’s verbal abuse and subsequent apology, and the vote down by the Senate of the Blunt amendment, have this opinionated woman boiling.
This is NOT a women’s rights issue. No one or no entity is denying women the right to contraception or access to contraception. Nor are women being denied the right to an abortion if they so choose.
The issue has been, and remains, whether the Federal Government can require employers, including those who are faith-based (i.e., church-affiliated hospitals, charities, and schools), who provide insurance coverage to their employees, pay for all forms of contraception, which also includes abortion-inducing drugs. With the President’s “accommodation,” the Obamacare mandate turned that requirement over to insurers. Yet, many of the faith-based organizations are self-insured, so they have still have to pay the premiums.
Under the Obamacare mandate, those employers who decide to drop insurance coverage because of their beliefs face financial penalties of $2000/person. According to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), for example, would face $620,000 in fines per year beginning in 2014; Colorado Christian University, as another example, would face $500,000 in fines every year.
Francis Cardinal George, the church leader who presides over the archdiocese where the president lives wrote,
“This is the first time in the history of the United States that a presidential administration has purposely tried to interfere in the internal working of the Catholic Church, playing one group off against another for political gain.”
But this is also not only a Catholic issue. This is an issue about religious freedom and conscience. Can the Federal Government tell religious institutions, bound by a moral code of their choosing, that they must either conform to the law, or decide whether they want to continue, long term, helping those who need their help most.
We next have Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, with her testimony last Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee. When queried by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), “who pays for it?”, because contraception provided by health insurers to religious organizations would not be free, Sebelius answered, “The reduction in the number of pregnancies compensates for cost of contraception.” This is madness.
We are experiencing one of first effects of Obamacare. We are witnessing its intrusion into the decision-making by Americans involving their private lives. We are witnessing the Federal Government mandating what products and services insurance companies must offer. And that, in a word, is despotism.