Wednesday, February 1, 2012

No Pill Can Cure this Decree

Last week, I broached a topic over which I've heard a few Republicans commiserate.

Commiserate quietly, of course; and completely hypothetically.

Considering the weak qualifications of the Republican Party's current slate of presidential candidates, the question has been asked in some corners:  should conservatives simply let President Obama win four more years in the White House, and use those four years to find some far more respectable candidates to consider in 2016?

Last week, that seemed like something worth at least discussing.

Now, however, whatever attractions we saw in the idea have faded almost as rapidly as they appeared.  Especially now that news of the Obama administration's insistence that all health insurance plans cover contraception has begun to sink in.

Cut Obama a lot of slack if you want to regarding an economy whose worst bits he may have inherited, your personal philosophy on social justice, and the Democratic Party's lip service to the poor and needy.  Give him a lot of grace regarding his foreign policy, or lack of it.  But when it comes to insisting on forcing religious groups - and not just fringe groups, but Roman Catholics, the world's largest religion - to adhere to a politically-motivated mandate like health insurance for contraception, then the door is blatantly, obviously, incontrovertibly, and unmistakably wide open for who knows what other encroachments upon religious liberty in the United States of America our leaders might machinate.

It's not that birth control itself is the penultimate religious-conscience suffering under Obama's decision.  While Catholics, along with many orthodox Jews and Greeks, take a hard line against contraceptive tools, many evangelical Christians either are on the pill or have no problem with those who are.

Rather, requiring religious organizations with healthcare plans to provide free contraception to their employees strikes at the very heart of government's unilaterally-assumed ability to mandate policy that directly opposes a recognized system of faith.  And it should frighten us.

Technically, Obama's decision is an interpretation of his healthcare legislation and addresses the meaning behind terminology referring to "preventive health services."  Liberal feminist advocates have been pressing his administration to force a blanket provision in Obamacare for free and unfettered access to contraception, and this is his political kill-two-birds-with-one-stone tactic:  clarifying a nebulous phrase in the law, and appeasing a volatile left-wing constituency during an election year.

Knowing that evangelicals probably wouldn't take this issue to seriously, and that they'd still vote Republican regardless, and that many Catholics will still vote Democratic regardless, this was likely seen as a relatively benign issue for Obama and his team.

After all, many Catholics are on the pill.  It's no secret that pretty much the staunchest critics of contraception in Roman Catholicism are male priests who aren't supposed to be having sex anyway.  Evangelicals, meanwhile, have been taught that not only is sex a procreative exercise, it is also a bonding exercise, and that being able to determine when you want to have kids is about as American as apple pie.

So throw out the whole contraception notion in this matter.  Because that's not what really matters here.  What matters is the Obama administration's overt refusal to acknowledge the rights faith-based organizations have to determine what healthcare benefits they deem proper.

Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Obama's health and human services agency, asserted that forcing Catholics to ignore one of their core teachings on the sanctity of life "strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.”

If this is what she and Obama consider to be an "appropriate balance," then people of faith - whatever the faith - let Washington get away with such thinking at our own peril.  The reason this is so serious involves the reality that society is getting more complex, not less.  If it's this easy for a president to wipe away faith-based conscientious objections to legislation, what other pillar of American liberty will be next?

The decision by the Obama administration wasn't exactly a surprise, although it's certainly been a severe disappointment.  The Catholic Church, along with some other sexually-strict organizations and church-rights groups, have already begun assessing their legal options.  In keeping with the politically-charged tenor of his decree, Obama has delayed the deadline for compliance until next year, well after this fall's elections.  So it's possible that he can still overturn his decision, depending on the results of this election, or give his succeeding administration time to kill it when they arrive in Washington next January 20.

All of which means things aren't over yet, at least as far as providing free contraception is concerned.  But even with contraception, why is it so vital for the government to mandate that private employers pay the $15 to $50 monthly cost of contraceptives for employees who apparently can't control their own sexual urges?

I understand that preventing pregnancies can help lower healthcare costs, since less kids will be born in the process.  But at what point should our government stop stepping across the threshold of private bedrooms and let people figure out for themselves when they should defer carnal pleasures until they can either afford the pill or afford the kid that may result without the pill?

And why make religious groups make it easier for their congregations to defy their religious scruples?  If we really wanted to mess with the "conscience clause" that usually protects religious groups - even the fringe ones - in the United States, I think I'd be less upset if the Obama administration tried to force Muslim women to quit wearing those identity-obstructing, terrorism-facilitating burqas.  Actually, speaking of conservative Muslims, wouldn't it be interesting if they joined with Catholics and Jews in petitioning Congress to overturn Obama's decree regarding contraception?  Talk about a faith-based initiative.

I have to admit that I was somewhat heartened to learn that Obama had overruled Sibelius on her morning-after mandate, where he exercised his paternal protectionist instincts for his two daughters and agreed that he would want to know if they were wanting to take the morning-after pill.

But that was then.  Now, whatever good graces that decision may have allowed me to hold for him have been trumped by this latest travesty of government over-reach.

I guess that means I'm going to have to start trying to find the good in Mitt Romney... (deep sigh).

Okay, let's go. 

Number One:  He's not anti-religion like Barak Obama apparently is.

Number Two:  ... let me get back to you!
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