dotCommonweal

A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors

.

Obama fixes contraception mandate. (updated)

President Obama has announced a major revision of the mandate requiring employers to provide contraception coverage in employee health plans. Under the new rule, senior administration officials confirmed, no religious institution will have to pay for health-insurance plans that include contraception coverage. Not houses of worship, not parish schools, not universities, not hospitals, not charitable organizations.The outline of the new rule is fairly simple. Nonprofit religious institutions that do not fall within the narrow religious exemption will not have to offer employee health plans that cover contraception. Instead, the employer's insurance company will have to contact employees directly and offer contraception coverage at no cost. (Religious organizations that primarily employ and serve co-religionists, and whose mission is primarily to inculcate its values, will not be covered by this new arrangement.)

Why would insurers agree to provide contraception services for free? Because, actuarially, it seems to make financial sense. The average pregnancy costs roughly $12,000. Enrollees who use contraception are cheaper to cover.

The revised ruling seems to have satisfied both Sr. Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, who had criticized the original ruling, and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, both of whom made statements praising the revised policy.Given that religious institutions will not have to pay for policies that include contraception, and they there is no requirement that they refer employees for such services, the new policy directly addresses the legitimate objections raised by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.We'll see. More details as they come throughout the day.

Updates: USCCB press release:

"While there may be an openness to respond to some of our concerns, we reserve judgment on the details until we have them," said Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of USCCB. "The past three weeks have witnessed a remarkable unity of Americans from all religions or none at all worried about the erosion of religious freedom and governmental intrusion into issues of faith and morals," he said.

"Today's decision to revise how individuals obtain services that are morally objectionable to religious entities and people of faith is a first step in the right direction," Cardinal-designate Dolan said. "We hope to work with the Administration to guarantee that Americans consciences and our religious freedom are not harmed by these regulations."
 

Statement from Sr. Keehan:

The Catholic Health Association is very pleased with the White House announcement that a resolution has been reached that protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions. The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed.We are pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished. The unity of Catholic organizations in addressing this concern was a sign of its importance.This difference has at times been uncomfortable but it has helped our country sort through an issue that has been important throughout the history of our great democracy.The Catholic Health Association remains committed to working with the Administration and others to fully implement the Affordable Care Act to extend comprehensive and quality health care to many who suffer today from the lack of it.

President Obama's remarks:

As part of the health care reform law that I signed last year, all insurance plans are required to cover preventive care at no cost. That means free check-ups, free mammograms, immunizations and other basic services. We fought for this because it saves lives and it saves money - for families, for businesses, for government, for everybody. That's because its a lot cheaper to prevent an illness than to treat one.

We also accepted a recommendation from the experts at the Institute of Medicine that when it comes to women, preventive care should include coverage of contraceptive services such as birth control. In addition to family planning, doctors often prescribe contraception as a way to reduce the risks of ovarian and other cancers, and treat a variety of different ailments. And we know that the overall cost of health care is lower when women have access to contraceptive services.

Nearly 99 percent of all women have relied on contraception at some point in their lives - 99 percent. And yet, more than half of all women between the ages of 18 and 34 have struggled to afford it. So for all these reasons, we decided to follow the judgment of the nations leading medical experts and make sure that free preventive care includes access to free contraceptive care.

Whether you're a teacher, or a small businesswoman, or a nurse, or a janitor, no woman's health should depend on who she is or where she works or how much money she makes. Every woman should be in control of the decisions that affect her own health. Period. This basic principle is already the law in 28 states across the country.

Now, as we move to implement this rule, however, we've been mindful that there's another principle at stake here - and thats the principle of religious liberty, an inalienable right that is enshrined in our Constitution. As a citizen and as a Christian, I cherish this right. In fact, my first job in Chicago was working with Catholic parishes in poor neighborhoods, and my salary was funded by a grant from an arm of the Catholic Church. And I saw that local churches often did more good for a community than a government program ever could, so I know how important the work that faith-based organizations do and how much impact they can have in their communities. I also know that some religious institutions - particularly those affiliated with the Catholic Church - have a religious objection to directly providing insurance that covers contraceptive services for their employees. And that's why we originally exempted all churches from this requirement - an exemption, by the way, that eight states didn't already have. And that's why, from the very beginning of this process, I spoke directly to various Catholic officials, and I promised that before finalizing the rule as it applied to them, we would spend the next year working with institutions like Catholic hospitals and Catholic universities to find an equitable solution that protects religious liberty and ensures that every woman has access to the care that she needs.

Now, after the many genuine concerns that have been raised over the last few weeks, as well as, frankly, the more cynical desire on the part of some to make this into a political football, it became clear that spending months hammering out a solution was not going to be an option, that we needed to move this faster. So last week, I directed the Department of Health and Human Services to speed up the process that had already been envisioned. We weren't going to spend a year doing this; we're going to spend a week or two doing this.Today, we've 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 woman's employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their 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 result will be that religious organizations wont have to pay for these services, and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly. Let me repeat: These employers will not have to pay for, or provide, contraceptive services. But women who work at these institutions will have access to free contraceptive services, just like other women, and they'll no longer have to pay hundreds of dollars a year that could go towards paying the rent or buying groceries.

Now, I've been confident from the start that we could work out a sensible approach here, just as I promised. I understand some folks in Washington may want to treat this as another political wedge issue, but it shouldn't be. I certainly never saw it that way. This is an issue where people of goodwill on both sides of the debate have been sorting through some very complicated questions to find a solution that works for everyone. With today's announcement, we've done that. Religious liberty will be protected, and a law that requires free preventive care will not discriminate against women.We live in a pluralistic society where we're not going to agree on every single issue, or share every belief. That doesn't mean that we have to choose between individual liberty and basic fairness for all Americans. We are unique among nations for having been founded upon both these principles, and our obligation as citizens is to carry them forward. I have complete faith that we can do that. Thank you very much, everybody.

E. J. Dionne reports Catholic Charities USA is pleased with the new ruling:

"Catholic Charities USA welcomes the Administration's attempt to meet the concerns of the religious community and we look forward to reviewing the final language," the group said. "We are hopeful that this is a step in the right direction and are committed to continuing our work to ensure that our religious institutions will continue to be granted the freedom to remain faithful to our beliefs, while also being committed to providing access to quality healthcare for our 70,000 employees and their families across the country."

And Catholics for Choice is none too pleased:

Previous compromises of this nature, such as that in Hawaii, may have made some conservatives happy, but they have also meant that some women have not been able to access coverage in a timely and easy manner. That is unacceptable.Its unfortunate that on this issue, as many others, far too many in the administration and Congress have sacrificed womens health to get something they want more.

I'm not sure they have the slightest idea what the new rule actually requires.

Topics: 

Comments

Commenting Guidelines

Thank you, David. Very helpful information.Women sure do get more things covered than men.

Studebaker wrote "John Hayes Grant is irritated at being asked this while having no answer, but perhaps youll think of something: If what you say about costs is true, why arent insurance companies already clamoring not just to offer free contraception, but to pay people to take it? Why arent employers doing the same?"Picarello (the USCCB lawyer) said that 90% of employees get insurance that includes contraception. It was his lead-in to saying that anyone who didn't like working at a Catholic hospital without contraception coverage could just go get job somewhere else. So, the employers of that 90% are already taking the savings. For the other 10%, maybe those people who decided not to provide contraception insurance wouldn't be happy if their insurance company gave it to their employees free - "do that and we'll find a new insurance company next year."

Kathy, for those who didn't see the press conference, I'll add that the president left as soon as he finished his speech - he didn't take any questions.

Kathy: Indeed!

One thing is certain: the bishops will have a grand campaign now on the basis of Humanae Vitae. They will present contraception as, like abortion, an anti-life and evil thing, which should never be covered in insurance policies. This will be a glorious campaign, it will pay and pay, and give the bishops a moral grandeur that they have not been successful in projecting in recent decades.

"First, he has decided to retain HHS's nationwide mandate of insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some abortifacients. This is both unsupported in the law and remains a grave moral concern. We cannot fail to reiterate this, even as so many would focus exclusively on the question of religious liberty."The issue is not religious liberty any longer. It is the right of women to use contraceptives. In the bishops' eyes there cannot be any right to evil acts.

Think Progress writes that Catholic Bishops Demand All Businesses Be Given The Right To Deny Women Contraception Coverage and GOP Ups The Ante, Introduces Legislation To Allow Any Employer To Deny Any Preventive Health ServiceThe bishops and the republicans apparently won't be satisfied until America is a conservative theocracy. I'm beginning to truly despise both the bishops and the GOP.

Regarding he quote from the USCCB in j. Random's 9:11 pm comment, it's interesting hat they are not pushing for Sen. Marco Rubio's recent bill that deals just with contraceptives but for the "Respect for Rights of Conscience Act" which was filed in the House on last St. Patrick's day, was assigned o a committee and hasn't been heard of since.That bill is much broader than Rubio's and essentially says that no Health Plan (aka insurance policy) under the ACA can be required to include any item or service "contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan."That covers everyone, not just religious-related institutions. Rubio's bill was unlikely to get enough votes in the Senate even before today's compromise - this one seems even less likely to get through. There are other provisions. See http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.1179:The USCCB statement reads like a staff paper, possibly by Richard Doerflinger, and may not have had input from many bishops.

John Hayes: I don't think this is just a staff paper. Rocco Palmo leaks an internal letter from Dolan, diNardio Wuerl, et. al. to the biships that is consistent: http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/2012/02/our-understanding-of-rul... like doubling down, to me.

Re: Wuerl's interview on MSNBC this morning at http://video.msnbc.msn.com/morning-joe/46341040#null Wuerl pulled a slick, dishonest (IMO) move on the tape at 2:40 in response to a reporter noting that if the church wants to be free of mandates, don't take federal monies. Wuerl had just said news broadcasters would not want to be told to air certain views on certain days, as an analogy to being free of government interference. The reporter questioned the analogy, saying broadcasters do not accept federal money.Whereupon Wuerl said the pastoral center where he held a recent press conference has not one cent of government money in its construction or operation, with the same holding for financial support of his ministry. That stopped the reporter cold.What Wuerl darn well knows (at least one hopes he knows) is that, for example, Catholic Charities USA gets 65% of its budget from the federal government. I assume there are significant government monies involved in the running of Catholic hospitals and universities. Perhaps Jim Jenkins or Bill deHaas has more detail on that.So, for Wuerl to cite only an archdiocesan building that gets "not one cent" is evasive manipulation of the relevant facts. I have the impression the bishops may be secretly thrilled to beat the self-righteous drum of religious liberty.O'Leary is right: "This will be a glorious campaign, it will pay and pay, and give the bishops a moral grandeur that they have not been successful in projecting in recent decades."The Mother Jones piece exposes the background: "Most of Obama's "Controversial" Birth Control Rule Was Law During Bush YearsThe right has freaked out over an Obama administration rule requiring employers to offer birth control to their employees. Most companies already had to do that...DePaul University, the largest Roman Catholic university in America, added birth control coverage to its plans after receiving an EEOC complaint several years ago. (DePaul officials did not respond to a request for comment.)"Has anyone been hoodwinked here? The theological and constitutional ethers have been well stirred, but the realities of women's lives and consciences feel shortchanged.

Rocco has the "bishops-only" briefing from the "Group of Five" tonight to brother bishops.http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/"Delivered to the bench via its "bishops-only website," the letter is a heavily bulked-up version of a second public response issued this evening renewing the bishops' call for "legislative action" to oppose the measure. In the body's name, the statement judges that President Obama "has decided to retain HHS's nationwide mandate of insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some abortifacients."We cannot fail to reiterate this," the public message added."Nein, apparently.

From the NYTimes (Laurie Goodstein and Helene Cooper)"WASHINGTON For the White House, the decision announced Friday to soften a rule requiring religious-affiliated organizations to pay for insurance plans that offer free birth control was never really driven by a desire to mollify Roman Catholic bishops, who were strongly opposed to the plan.Rather, the fight was for Sister Carol Keehan head of an influential Catholic hospital group, who had supported President Obamas health care law and Catholic allies of the White House seen as the religious left. Sister Keehan had told the White House that the new rule, part of the health care law, went too far.I felt like he had made a really bad decision, and I told him that, Sister Keehan said of the president. I told his staff that. I felt like they had made a bad decision on principle, and politically it was a bad decision. For me another key thing was that it had the potential to threaten the future of health reform....In announcing the shift on Friday, Mr. Obama sought to quell the brewing rebellion. Not unexpectedly, the Catholic bishops issued a statement renewing their call for legislative action on religious liberty, and calling rescission of the mandate the only complete solution. And Speaker John A. Boehners spokesman on Friday promised that House Republicans will continue to work toward a legislative solution...".Meanwhile, Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a group founded by nuns decades ago to lobby on social justice issues, warned White House officials that nearly 500 Catholic activists would be in Washington this weekend for a conference, and that if no compromise had been reached by then, all of them would return to their parishes fired up about the contraception mandate.We were getting killed, one administration official said Friday. The White House picked the deputy chief of staff Nancy-Ann DeParle to talk to Sister Keehan about ways the rule could be made palatable. Meanwhile, administration officials were hearing from womens rights organizations, particularly Planned Parenthood, who warned that they would oppose any compromise that made employees pick up the tab.http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/11/health/policy/obama-to-offer-accommoda...

J Random, thanks or the link to the article on "Whispers.". My reaction is that It's a lot softer in tone thn the one on the USCCB website. From. If fervent arrival on "Whispers", here's the letter to be read in all churches in the New Yok Archdiocese this weekend. It's a lot more restrained than ome of the other bihops' letters I've read today:"Dear friends in the Lord:Over the last three weeks, Americans of all religious creeds, and none at all, have united in remarkable concern over the restrictive and immoral mandates ordered by the federal government. This concern is warranted as the proposed rules would require a violation of conscience for so many, and a threat to religious freedom for all.I thank so many of you, who have enthusiastically been part of this expression of concern, united with your bishops.Fridays announcement that the federal government seems to have softened the mandates, and is open to working with us in further progress, is a welcome first step. We must study it carefully.However, we cannot let up in our concern for the protection of religious freedom and the reverence for conscience which are at the heart of American values.Stay tuned, as we may need your help again.Renewed gratitude and prayerful best wishes, I am,Fraternally yours in Christ,Cardinal-designate Timothy M. DolanArchbishop of New York

Rocco's post, linked above by J Random, is must-read. Two points I'd like to highlight:* The bishops have concerns, but they have not out-and-out rejected or condemned what the President offered today. They seem to recognize, rightly I believe, that this is complicated stuff and requires some study, thought and analysis.* Based on their initial understanding of what is proposed, the bishops' "Gang of 5" lists six sets of concerns. I'm pasting them here from Rocco's post (I hope that's ok). In my opinion, they all have merit.[Begin excerpted portion]At present our understanding of the new final rule, at least part of which is expected to appear in the Federal Register next week, is as follows.1. The Administration has indicated it is retaining the narrow, four-pronged exemption for religious employers such as churches and houses of worship. There is a serious concern that the four-pronged exemption would become a precedent for other regulations. However, it will also offer a new policy covering non-exempt religious organizations such as charities and hospitals. Our concern remains strong that the government is creating its own definitions of who is religious enough for full protection. Secular employers must provide coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion inducing drugs.2. Non-exempt religious organizations that object to these services may offer a health plan without them that is, they do not list the services in their plan and they do not pay directly for them. But the insurance issuer selling this plan must offer to add these services for each of the organizations employees free of charge (that is, no additional premium and no co-pay or out-of-pocket expenses). We are told that this is not to be seen as a rider rather, these items will simply be covered, but without the employer endorsing or directly providing them. However, it remains unclear as to how insurers will be compensated for the cost of these items, with some commentators suggesting that such compensation will ultimately be derived from the premiums paid by the religious employer. This lack of clarity is a grave concern. 3. These latter (religious but non-exempt) employers will have a year (up to August 2013) to work out final details of this, with a further rule to be issued by the Administration before the end of that period. The advantage is that we can take part in this dialogue; the down side is that we may not know the final actual details of some aspects of the policy until well into the New Year.4. All insurers without exception are covered by the mandate to provide these services without charge. At this point it does not seem that a religiously affiliated health plan (e.g., one run by a Catholic health system) can be offered to the general public and exclude the objectionable services, since most of the public is supposed to have these services included by their insurers automatically.5. We are presented with a serious dilemma regarding self-insured plans, where a religious organization is both employer and insurer, and regarding student health plans offered by religious colleges and universities. It appears that such plans will be required to offer the objectionable coverage.6. It seems clear there is no exemption for Catholic and other individuals who work for secular employers; for such individuals who own or operate a business; or for employers who have a moral (not religious) objection to some procedures such as the abortifacient drug Ella. This presents a grave moral problem that must be addressed, and it is unclear whether this combination of policies creates a mandate for contraception, sterilization and abortion inducing drugs covering more of the U.S. population than originally proposed.[End excerpted portion]

Sorry, having auto-complete problems on my iPad. The beginning of the second graf should read: "From a different article on "Whispers"...."You can probably decipher the others.

One more comment: the President, I think, has responded in good faith to what he perceived to be the bishops', and Catholic institutions', main complaint. I know that the NY Times had a story today or yesterday that the bishops had been gearing up for this battle for months; but if that's true, the relative paucity of materials that the bishops have made available is somewhat surprising. By contrast, they had some fairly in-depth position papers and backgrounders during the controversy over ACA. In the present controversy, the materials that the USCCB had provided on its website have focused almost solely on the religious liberty issue for Catholic institutions not covered by the new regulations' narrow definition of religious organization, and that is what the President has now addressed.The letter that Rocco printed, from which I quoted above, is the most substantive thing, by far, that I've seen from the bishops so far on this controversy. It seems that, as the bishops are doing their homework, consulting their experts and discussing this among themselves, they are realizing that there are more dimensions to this than religious freedom.

NYT -- "the decision announced Friday . . . was never really driven by a desire to mollify Roman Catholic bishops . . . Rather, the fight was for Sister Carol Keehan . . . and Catholic allies of the White House seen as the religious left"How does it feel to be considered and treated like nothing more than a political tool? A tool as part of a concerted political effort to drive a wedge between Catholics, to divide the Church?

Over at First Things R.R. Reno employs logic - rather than the sophistry of many bloggers here - to look at this question:"Hum. Religious organizations will not be required to subsidize the cost of contraceptionand women will get the coverage FREE OF CHARGE. Is that because contraceptives and a system for delivering them and processing insurance paperwork COST NOTHING?This is a charade. Insurance companies will obvious raise overall premiums to provide adequate income for the free contraceptives. So religious organizations that pay the premiums will indeed be subsidizing the cost of contraceptives.I find myself exasperated. Why is the Left so committed to the goal of free contraceptives for women?"

Also, the utilitarian and pseudo-science of Obama and the left really is breath-taking:Is pregnancy a punishment? Is it a disease to be prevented as the president insists?Cold, calculating "cost comparison" to determine that chemical contraception foisted on the population via propaganda and government fiat is less "expensive" than pregnancy? Really?? Tell that to Europe or Russia or Japan or any other dying western society with negative population growth that has substituted reason and faith for a the sterile doctrine of liberal materialism and pseudo-science...

In a bold new initiative Obamacare will require all insurance plans to distribute to each enrolled person an apple every day. Recent research by the actuaries of the Apple Growers Benevolent Society has demonstrated that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, thus saving untold billions in health care and demonstrating to the insurance industry new sources of profit hitherto unimagined. Preliminary research also indicates that two apples a day will keep two doctors away, with the additional savings allowing the distribution In early November of $1,000 to every registered voter. Administration officials are cautiously optimistic that with the flourishing of a subsidized apple industry vast numbers will live as long as Methusaleh and will be as rich as Croesus.

Ann Olivier 02/10/2012 - 12:38 pm subscriberWhew! That was a close one. Well see if all the bishops accept it.Good for Obama for reacting decisively and avoiding what could have been a brutal constitutional war.He didnt say in so many words, I made a mistake, but actions speak louder than words. The compromise is a fine one.

Ann, if you glance through all these comments, you'll notice that with this proposal, Obama may have created a far bigger mess than he'll be able to clean up quickly. He may still be floundering come November.That won't make me happy. I was hoping for a much better outcome. Obama started this off shamefully, then made it worse. Tone deaf, apparently - thought he could just ignore the fat old white guys in funny hats.

Continuing Patrick Molloy's press release: The Obama "two apples in every pot" program has been savaged by members of the religious right. "Here again we see the administration's lack of understanding of the truth of sacred scripture. If he read the Book, he'd see that it was BECAUSE OF EATING FRUIT (which tradition has linked to apples,) that humanity fell in the Garden of Eden. Some so-called "scientists" might see a health benefit in eating fruits and vegetables, but we will never condone the imposition of apple-coverage on mere grounds of health. Who knows what dire fate might befall mankind if we eat apples as cavalierly as Adam and Eve did in 4004 b.c., when the world was created? All Americans must kowtow to our reading of the Bible, and oppose mandatory apples to respect our religious freedom." Immediately, the Obama administration boldly backed off. "We will require insurers to provide apples free, so that no religious institution will be forced to pay for them. No one is forced to actually eat the apples, but this guarantees access for all. After all, fruits are an important part of the Food Pyramid, and are regarded by medical science as good for people." "Aha!," spokesmen for the right rejoined. "Pyramids! An ancient Egyptian OCCULT religious symbol! We knew the President was against Christian values."

"I find myself exasperated. Why is the Left so committed to the goal of free contraceptives for women?Brett --You are not going to understand until you can imaginatively put yourself in the places of women who are stressed out, in bad health, exhausted, needing to put off having a child, have too many kids already, etc. Yes, there are some women who just don't want kids ever, and I just don't understand them either. But I do understand the others because I can imagine what it is like to be under one or more or many of those sorts of pressures. If you can't imagine their lives, you will never understand why they want contraceptives so much. What this really means is that you seem to have no idea of how much energy, patience, health, time, money and personal sacrifice it takes for a woman to raise a child. And the amounts go up as the number of children gets larger. You can say that these days men share parenting equally with their wives, but I'm sorry, every study I've ever seen says such men are the exceptions. And nowadays women also typically work full-time jobs. As for unmarried women, also try to understand where they're coming from, and you'll see why contraceptives are important to them. You don't agree with their morality, but most of them think their sexual morality is just fine. So don't judge them on that score. All I'm saying is: if you really want to *understand*, try to imagine their actual lives and all the pressures they undergo. And it will take some imagining in detail. Wish I could recommend some novels and stories that would tell you more. Maybe Jean Raber could recommend some contemporary ones.It is not just the radical feminists who think this is important. Don't fool yourself. I don't doubt that those conservative Catholic mothers also understand the temptations very, very well.

Its quite touching to see conservative critics of the revised mandate so deeply concerned about the finances of insurance companies, when they are earning record profits.

Grant, don't you see any problem with the President of the United States being able to tell a company - any company - to suck up the cost of a program he's just thought up? Isn't that just a little overreaching? If a company, why not a person, or a class of people? And this isn't even a law - just a regulation, like thousands of regulations government agencies are making all the time. Don't we maybe have an unfortunate precedent here?

David S. --Ever the cynic, aren't you, when it comes to the motives of people you disagree with. Sorry, I find that a very unreliable assumption. Yes, there are some terrible hypocrites on this earth -- I've known a champion one, but I have to think that Barack Obama is not one of them. For starters, when he graduated from Harvard Law School with a brilliant record (first editor of the Law Review) the sky was the limit for him finantially had he chosen to use his legal skills in a first-class law firm. But he chose to work with the poor - he didn't even make a nice little pot of money and then go help the poor. No, he went straight to the Chicago ghettos. Sorry, this is not the action of hypocrite. And I don't find any substantial reason since to think that he has changed. I think he has made a few bad judgments, but all in all considering how many people make him a scapegoat for the failure of previous administrations and, especially, the financial and housing industries, he is doing remarkably well.

"All Im saying is: if you really want to *understand*, try to imagine their actual lives and all the pressures they undergo. And it will take some imagining in detail. Wish I could recommend some novels and stories that would tell you more. Maybe Jean Raber could recommend some contemporary ones."Ann, I understand; however, can you understand the nature of this federal mandate? The scope, the size, the message that it sends?There is more than one way to plan a family - conservative catholics are using NFP...why do you support a method that pumps women full of artificial hormones and chemicals promoted by the major pharma companies (in cooperation with the federal government).You have not seen your generation affected by the pill like I have - the STD rates, the depression, the hook up culture on college. This is not about what is healthy for women - this is about pushing a materialistic and reductionistic view of women and human sexuality. I understand, do you?

Ann Olivier 02/11/2012 - 1:04 am subscriberI find myself exasperated. Why is the Left so committed to the goal of free contraceptives for women?Brett You are not going to understand until you can imaginatively put yourself in the places of women who are stressed out, in bad health, exhausted, needing to put off having a child, have too many kids already, etc.

Oh, Ann, there's a great distance between recognizing unhappiness and "curing" it. Free gifts from politicians just buy elections, no more. Happiness is fleeting, and it never has the same cause twice. I can't imagine that giving out free contraceptives will make anybody happy, can you? It might remove a few causes of possible unhappiness but it will likely add at least a few more. What new need next? How about free antidepressants? Call it Soma. That's a nice name.

Brett --I neglected to say that it is best that it be free because, as you possibly will have noticed, men rarely pay for the contraceptives even as they are just as responsible for the consequences of their acts. If they have to pay somewhat higher premiums for their insurance because of the "free" contraceptives, that will be a plus. Also, consider that women still typically do not get equal pay for equal work. So it's fairer that women not bear the cost of the contraceptives. Yes, this is shuffling costs around in not a totally fair way, but it's not as unfair as the other way.

Sorry, Ann, if that was a bit heated...this topic gets the emotions going. I am a witness to the "healthcare" and culture promoted by the pill; I participated in it...it is dehumanizing for all involved. It is more than about the science and ecnomic and politics, it is about such technology affects human behavior and attitudes and I will tell you that it is not pretty. Go to any college campus and you can see the true cost of chemical contraception and a reductionalist/utilitarian view of sexuality.

Another press release:The same mathematicians who calculated the number of jobs "saved or created" by the enormously successful Obama stimulus have now revised their projections: to take care of additional patients more doctors will be needed in the early years and the projected savings from the apple a day program will not materialize until the mid- to late-22nd century. However, an important if esoteric mathematical proof has shown that if we tax the rich in sufficient amounts, even taking into account the simultaneous subsidy of the much needed free contraceptive usage by the rich, the program as a whole may pay for itself. Each dollar spent will yield benefits in the range $0.99 - $1.01, say administration actuaries.These numbers have been verified by E.J. Dionne and Sr. Carol Keehan and they approve this message.

"Ann, I understand; however, can you understand the nature of this federal mandate? The scope, the size, the message that it sends?"Brett -- Yes, the scope, size and message are very large. But it just reflects the morality of most Americans. Why would it reflect anything else? Why *should* it reflect anything else?You also say: "Free gifts from politicians just buy elections, no more."This is not free nor a gift. See my comments on the latest thread. But it is true -- women will pay less for what they are given -- but they deserve to pay less.Also: "Happiness is fleeting, and it never has the same cause twice."Yes, sometimes it does. And there is nothing new about the need for sex, love, and insurance you don't pay for yourself :-)Is sex Soma for Americans? Yes, I think in many cases it is, and that needs to be changed. But let's get at why sex is over-valued as a cause of happiness in this culture. But that is a HUGE question with many, many, many causes.

Brett --I agree that the hook-up culture is de-humanizing especially for the women. Did you see the latest statistics that show that women are generally *less* happy now than they were pre- sexual revolution? I don't doubt that it's partly because women have in too many cases been dehumanized by it. They have mainly been confirmed as sex objects by the "liberated" culture. Oh, what irony, what irony!. Sure, there are many good things about that revolution, but some terrible ones too. The fact remains that young women -- and men -- these days are severely tempted to be sexually active and most think that it's OK. But you're not going to prevail on them to drop out of the hook=up culture unless you can offer them something better, and they won't even start to listen to you unless you begin with a better understanding of where they're coming from.

Jean Raber (if you're reading this thread) --Brett needs the names of a few authors of novels and stories who write about young women's struggles to meet their challenges in this brave new world since the 60s. Can you recommend any?

Ann: "The fact remains that young women and men these days are severely tempted to be sexually active and most think that its OK."We are on the same page here, Ann; however, this mandate is something that will *encourage* this very culture that you and I lament and there is no obvious logic (beyond promoting a specific liberal sexual ideology) to offer free chemical contraceptives to the public. I am not calling for a ban on contraceptives, I am simply calling for the government not to promote them as an unquestioned good (which they are not) or force them on the entire population at the expense of religious liberty and other costs.

I will stick with Huxley's Brave New World ;-) That seems to describe the utilitarian motives and scientism of the current liberal establishment.

I can't bear the sarcasm and callousness of some male contributors here. I agree with Carolyn Disco and having watched Wuerl's performance I am nothing less than horrified. Cardinal Wuerl is a radically arrogant man, overflowing with charming smiles as he relishes his political victory. A Catholic President like Kennedy would have put him and Dolan in their place, just as our Irish pm allowed the legalization of contraceptives and sat patiently through a dressing-down straight from the lips of Paul VI. Catholic politicians know very well and despise thoroughly the games bishops play.What games do I mean?1. Construct a foolproof logical system -- that is one that can pass as foolproof in a monologal discourse.2. Use it to oppose any openings to modernity, anything that smells of permissiveness or liberalism or freedom.3. Launch a high-profile obstructionist campaign against some chosen piece of legislation.4. Demonizes its proponents as traitors.5. Stir up panic among the people by slippery slope arguments.6. Appeal to the grandeur and wisdom of millennial catholic tradition whose humble servant you pose as.7. Faced with practical objections face down the critics with "hard cases make bad law" ripostes.8. Silence critics wherever possible --- if they are in the employ of the church this is easy.9. Refuse dialogue with those affected.Wuerl's dialogue on Morning Joe is actually rather rare, I think, and shows the supreme confidence of the bishops at this moment.Shockingly dishonest was his reply to the question about the 14% of employees who will need contraceptives for non-contraceptive purposes -- his answer: well, they are not as expensive as is sometimes said! That was a deeply inhuman reply.He says that many, many Catholics are basically guilty about contraception and will rally to the Church knowing that the Church is right. After all many Catholics go to jail for doing other evil things. The bishops have found a marvelous method of moral blackmail -- its efficiency is seen even in the support they've found in Commonweal. Who would ever have thought Humanae Vitae has such a kick in it!But as one of the interviewers cannily remarks -- "I think we're going to see more movement on this story and I hope you'll be willing to come back."Yes, would the Cardinal be ready to face (the rage of) those who have not yet spoken: Catholic women. (Bishops scoff at them and see the whole contraceptive issue as a revolt of the wives and daughters, who must be taught their place.)

When I see things like point 6 above, one of the questions I ask is: are the bishops telling Catholics who have insurance now to get rid of it if the policy includes contraceptives? Or if the company has policies which include them?

"NYT the decision announced Friday . . . was never really driven by a desire to mollify Roman Catholic bishops . . . Rather, the fight was for Sister Carol Keehan . . . and Catholic allies of the White House seen as the religious leftI think that makes sense; for me the religious sisters are the voice of integrity in the "official" part of our Church. What they think carries a lot of weight with me; I was happy with the compromise to start with, and since this is at heart a women's issue, that feeling is strengthened knowing that Catholic women leaders support it as well.

Re: President Obamas fix for the contraception mandate, see The Bishops Take on the Accommodation http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/2012/02/our-understanding-of-rul...

"When I see things like point 6 above, one of the questions I ask is: are the bishops telling Catholics who have insurance now to get rid of it if the policy includes contraceptives? Or if the company has policies which include them?"If so, maybe the covered Catholics could just make a charitable contribution equal to the $ value of the benefit to programs serving needy women and children. That would be a win-win all around.

For those interested, see also Obama Accommodation Reactionshttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/theanchoress/2012/02/10/obama-accommodation...

Here's a quick comment I wrote on VN, going through my full thoughts on the matter though in a quick (and so rough) form:I hate to say it, but I do think there are a couple people who have taken power in the USCCB which is misdirecting the USCCB by offering incomplete analysis to promote political instead of religious goals. We saw this with the health care debate, we see it here now.Let me go through my full thoughts on the matter.First, should contraceptives, as contraceptives, be paid for by insurance companies? No. Now if someone needed the pill to regulate menstrual cycles, I think it is legitimate medicine and should be included.Second, before the bad HHS policy decision, what exactly was the lay of the land? Most people bought insurance with policies that already included contraceptives or from companies which do and still help pay for it that way.Third, in many states, the Church had already found themselves required to meet similar demands. The Church objected but, in the end, understood that its moral laws allowed such remote material cooperation so they didnt go all out in civil disobedience (which it would do if it found the cooperation is too much, as we can be seen with the way the Church continues to support illegal immigrants).Fourth, there are SEVERAL questions which have been raised: 1) the evil of contraceptive use 2) religious liberty 3) funding something you dont agree with morally. However, the other relevant question has not been asked, and without it being asked, makes it impossible to engage the issue properly and that is: proportionality and material cooperation with evil and how it applies here. To keep saying this is wrong is one thing, but that is not the whole of the question or the debate. Many people in the US, in the world, engage in a world where the system makes you complicit through remote material cooperation with things you thought wrong. This is where the way the Church has dealt with state mandates is important and the reason why people point them out: from what we already saw, the Church accepted (however much it didnt want to) that such remote material cooperation with contraception via insurance is _possible_. As long as that is ignored, the whole discussion is distorted.Fifth: once again, we must not look at this as if the HHS/Obama administration is suggesting something new which has not been seen before at some level. The way it is being treated, however, is it is new, and it is all at the hands of Obama. This is where it looks like political partisanship. When it is all about Obama and not about the whole, about what has happened in the past, about saying we wont cooperate with Obama while not telling Catholics to not cooperate with insurance companies which already do this. If it became across board and suggested that Catholics who already have such insurances should now object and it became a universal rejection of insurance policies, I would say the argument is stronger. When this is not going on, again, it makes it seem (and I think right) that some in the USCCB are purposefully choosing a battle against Obama while not really interested in the questions they raised. A tool for a fight, not an interest in religious liberty, contraception, etc.The bishops, I believe, are interested in the principles. However,. they are also letting people at the USCCB guide the conversation. They are hiding a major part of the conversation is a problem, and causing our bishops to look like tools. That is what I really object to!

Michael KellySadly, what it looks like is "We hate Obama" by so many people.

Bishop Cupich has a thoughtful article in "America""4. A return to civility will be needed for us to fully seize the opportunities this newest development offers us. While the outrage to the HHS decision was understandable, in the long run threats and condemnations have a limited impact. Leaders especially have a responsibility in this regard. They should always be leery of letting a situation escalate to an undesirable degree, particularly if it has the potential of bringing lasting harm to both the church and the nation, and even worse, disproportionately impact the least among us.5. We should never stop talking to one another. Though the assurances given on Friday that the administrations plan all along was for government and church to work together to resolve conflicts on the HHS mandate, the impression was that the government door was shut and it was up to the church to fix a problem it did not create. If that was a misperception, conversations could have at least clarified it.6. Likewise, the church should make every attempt to clarify the misrepresentations about its intentions. For obvious reasons the church will object to being forced to directly participate in activities that violate important core religious teachings, especially when proven alternative pathways already exist. However, in doing so the church is not trying to impose its will on others. Commenting on the place of Catholic social doctrine in public debate Pope Benedict XVI unambiguously stated in his first encyclical, God is Love: It has no intention of giving the church power over the state. Even less is it an attempt to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to faith. Its aim is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgment and attainment of what is just.Read the rest: http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=13263

The problem is, once again, the HHS policy as far as I know, never required direct participation with contraceptives. Telling people to buy policies from a third party which include the possibility of using things which are evil is not the same thing as making one directly use such evil. That is, again, a part of the problem of the rhetoric -- the equivocation of degrees of cooperation with evil going on.

It may be interesting to reflect on the different scopes of interest at play among Catholic leaders. Sr. Carol Keehan and Fr. John Jenkins, to name a couple of prominent Catholic leaders who have weighed in publicly on this controversy, seem to be faithful and committed Catholic persons. We may expect them, as Catholic individuals, to share some of the multifaceted concerns that the bishops are now raising. At the same time, each has very specific professional obligations, and a moral duty to discharge them. I'd suggest that when Sr. Keehan speaks positively of this development, she is doing so as the leader of an association of Catholic hospitals and health care providers, from whom a moral burden has just been lifted. (And as I wrote above, I agree with that point of view).The bishops' scope is much broader. Their lookout encompasses, not only Catholic health care providers and Catholic universities, but the whole of the church as it exists in the world - a sweeping expanse. Thus, they raise the issue of problems that this new compromise raises for Catholic health care insurers and Catholic institutions that self insure. Those problems may turn out to be real. But I don't fault Sr. Keehan for not raising them, as, in her professional capacity, she may not feel it is within her scope to raise them. But neither are the bishops wrong to do so, because it does fall within their much broader scope as bishops.I mention this because, if we think of it in this light, we may conclude that the seemingly-contrasting statements coming from Sr. Keehan and from some bishops may not be evidence of a split within Catholic leadership. It may just be instances of the same church, which is incredibly vast and complex, speaking simultaneously from different points of view.

Another reason for the seemingly-contrasting statements coming from Sr. Keehan and from some bishops is that Sr. Keehan has not spent her life operating as a prince in an autocracy and the bishops have.

Pages