…and thus not only on contraception but also abortion and sterilization. But before I get to that, the details:
In an interview with New Orlean’s CBS affiliate, the President doubled down on the HHS mandate:
Channel 4 was one of eight stations invited to the White House to talk about issues that matter to our viewers. It was a five-minute opportunity to bring him your questions.
Many shared common themes, like this one from Michael Varino:
Swensen: “He describes himself as a Catholic voter and wrote ‘What can you say about a healthcare bill that’ll mandate insurance companies to provide birth control, sterilization, etc. to employees of Catholic universities, hospitals and churches since this goes against the Catholic religion?’ We know there is compromising language in place. Some say it doesn’t go far enough and that the real, the much bigger issue is religious liberty, not contraception.”
Obama: “Yeah. Well it’s absolutely true that religious liberty is critical. I mean that’s what our country was founded on. That’s the reason why we exempted churches, we exempted religious institutions, but we did say that big Catholic hospitals or universities who employ a lot of non-Catholics and who receive a lot of federal money, that for them to be in a position to say to a woman who works there you can’t get that from your insurance company even though the institution isn’t paying for it, that that crosses the line where that woman, she suddenly is gonna have to bear the burden and the cost of that. And that’s not fair.”
It’s an off-the-cuff interview, not prepared remarks, but the doublespeak in the President’s answer is breathtaking. Religious institutions were not exempted unless they serve themselves alone, a limitation that the USCCB’s spokeswoman, Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, once pointed out wouldn’t exempt Jesus and the disciples. And as far as insurance companies paying for contraception — well, that’s an accounting gimmick that’s insulting both to accountants and gimmicks. Money is fungible, and it’s not like insurance companies are going to pay for an institution’s contraceptive costs out of its own pockets. The institution’s monies will be paying for it. The bit about fairness is especially galling. What is this, kindergarten? No one — except the unfortunate Sandra Fluke, perhaps — thought it was radically unfair that people employed at Catholic institutions had to pay for their own contraception (which local governments usually hand out for free through ‘public health’ programs). And if it’s about fairness and women’s choices, why not force institutions to cover pregnancy and delivery 100%? One simply cannot trust this administration to determine the concept of fairness and apply it, an administration with a philosophy rooted in the wisdom of Thrasymachus that governs by waiver and fiat.
In any event, it’s easy to pick apart the President’s words here, for his position is cynical, unconstitutional, unjust, and indeed an affront to God Almighty, given that it is precisely the libertas ecclesiae Dei that’s under mortal threat. So I wish to carp no longer.
Beyond making the current President’s intransigence on this issue known, I do wish to point out one other thing, however. While polling shows we’re doing well, and while Justice Ginsburg seemed to hint the religious liberty lawsuits pending stand a chance of success, part of the reason Catholics and other Christians and people of good will fighting the Mandate are having some trouble convincing the unconvinced is that this has been framed in terms of both religious liberty and contraception: Should religious organizations have the right to opt out of providing contraception for their employees? But again, the Mandate is broader than that. It includes not only contraception but also abortion-causing drugs and devices as well as sterilization.
I think if we bring that point up more, we’d move the needle more, for most people in the US — 90%, if polls are accurate — have no problem with contraception. But many, many people have deep misgivings about abortion, even if they do not wish it outlawed. And sterilization — fewer people have a problem with that, but imagine this situation: A college student sowing his or her wild oats opts for sterilization and gets a vasectomy or tubal ligation when he or she is, say, twenty. What then, however, when he or she is in his or her mid-30s and, newly if lately married, as many people are marrying later, decides he or she wants a child? Sterilization surgeries can be reversed, but they’re not meant to be, and cutting into the human body is a big deal medically, not just morally. In today’s situation of extended adolescence, I’m not sure college students have the wisdom or foresight to make such major decisions (even though I’m all in favor of people growing up, making their own decisions, and taking responsibility for their actions).
How to put that into a succinct sound bite, I don’t know, but I do think it matters. In any event, the Mandate concerns more than mere oral contraceptives or condoms. It also concerns major surgery and abortion.