So, when the GOP and the Catholic bishops started screaming that Obama had “declared war on religion,” he announced that if employers had religious objections to birth control, insurance companies would pay for it directly instead. Sounds good to me. And yet, for many, that still wasn’t good enough. “What about the insurance company’s freedom of religion?” I’m sorry, if paying for health care is against your religion, methinks you should not be in the insurance business. (Plus, pretty much every health insurance company out there has finally figured out that BC is cheaper than abortions or pregnancy and would much rather insure a woman who has access to contraception than one who doesn’t.)
I’m a really strong supporter of religious freedom, but I don’t think it means the freedom to force your beliefs on other people, or the freedom to not do your job and continue to be paid. I mean, I have every right to convert to Quakerism tomorrow and decide I don’t want to support the military anymore, but I don’t have a right to expect a defense contracting company to keep paying me while I sit around playing Solitaire or rearrange my job so I don’t have to participate in the company’s main business.
My big argument with the outrage about requiring Catholic schools and hospitals to cover contraception is that if a religious organization wants to be an employer, they should be held to similar standards as secular employers. There are already *lots* of concessions to religious freedom for religious employers. Like the church school that got to ignore the ADA and fire a teacher for having a medical condition. Because it was a religious position, they don’t even have to pretend with a straight face that they had religious reasons for firing her.
But secular employees should be treated like…secular employees. If the church doesn’t require someone to be of the same faith to serve in a particular role, that role should be subject to all the rules of employment law.
Let’s not even get into the fact that what the President mandated has already been required by the EEOC for any employer that offers prescription coverage, on the basis of equal treatment of the sexes. Lots of Catholic schools and hospitals already comply with this rule, but it’s convenient to ignore that for political purposes.
Another issue with the whole idea is that there are Catholic-approved uses of hormonal birth control. Have PCOS and take the pill so that you don’t get cysts, or so you actually have periods? That’s not considered a sin. Similarly, as I understand it, married Catholic women who have severe health risks from pregnancy can generally talk to their priest and have him okay contraception. (The second is according to my Catholic sister-in-law.)
So, we aren’t even talking about something that automatically violates their religion, just something that can. Meaning they want to not only deny employees something because it violates their employer’s religion, but that they’re okay with denying it to good Catholics* who need it for other reasons (either that or they think you should have to reveal private health issues to your employer to get insurance coverage).
I think that if an employer has decided to provide insurance to its employees, what they do with that coverage is between them, their doctor, and the insurance company. It’s a benefit that belongs to the employee in exchange for work performed, and the employer has no more right to tell you what to do with it than they do to tell you how to spend your paycheck.
And if we can’t have a public option for health coverage because “oh no, socialism!” then it’s reasonable that the government set some standards on what actually counts as insurance in order to get the crazy costs and lack of care under control. Requiring all insurance to provide cost-saving preventive care free of charge (as part of the coverage that the employee and employer are paying for) is reasonable based on that. While insurance companies save money from birth control, that doesn’t mean they won’t charge for it too if they’re allowed because, hey, they can.
I like the proposed solution; I just don’t think it should have been necessary. I also don’t think it will be enough to satisfy people who think their freedom of religion means that no one should get to have contraception.
*I’m neither Catholic nor opposed to birth control, so please don’t take that as my saying that the ninety-some percent of Catholic women who use birth control are bad Catholics.