SAN DIEGO, February 11, 2012―Despite an attempt by the Obama Administration to walk back its health care clash with Catholics and other religions, our nation remains mired in strong emotional discussion. This is no surprise. Obama articulated his new wrinkle with the usual clarity of a politician: Fancy words that do not seem to really change anything. Many people are confused. Others see smoke and mirrors. Here is a portion of the President’s actual statement:
“Today, we reached a decision on how to move forward. Under the rule, women will still have access to free preventive care. That includes contraceptive services no matter where they work. So that core principle remains, but if a women’s employer is charity or hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services in the health plan, the insurance company not the hospital, not the charity will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge without co pays and without hassles.
The results will be that religious organizations won’t have to pay for these services, and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly” (Fox News Insider, Feb 10, 2012)
This is as clear as mud, or at least as clear as the original law recycled. Religious employers still have to provide insurance that covers birth control, but they no longer have to pay for that particular part of the policy. Instead, insurance companies foot the bill themselves. Assuming this was ever about money in the first place, and not about religious objections to providing morally compromised services, regardless of cost, it leaves open the question of how these “free” contraceptives will be paid for. Some insurance companies already warn that premiums will go up. Who will pay those premiums? The same religious employers?
The word “contraceptive” may not appear any more on the policy, but if premiums rise, it seems rather obvious where the extra money is going. Time will tell, but meanwhile, as you can see, the controversy lives on.
And so, since this discussion is not going away any time soon, allow me to address a popular case that defends Obama. It’s come up quite a bit this week on news shows, blogs, and talk radio. I’ll state the argument briefly. Then I’ll respond. The argument goes something like this:
“Obama’s insurance mandate is not a religious issue, but rather a human rights matter. Women are entitled to birth control.”
If the discussion is human rights, remember that all kinds of Americans live under the same Constitution. If women have a right to birth control, others also have a right to personal beliefs as protected by the First Amendment. Once government asks citizens to go against the dictates of their own conscience, our Republic begins to dissolve into tyranny.
Actually, although the Catholic Church specifically expresses official disagreement with birth control, most other Bible believing Christians, especially Evangelicals, do not have a problem with birth control per say. Instead, they oppose abortion, including abortions that can be caused by the drugs Plan B and Ella despite their “contraception” title and packaging.
Ironically, many of the same people who want to insist that this discussion has nothing to do with religion and is only about women’s rights cry “foul” when the Right-to-Life movement seeks to overturn Roe Vs. Wade in the name of the unborn fetus’ human rights. At this point, Pro-Choicers remind us that we are entitled to our own view point, but not at the expense of imposing it on others. To do so “goes against separation of church and state.” Yet, such separation isn’t working the other way with Obama Care. This is a brilliant twist of logic: Illegal abortion can never be the law of the land, because that would violate church/state division, but when religious organizations are asked to provide insurance that funds abortion, the whole church/state concern simply disappears!
In any event, hypocrisy put aside, abortion is better argued when we avoid discussion of both religion and feminism. The only relevant question is whether or not the unborn child is a life. If so, we know what is right. One need not be religious to recognize a human being. Many non-religious people, including atheists, would speak on behalf of an embryo or fetus. They do not find it necessary to believe unborn babies are a creation of God with souls any more than they would need to draw the same conclusion regarding an adult life before stating that murder should be against the law.
Neither is it fair to automatically assume that anyone against abortion is against female rights. Instead, we can embrace the rights of all women, including baby women. Indeed, most of the leaders in today’s Pro-Life organizations are women, not men.
And so, yes, we do need to stand up for religious liberty. But sometimes the word liberty alone will suffice. When arguments about human life are shrouded with spirituality, or feminism, or terms like “contraception,” we may be avoiding the most important human rights debate of all.
This is Bob Siegel, making the obvious, obvious.
Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and columnist. Details of his show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net
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