A Washington Post columnist, E.J. Dionne Jr., who I generally agree with most times, wrote in a recent column that President Obama’s administration messed up twice in drafting Department of Health and Human Services rules requiring insurance coverage of birth control under the health care reform law passed in 2010. It seems Dionne feels that since the President is a believer, he threw his liberal Catholic supporters under a bus by not allowing a exemption for Catholic hospitals, universities, and social-services. Dionne’s column was disturbing and yet educational as to why we must all play by the same rules.
His administration mishandled this decision not once but twice. In the process, Obama threw his progressive Catholic allies under the bus and strengthened the hand of those inside the Church who had originally sought to derail the health care law.
This might not be so surprising if Obama had presented himself as a conventional secular liberal. But he has always held himself to a more inclusive standard.
As a general matter, it made perfect sense to cover contraception. Many see doing so as protecting women’s rights, and expanded contraception coverage will likely reduce the number of abortions. While the Catholic Church formally opposes contraception, this teaching is widely ignored by the faithful. One does not see many Catholic families of six or 10 or twelve that were quite common in the 1950s. Contraception might have something to do with this.
Speaking as a Catholic, I wish the Church would be more open on the contraception question. But speaking as an American liberal who believes that religious pluralism imposes certain obligations on government, I think the Church’s leaders had a right to ask for broader relief from a contraception mandate that would require it to act against its own teachings. The administration should have done more to balance the competing liberty interests here.
Dionne’s comments are disturbing because he feels that an exemption to the contraceptive coverage rules should apply to “Catholic universities or social-service agencies and hospitals that help tens of thousands of non-Catholics.”
I agree that the actual church should be exempt to the rule but not their services that help tens of thousands of non-Catholics. Once their services operated “off campus”, as it were, then they should have to abide by rules and laws the rest of us have to abide by too. Especially when it comes to health services, why should a particular sectarian belief system impose their religion on an innocent person, who may not hold the same beliefs, in need of non-judgmental medical help.
It would be interesting to see if E.J. Dionne would support or be against Pharmacists who want to deny medication and services if providing them would conflict with their religious beliefs? What about a Doctor who refuses to treat homosexuals? Or how about Parents who refuse to get their children medical treatment because it is against their religious beliefs?
Why should a hospital, a university, or social service agency be allowed an exemption just because the owner happens to be a church?
The Catholic Church has an easy out if they don’t like it. Close it all down. Get out of the medical, education, and social-service industries.
That is much better than allowing sectarian exemptions to health care insurance rules that affects non-members.