On Friday the Obama Administration revealed its compromise with religious organizations, such as Catholic hospitals, who didn’t want to offer birth control in their health insurance plans. The orgs won’t have to pay for it if it offends their beliefs, the President said — the insurers would be obliged to supply the pills and whatnot themselves.
Problem solved! Well, not really. Rightbloggers stormed the internet barricades to complain that, because the church groups pay the insurers for insurance, their activities on behalf of church-group employees who want birth control are an unconscionable violation of religious liberty.
Prior to the Friday announcement, rightbloggers had been incensed about the original rule that made Catholic orgs that had mostly non-Catholic employees offer health care coverage that included contraception. Mark Steyn spoke eloquently for them all when he wrote that “President Obama has embarked on the same usurpation of church authority as Henry VIII,” “we’re not talking about mandatory condom dispensers next to the pulpit at St. Pat’s – not yet,” etc.
(We can dispense, BTW, with the tedious business of saying “and other groups,” because it’s Catholics — or, rather, Catholic bishops and civilians of the Opus Dei variety — who’ve generated this whole controversy; you don’t see a lot of Jehovah’s Witnesses complaining, and of course no one listens to the Muslims.)
The post-concession argument seemed to be that religious people should still be offended, because somebody who does business with the Catholics would be paying for birth control, which is the same as the Catholics paying for it. Also, abortion is murder.
“Insurance companies — not the religious employers themselves — would be forced to pay for the abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception,” said National Review‘s Hannah Smith. But “religious employers would still ultimately be paying for these services against their conscience, with the costs spread through higher insurance premiums for their employees.”
“Catholic hospitals and universities would pay insurance companies premiums, which would pay for contraceptives and abortifacients,” said Michael Hammond of RedState. “Evil doesn’t become good because it’s laundered through a third party.”
This reasoning united such diverse rightbloggers as RedState yokel streiff (“My guess is that the employer whose employees are getting the ‘free of charge’ service is going to see their bill go up… This is an attack, one of several staged by this Administration, on religious freedom”) and urban sophisticate Megan McArdle (“The insurers have to provide it ‘at no cost.’ Which of course means the Church will still be paying for it”).
“Where do insurers get money to pay claims?” asked Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. “They collect premiums and co-pays from the insured group or risk pool. No matter what the Obama administration wants to say now, the money that will cover those contraception costs will come from the religious organizations that must now by law buy that insurance and pay those premiums… the government is forcing religious organizations to both pay for and facilitate activities that violate their religious doctrine.”
One wonders if priests ever buy prescription drugs and, if so, how they make sure the money they send to pharmaceutical companies isn’t used to make birth control pills. It must make for some heated theological debates down at the corner drug store.
We might also say something about anti-war Americans having to pay taxes that go toward blowing up foreigners (and even American citizens via drone) — but why bother? Let’s leave the floor to the brethren:
Morrissey’s Hot Air colleague J.E. Dyer attacked the MSM malfeasance of… The Wall Street Journal, which had used the headline “Obama Retreats on Contraception.” “What are they, USA Today?” asked Dyer. “I expected better of WSJ. I expect the editors to recognize the significance of distinctions like this, and refrain from using headlines that bolster a counterfactual narrative.”
Dyer explained that not only were the insurance companies merely laundering the contraception money for baby-killers, as Morrissey argued — they weren’t even insurance companies anymore.
“If the federal government can step in and arbitrarily require a company to provide things for ‘free’ that were previously elective, premium-based services,” reasoned Dyer, “then it is no longer an insurance company. We are not buying insurance from it; we are simply participating in a mandatory government program whose features can be changed at any time, regardless of what we or the ‘insurers’ want… the overriding reality that Catholic employers will be required to pay for “insurance” programs that distribute contraception to their employees.”
Seen this way, the so-called “doctors” who are collaborating with Medicare are no longer practicing “medicine,” but a similarly protean Big Government scam. And don’t get us started on the “U.S.” “Army.”
Believe it or not, Dyer wasn’t the only one who thought this way. “Why are we even calling it ‘Health Insurance’?” asked toothpick at RedState. “What we are calling ‘health insurance’ is not health insurance at all. It’s more of a purchasing pool which gives people the right to consume certain goods and services paid by a third party… Imagine paying a flat fee to Safeway for the right to pick up our weekly grocery haul (perhaps with a small co-pay at the cash register) – and calling it ‘food insurance.'”
This whole pooled-risk thing is clearly a scam if toothpick can’t get food insurance. Why did no one think of it before it became a multi-billion-dollar industry?
Burt Likko of the League of Ordinary Gentlemen agreed: “This is obviously a tissue of cover which those religious employers see through and does not assuage their concerns,” he said, and hoped the Catholic Church would challenge this clearly unconstitutional act in court. “The question on this side of the test,” he said, “would be whether being required to pay for contraception in an employee health care plan, whether directly or indirectly through a private insurer, imposes a burden on that belief,” he said.
Perhaps unsure that he had directly or indirectly made his point, Likko brought out the intellectual big guns: “Think of it this way — could Congress compel the RCC to pay for an abortion?” he thundered. “Never mind that it would never do such a thing, the question is could it?”
If the thought of Big Gummint shaking down Father Flotsky for abortion money displeases you, then the matter is settled. And even if Big Gummint gets the padre’s money in a card game or in some business transaction instead, it’s still abortion-contraception and unconstitutional. “An indirect compulsion to pay for something objectionable,” Likko said, “is still a compulsion to pay for something objectionable…”
At RedState, Francis Cianfrocca knew what it all meant: “It’s glaringly obvious to many people,” he said, “that abortion, sterilization, and similar procedures are a strictly-required component of women’s health… It’s just as glaringly obvious to many other people that religious freedom in America is sacrosanct.” So which side are you on, America — the baby-killing sterilizers, or the Bill of Rights?
The Anchoress aka Elizabeth Scalia believed for some reason that Catholics had expressed “nearly unanimous condemnation of his HHS Mandate” (maybe she only talks to bishops), and warned her readers that “no matter how much time and effort the mainstream media, the democrats and some of your own Catholic friends tries to tell you otherwise — it is not over. It is just going to recede to the backburners in the minds of many, while pressure is applied here and squeezes are put there.” Pressure and squeezes! Maybe they can threaten to excommunicate Obama — it worked in the 13th Century!
Scalia seemed to be counting on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to fight and win the PR battle with Obama (“Essentially [Archbishop] Dolan has said, ‘yes, we see you have made a move; we acknowledge that you have engaged. That is a good first step.’ Now, it’s going to get interesting. Right after Dolan gets back from Rome! [smiley face]”).
Also counting on the bishops to come riding in like the Justice League of America was George Weigel of National Review, who said, “It’s a war [the bishops] are determined to fight and win, legislatively and/or judicially, and they will do so with the solidarity of allies across the American religious spectrum.” At last maybe we’ll see Catholic clergy marching arm-in-arm with ayatollahs against birth control. Something good has got to come out of this.
Because Obama said his plan affected “millions” of women, Tom Maguire of Just One Minute got out his calculator: “I doubt whether ‘millions’ of poor women are working for the Catholic Church,” he sniffed. “…if all of those employees are women with a twin sister we can get to ‘millions’ of women. Otherwise, it appears that Obama went to mandates based on phony intelligence.” YOUR ARGUMENT IS INVALID.
Clarice Feldman of American Thinker declared that Obama was only giving the ladies their pills because “liberals have viewed women voters as a unified bloc of ‘feelers’ rather than ‘thinkers’ who can be easily swayed by emotional appeals.”
In contrast to that whole touchy-feely, my-body-my-choice thing, Feldman offered an intellectual argument: “Women can understand the broader issues involved quite well, are not uniformly in favor of abortion, and not necessarily going to see the point of attacking religion in order to save working women $60 a month pay for birth control themselves, especially since it is obvious that the cost will be paid by all the employees and consumers in the end.” Well, maybe it’s just too complex for us.
And so the brethren keep clanking their battle-axes, hoping to lead a religious revival against the tyrant Obama. They have the ear of the Republican Party, whose leaders want to take things further and pass legislation that would permit all employers, religious or not, to deny birth control coverage. As this is an election season, some GOP genius will eventually ask why we even allow contraception in the first place. Maybe it’ll be Rick Santorum; he’s already most of the way there, and the prospect of sinking Mitt Romney once and for all with some Bible-belting may be too tempting to pass up.
Then they can all spend the months until November explaining the contraceptive threat to America’s freedoms. Onward, Christian soldiers!