Seething is a pretty good word to describe my feelings towards the radical right’s reaction to Obama’s contraception bill. If I could I would deliver my comment as an extended hiss on the congressional floor, or sit snarling behind the anchormen and women who continue to air and seriously consider this asinine “debate” on public television, you better believe that I would. I really thing the media is trying to make bank by stirring up this shit and wafting it over the lives of the common people, to our great annoyance.
For those of you who haven’t been following this issue very closely, here is the rundown.
1. Obama’s proposed health care bill will require all businesses/organizations/hospitals/universities etc. to provide contraception in employee health care plans.
2. Some Catholic bishops object, calling this move an attack on religion in America.
3. It appears that a majority of rank-and-file Catholics support Obama’s bill––in the graph from the Public Religion Research Institute below, you will see that 52% of Catholics agree with the mandate.
There are a number of issues at play here that make this a big deal, when it really shouldn’t be. First of all, I agree both with the use of contraceptives and Catholics’ right not to use them. The administration is not trying to force drugs on the populace or on Catholics. I also see the point of Catholic bishops who would find it against their faith to……oh wait, women can’t be ordained in the Catholic church––I don’t see their point. The law extends to employees of churches and organizations, which means the janitorial staff, the Eucharist purchasers, the church bean counters (all positions which are open to women of any faith). Members of a church can refuse to take contraception, but the church should not have the power to deny rights to secular or less conservatively Catholic people working for them. Anyone who has to fill out a W-2 should not be denied the rights to health care specifics that everyone else has access to.
If Obama were to acquiesce to the Catholic church’s will, how would the government draw the line between those that qualify for exemptions and those that dont? Notre Dame is a Catholic institution that a) is an equal-opportunity employer and b) has over 15,000 employees. So is Georgetown. Professors, human resource people, and coaches at these schools should have access to the same medicines and services as everyone else protected under federal law. Could any company that claims “conscientious objection” exempt itself from providing this service to women? Could Chick-fil-а?
The other outrageous issue-within-the-issue is the expected but completely inappropriate attempt by the Catholic church to bend the will of the state. As Ray Sison from New Jersey stated in a comment on the New York Times article:…the Catholic Church as an institution is asking to be treated as a person with rights as citizens. It should concern us all when corporations or institutions are treated preferentially over individuals. In this case, the right of the Church to exercise its beliefs over the rights of the women it employs is the core of the debate. When given the choice between the right of an individual over the right of a corporation or institution, the government has a responsibility to protect the individual…
Well put, Ray. I am surprised that in this era of corporation-hating more critics aren’t jumping on this comparison.
It is at least comforting to know that most of the Millennial generation sees only absurdity in the church’s meddling with the rights on individuals in our country. Maybe we only have another couple of decades before some sensible people can be in charge (but based on my observations of interns on Capitol Hill this summer, maybe not).
(Feature Photo Credit: AP/Charles Dharapak)