Saturday, February 18, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #44 - Part 1

Hypocrisy on birth control

Part of the new so-called health reform law - I say so-called because I was among those who didn't like this law because it doesn't go nearly far enough, but that's an argument for another time - requires health insurance to include coverage of preventive care without co-pays; that is, the cost is completely covered by insurance. You surely know about the rending of garments and gnashing of teeth from the US Catholic bishops and their right-wing wannabe-allies over the intent to include birth control within the definition of such preventive care.

The proposal originally excluded specifically religious employers - such as the Catholic Church - but not employers in workplaces that are religiously-affiliated, such as Catholic hospitals or universities.

Well, the bishops started screeching that this is "an attack on religious freedom" and even more directly "an attack on religion" - which, it bears noting, means the bishops were equating Catholic doctrine with the very concept of religion itself. As revealing as that may be, what's more important here is that this was eagerly seconded by the reactionary right (which, generally these days, is almost identical to the Republican party) which was dreaming of all those Catholic voters they're going to pick up by joining in the screeching.

The White House responded by what has generally been called a tweak of the regulations, putting the burden for covering contraceptive services on the insurance companies rather than the employers in any case where the employer had a genuine religious objection.

Was that a reasonable compromise? Considered in isolation, considering just the change, of course it was. And if they were dealing with reasonable people, that would be the end of it. But out in the real world, things are different and they are not dealing with reasonable people. So it was a terrible idea.

First, because repeated polls showed a majority of Americans and an even larger majority of Catholics approved of the original policy. It proved yet again that Barack Obama cannot stand up to the right wing. He's great at thumbing his nose at the left, great at dismissing those to his left as whiners, but he has no spine at all for a fight with the right. In the face of their blathering and blustering, he'll back down even when a majority of people are on his side!

And second, it - of course - did nothing to appease the bullies. New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who heads the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, dismissed it as nothing more than a "first step in the right direction" and later derided it as "a hill of beans." The Conference itself responded by demanding a complete surrender, arguing that the decision to guarantee that women have access to contraceptives, quoting, "remains a grave moral concern."

GOPpers in Congress eagerly chimed in, denounced it as an attack on religious freedom, and demanded votes on legislation that would allow any employer to deny birth control coverage to any employee if it runs counter to their religious or moral beliefs, or otherwise find it icky.

Why can't the White House get it through its head that bullies cannot be appeased? Backing up only invites them to step forward. And that's exactly what they've done.

There are three things to make clear here: One, remember this is not about abortion, it is about birth control. The Catholic Church is saying it should have the legal right to interfere with the ability of any employee of any Catholic-related institution to obtain birth control - interfere by virtue of increasing the cost, making it more difficult to obtain, since it would have to be paid for out of pocket.

For some time now, abortion rights advocates - advocates of choice - have been saying that the real issue isn't abortion, it's anything that gives women autonomy over their own bodies, including contraception, and the Church has now proved that beyond doubt.

I mean, you'd figure the church would support contraception on the grounds that by reducing unwanted pregnancies it would reduce the number of abortions, but you'd be wrong. The real opposition - from both the Catholic Church and much of the right wing - is to anything that enables women to be other than baby factories.

Second, remember we're not talking about Church employees here, we're talking about employees of Church-affiliated institutions. The blunt fact is that the people affected are in many cases not Catholic. What the Church is demanding is the right to force its beliefs on those employees.

If being a Catholic is not a job requirement, if adhering to Catholic doctrine and ideology is not part of the job description, than it should not, must not, logically cannot be a factor in what sort of health insurance coverage is available to you.

Finally, the gorilla in the room and this is just the latest example:
The bankruptcy hearings for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee have revealed more than 8,000 previously unreported instances of alleged sexual abuse of children, according to one attorney representing the victims. The charges cover a span of 60 years and implicate a group of 100 alleged offenders, including nuns, church workers and some 75 priests. 570 'victim-survivors' have filed claims in the case.
I'm going to quote a source with which I would hope the Church is familiar: the Bible. Specifically, the King James Version, quoting Matthew 7:1-5:
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
A beam, in this case in case you didn't know, is a wood beam.

The Catholic Church in this country doesn't have a single beam in its eye, it has a whole barn's worth. It is in no position to pass any sort of moral judgment on anyone and its position on this matter should be flat out ignored.


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