The Evil That Women Do
The Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would not extend to church-related institutions an exemption from providing employees preventive care without co-pay or deductible. A hue and cry followed, with critics of the Administration's policy complaining that it interfered with religious institutions setting policy consistent with their doctrine. The White House fashioned a compromise in which costs would be borne by the insurance company rather than the (religiously affiliated) employer. Women would get the coverage they need and there would be no infringement on religious liberty or the right of such employers to discriminate based on their deeply-held religious convictions.
A win-win with even insurance companies, cognizant that prevention of unwanted pregnancy reduces mid-term and long-term health care costs, accepting of the modification.
Except that, as The Hill reports
Obama's compromise, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said Friday, "continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions..."
As reasonable as the new policy is, perhaps the USCCB's opposition should not have come as a surprise. Prior to the compromise of the original compromise, Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the Conference, had asserted that even private, thoroughly secular employers such as Taco Bell should be exempt from providing preventive care. And now that the President has determined that institutions associated with a religion but who employee individuals of all faiths to service individuals of all faiths for a secular purpose will not have to comply with the mandate, the Bishops have responded with a resounding "no."
Appearing (video below) today on MSNBC's impressive UP with Chris Hayes, Reverend William Dailey of Notre Dame Law School referred to birth control services as "gravely immoral and unjust." He so characterized such services twice, though he did not indicate whether he believes the majority of Roman Catholic women of childbearing age, who use birth control at about the same rate as other individuals, are gravely immoral.
Beginning at approximately 7:33, Hayes suggested to Father Dailey that the issue is analogous to that of Bob Jones University, which once argued that "government was entering into their private, doctrinal disputes when it told them they had to integrate." Dailey responded that the current conflict is "not tantamount to racism."
No, it is not tantamount to racism because race is not involved. But as long as Father Dailey invoked an "ism," it is fair game to note that the Church's position is fairly brazen sexism. Without the name calling, Salon contributor Rebecca Traister responded
These are conversations about economic equality, about social equality. That when you talk about circumscribing a woman's ability to control her reproduction- whether it is through birth control or to my mind through abortion- you are talking about circumscribing her ability to earn equally, to control her career, to control the size of her family and how she can control and fed it, or whether she has a family, you are talking about circumscribing her ability to exist as an equal citizen within this nation.
Equal rights under the law were achieved for minorities when a combination of citizen action, judicial intervention, and legislative action prevailed against rules and regulations maintained by a racially biased- some, like Father Dailey, would employ the term "racist"- power structure. In much the same way have many rights of women, including the use of contraception, been achieved.
As a result of two rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court, Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) and Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972), the right of women and men to use birth control was established. President Obama has addressed the initial objection of the Church, that its religious freedom was being eroded. The response: it's still not enough. The goalposts have been moved. The real objective of the religious right- whether among Roman Catholic prelates, Protestant evangelicals, or congressional opportunists- is becoming increasingly clear.