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Obama/Catholic Contraception Controversy Boils Down to Workers’ Rights February 12, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Labor, Women.
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Roger’s note: One more movement in the direction of establishing the American theocracy.
Published on Saturday, February 11, 2012 by In These Times

by  Roger Bybee

The great new religious battle over the proposed new federal rule requiring contraception coverage for women actually boils down to the basic precept that worker rights apply across all of society, including within religious institutions. But it also reveals the political machinations of the right, the suspect motives of the Catholic bishops and another crucial weakness in the much heralded Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act passed by the Democrats and signed by President Obama two years ago.

First, it is striking how America’s all-male Catholic hierarchy has seemingly colluded with Republicans in miraculously conceiving this issue as a potential “wedge” issue to mobilize blue-collar Catholics against President Obama and the Democrats.

Second, it is almost amusing to see bishops, now pretending to launch a last-ditch effort to prevent a sudden and unique incursion by the Obama administration against the freedom to practice their religion. The Catholic hierarchy has decisively “lost the war at home “ already, as Gail Collins notes, but is choosing to pick a political fight. The majority of Catholic women use birth control. Federal rules required contraception’s inclusion for more than a decade, as Daily Kos reports:

In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn’t provide birth control were in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex. That opinion, which the George W. Bush administration did nothing to alter or withdraw when it took office the next month, is still in effect today.

With more than half the states also requiring insurers to include contraception in women’s health care packages, Catholic universities, schools and hospitals are obligated to provide birth-control services to their employees. (Most states have an exemption for churches.)

Further, Catholic doctrine is trumped by the Constitutional principle that members of all faiths must obey the law. Noted attorney David Boise explains that freedom of religion as outlined in the Constitution is quite different from the bishops’ version:

Everybody is free to exercise the religion that they choose. [But] there isn`t anything in the Constitution that says an employer, regardless of whether you are a church employer or not, isn`t subject to the same rules as any other employer.

The fundamental point is underscored in this exchange between Boise and his MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell:

O`DONNELL: So, this is just simple labor law. …Labor [law] requires certain conditions in the work place and so forth. This is one of those.

BOIES: And tax law and workman’s comp law. I mean, there are all sorts of laws that apply to every employer in this country, and you don`t exempt religious employers just because their religion. You are not asking anybody in the Catholic Church or any other church to do anything other than simply comply with a normal law that every employer has to comply with.

Employers who provide health insurance are currently required in 28 states to provide contraceptive services and other reproductive care as part of a strategy of preventive care, which coincides with the conclusions reached by the medical experts consulted in writing the Affordable Care Act.

But the contrived issue of contraception is being perceived by the Republicans as a chance to split working-class Catholics voters from Barack Obama.

It appears to be a textbook case of the Right developing what Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter with Kansas?, diagnosed astutely as an “election-season” issue. The Republicans have been immensely creative in inflating issues like gay marriage and gun rights to immense proportions to attract the votes of working-class and low-income voters, facilitated by the frequent Democratic failure to tenaciously push economic justice with the same level of conviction shown by the Right.

For the Republicans and the Right, the notion of including contraception as a standard part of women’s health insurance offers yet another chance to demonize Obama for “overt hostility to faith,” according to Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum. Pulling out all the stops, Santorum even raised the specter of Obama unleashing savage anti-religious forces that would literally re-introduce the “guillotine” of the French Revolution for the faithful and patriotic.

For the Catholic bishops, this conflict re-ignites their hope of rolling back contraceptive rights, established in a 1965 Supreme Court decision, and also trying to further shrink abortion rights. While the strongly-held sentiment of Americans for contraceptive rights is obvious, the Catholic leaders are trying to regain lost ground by lining up with a retrograde movement. As journalist Barbara Miner observed five years ago:

The movement against birth control has moved beyond the fringe. Across the country, many pharmacists won’t fill birth control prescriptions, some hospital emergency rooms refuse to dispense emergency contraception and some state legislatures are cutting funds for family planning.

The Catholic bishops hope somehow to add fuel to this movement and thus turn the clock back a century or two, with this anti-contraception push being wrapped up with anti-abortion rules in the name of protecting “religious freedom.” Feminists like Barbara Miner and Katha Pollitt are appalled by this campaign. As Miner told In These Times,

The medical community accepts that contraception is an integral part of medical care for women. If the Catholic Church and its institutions are serious about promoting healthcare, they should follow the best practices and give their employees the best quality care, and that includes contraception.

For the Republicans, it also provides another chance to castigate Obama’s healthcare plan, which they previously stigmatized with preposterous lies about creating “death panels” and staging “a government takeover of one-sixth of the economy.”

But we must recognize that the Republicans would have had no opportunity to raise the issue if America had a single-payer healthcasre system instead of the current employer-based structure.

Workers would thereby have a standard package of benefits that would not be tied to their employers’ beliefs and they could choose their own doctors and hospitals.

Instead, the Affordable Care Act retains citizens’ dependence on their employers choices, opening the door for the Catholic bishops to seek to dictate women’s options. The ACA also enshrines and subsidizes the insurance corporations that maximize profits by minimizing care, as well as still leaving out 30 million Americans from health coverage, as O’Donnell drove home emphatically.

Reflecting on the ACA’s flaw that allows the Right and the Catholic bishops to attack women’s right to contraceptive care, Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vermont) points out

We`d be better off if we had a single-payer health care system where you didn`t have employers involved.

A more recent struggle offers hope of the public rallying behind women’s reproductive rights, “I think we can learn from the way that people rallied behind Planned Parenthood when the Susan G. Komen Foundation tried to cut off their funding,” Miner says.

© 2012 In These Times

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Roger Bybee

Roger Bybee is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and progressive publicity consultant whose work has appeared in numerous national publications and websites, including Z magazine, Common Dreams, Dollars & Sense, Yes!, The Progressive, Multinational Monitor, The American Prospect and Foreign Policy in Focus.

 

 

 

 

19 Comments so far

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Posted by NC-Tom
Feb 11 2012 – 9:54am

So we have an organization that has sheltered child abusing priests, and actually moved them around from parish to parish thus enabling the activity.  Add to that their silence over the war mongering activity of the US.  For example, how many late term unborn babies have been killed by the US military?  Where is their outrage over that?

Now they become holier than thou over birth control.  WTF?!

Like George Carlin said: “When it comes to BULLSHIT…BIG-TIME, MAJOR LEAGUE BULLSHIT… you have to stand IN AWE, IN AWE of the all time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims, religion.

Posted by damnliberal
Feb 11 2012 – 10:01am

There is a difference between the parties that have a chance to win the White House. Living in Michigan I can vote for the nutty Ron Paul because he understands how crazy our foreign policy is, and is against the war on drugs. Michigan hates Romney because he was against saving the American auto industry.

Posted by Trylon
Feb 11 2012 – 10:22am

There are two kinds of people in this world: 1) those who believe there are two kinds of people in this world, 2) those who don’t.

This comes to mind when I read a sentence like =contraception coverage for women actually boils down to the basic precept that worker rights apply across all of society, including within religious institutions=.

The issue under contention has more facets than a dodecahedron constructed of mirrors. Each facet boils down to some intensely held belief.

Mine is that this issue should not exist in the first place. Human social contract should provide health care from the aggregate population covered, covering the universe of members, and paid for by the aggregate or gross national product. The insurance industry should be kept at bay from health care by sharpened bayonets, or canisters of tear gas – whatever the hell it takes to make them keep their capitalist peckers in their underpants.

I’m sick and tired of hearing the phrase: “I’m not going to pay for someone’s this or that which is against my morality.”  History shows moralists are equally obnoxious, even murderous, when no financial burden upon them is involved. “You will live in my theocracy and obey my God without complaint or rebellion, or I’ll effing kill you.”

Don’t ever say that to me. Don’t ever say that to me. Trylon

Posted by gardenernorcal
Feb 11 2012 – 10:41am

I agree.  If we had nationalized health care.  The same services would be provided to everyone for the same contribution.  It would be a personal choice if you chose to partake of something that was contrary to your personal religion.  It wouldn’t be a church telling everyone else what they would or wouldn’t be willing to pay for. Or our government exempting some and not exempting others based on a “religious test”.

Posted by Rainborowe
Feb 11 2012 – 2:29pm

If we ever get an administration courageous enough to attempt to pass a national health service law, I’m sure the RC bishops would be right onto that, too.  But what really bugs me about this latest escapade is that those bishops objecting to ObamaCare had no problem demanding that RC women be excluded from participating in that part of it–whether they wanted to or not.  It’s as though Eliot Ness had taken to raiding the churches and smashing their bottles of communion wine.  Imagine the howl if that had happened.

Posted by Thalidomide
Feb 11 2012 – 10:57am

The fact that the corrupt pro-pedophile leadership of this vatican cult still has political power in the United States is absurd. They have proven themselves to be totally immoral and their hatred of women is legendary. 98 percent of catholic women don’t care what they think so I assume their support is coming from older men who can’t gey pregnant so the hell with them.

Posted by ThomasMarx
Feb 11 2012 – 11:10am

Well, it sure comes as a surprise to me that workers have rights in the greatest democracy and freest country that ever existed in the history of the universe.

Do they really have rights?  That is good news to me. TM

Posted by dkshaw
Feb 11 2012 – 11:31am

What a tempest in a teapot. Bibi and Barky are champing at the bit to begin World War 3, and the media gives us condoms and birth control pills versus religious freedom.

Besides…

Hey! Ratzinger! There are 7 billion people on the planet now. How many more do you want? Would another 7 billion do it for you? Another 14 billion? 21 billion? Please. Give us a number that will satisfy you so that your “flock” may then be allowed to use birth control.

Posted by pjd412
Feb 11 2012 – 1:16pm

Actually, the insurance coverage is only for prescription or physician-installed contraceptives.  Non prescription contraceptives (condoms) were never covered.

You can calm down a bit about the contraceptive issue.  Catholics worldwide ignore the hoary old “contraceptives are sinful” .  The countries with some of the lowest fertility rates and population declines – Spain, Southern Germany, Italy, probably even Ireland, are Catholic countries.  In the US, the largest family sizes are in the Protestant-dominant south, and the smallest, in the Catholic dominated north.  The countries with the highest fertility rates are Muslim countries.  Muslims have no objection to birth control.

Fertility rates and population growth have nothing to do with availability of contraception, becasue contraception is already available everywhere, nor religion.  They have to do with standard of living.  Having a large family is a perfectly rational social and economic decision for a poor family in an peasant (or even not-so peasant) agrarian culture, and this agrarian tradition, tends to persist, disfunctionally, for a few generations after the rural poor move to the cities.  But it always does die out, and replacement level or lower birth rates are achieved once living standard is improved.  This (along with China’s one child law) is why population is stabilizing on its own and nobody knowledgeable about the issues considers population to be a problem.   The problem is the distribution of wealth, and disproportionate planetary environmental impacts among the population, not the population.  Throw you old yellowed copies of Ehrlich away.

Posted by Rainborowe
Feb 11 2012 – 2:37pm

I think you misunderstand the source of people’s anger.  It isn’t that Roman Catholic women are being denied birth control; it’s that the president of the USA rolled over and did what the RC bishops demanded in denying RC women the same coverage under his health plan that all other women got.  I’m sure many people object to various provisions of the plan, but they don’t get to call the shots on other people’s coverages.

Posted by WoodGas
Feb 11 2012 – 11:59am

Maybe I’m missing something here. Is anyone being required, as a condition of employment, to USE birth control? While there are situations where I think contraception should be mandatory, (methamthetamine use for one) there doesn’t seem to be any personal use requirement involved here, where does infringement of rights come into this?  “Just say no”

Posted by Stone
Feb 11 2012 – 12:53pm

It is not a workers right to destroy life.  Life is the superior value.

Posted by shadre
Feb 11 2012 – 2:18pm

Sorry, but to me, your statement is a bit disingenuous, considering that ALL life is “the superior value (sacred, if you belief in a Creator), and humankind has lived to destroy life from the time we came to be on this planet.

Posted by conscience
Feb 11 2012 – 2:36pm

And male supremacists get to decide that a woman’s life is less superior to sperm or a fertilized egg — ?

Those same male supremacists who have oppressed women and children for 2,000 years?

You can embrace democracy and equality for all, or you can follow male-supremacists.   Democracy is superior to male-supremacy. Equality for all is superior to male supremacy.  It’s your choice.

Posted by pjd412
Feb 11 2012 – 12:55pm

My understanding of this agreement is that the Catholic institution will not have to list contraception on their employee insurance benefit booklets, but prescription contraception will still be covered “on the sly”.  So, theoretically, the Catholic employer group plan rates will be a bit lower, but the premium payers in general will pay a bit more to cover the Catholic cleric’s or administrator’s religious freedom.  But the amount is probably tiny and completely buried by other cost increases in the dysfunctional US health care system,  So I really can’t get too indignant about it.  Give them their religious freedom and get back to more important issues like health care for all regardless of condition of employment.

Posted by Rainborowe
Feb 11 2012 – 2:47pm

It is not the women who are demanding to have this benefit denied them, it it?    And any women who reject birth control are free to avoid using it.  So where’s the “religious freedom” in allowing a bunch of male priests to exclude women of their faith from getting a benefit open to all other women?

Posted by Samalabear
Feb 11 2012 – 1:21pm

Lawrence O’Donnell expands the next night on this mess:

http://video.msnbc.msn.com/the-last-word/46321122#null

Nice little rant here.

And then here’s a story that was on Marketplace that talks about the impact of the Catholic Church when it comes to contraception in countries that are vulnerable to the man-made rules of the Catholic Church:

http://www.marketplace.org/topics/sustainability/food-9-billion/philippines-too-many-mouths

Posted by shadre
Feb 11 2012 – 2:28pm

I think it’s high time these few churches who’re trying to control the whole government, and people not even of their faiths, should have to start paying taxes.

Oh, that’s right – the largest of them doing the most to take control has never even been a citizen of this country.  We could at least tax their churches that are here though.

Posted by David McConnell
Feb 11 2012 – 2:34pm

What I see here is a classic example of we want our rights, but you can’t have yours.  You can’t stand the concept of not working for an employer who’s beliefs don’t mirror your own.  You think you have the right to walk into any place of employment and force your beliefs upon your employer.  Deal with it.  No church should be forced to hire employees who’s beliefs contradict their’s.  Why would you even want to work in that environment, unless it was to cause problems?  I detest organized religion, but this country was founded on some basic rights and you want to take that away.

Iran’s Nuclear Scientists are not being Assassinated. They are Being Murdered January 17, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Iran, War on Terror.
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Published on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 by The Guardian/UK

Killing our Enemies Abroad is Just State-sponsored Terror – Whatever Euphemism Western Leaders Like to Use

  by  Mehdi Hasan

On the morning of 11 January Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the deputy head of Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, was in his car on his way to work when he was blown up by a magnetic bomb attached to his car door. He was 32 and married with a young son. He wasn’t armed, or anywhere near a battlefield.

Since 2010, three other Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in similar circumstances, including Darioush Rezaeinejad, a 35-year-old electronics expert shot dead outside his daughter’s nursery in Tehran last July. But instead of outrage or condemnation, we have been treated to expressions of undisguised glee.

Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the Iranian nuclear scientist killed in Tehran on January 11, with his son, Alireza. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

“On occasion, scientists working on the nuclear programme in Iran turn up dead,” bragged the Republican nomination candidate Rick Santorum in October. “I think that’s a wonderful thing, candidly.” On the day of Roshan’s death, Israel’s military spokesman, Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, announced on Facebook: “I don’t know who settled the score with the Iranian scientist, but I certainly am not shedding a tear” – a sentiment echoed by the historian Michael Burleigh in the Daily Telegraph: “I shall not shed any tears whenever one of these scientists encounters the unforgiving men on motorbikes.”

These “men on motorbikes” have been described as “assassins”. But assassination is just a more polite word for murder. Indeed, our politicians and their securocrats cloak the premeditated, lawless killing of scientists in Tehran, of civilians in Waziristan, of politicians in Gaza, in an array of euphemisms: not just assassinations but terminations, targeted killings, drone strikes.

Their purpose is to inure us to such state-sponsored violence against foreigners. In his acclaimed book On Killing, the retired US army officer Dave Grossman examines mechanisms that enable us not just to ignore but even cheer such killings: cultural distance (“such as racial and ethnic differences that permit the killer to dehumanise the victim”); moral distance (“the kind of intense belief in moral superiority”); and mechanical distance (“the sterile, Nintendo-game unreality of killing through a TV screen, a thermal sight, a sniper sight or some other kind of mechanical buffer that permits the killer to deny the humanity of his victim”).

Thus western liberals who fall over one another to condemn the death penalty for murderers – who have, incidentally, had the benefit of lawyers, trials and appeals – as state-sponsored murder fall quiet as their states kill, with impunity, nuclear scientists, terror suspects and alleged militants in faraway lands. Yet a “targeted killing”, human-rights lawyer and anti-drone activist Clive Stafford Smith tells me, “is just the death penalty without due process”.

Cognitive dissonance abounds. To torture a terror suspect, for example, is always morally wrong; to kill him, video game style, with a missile fired from a remote-controlled drone, is morally justified. Crippled by fear and insecurity, we have sleepwalked into a situation where governments have arrogated to themselves the right to murder their enemies abroad.

Nor are we only talking about foreigners here. Take Anwar al-Awlaki, an Islamist preacher, al-Qaida supporter – and US citizen. On 30 September 2011, a CIA drone killed Awlaki and another US citizen, Samir Khan. Two weeks later, another CIA-led drone attack killed Awlaki’s 21-year-old son, Abdul-Rahman. Neither father nor son were ever indicted, let alone tried or convicted, for committing a crime. Both US citizens were assassinated by the US government in violation of the Fifth Amendment (“No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law”).

An investigation by Reuters last October noted how, under the Obama administration, US citizens accused of involvement in terrorism can now be “placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions … There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel … Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.”

Should “secret panels” and “kill lists” be tolerated in a liberal democracy, governed by the rule of law? Did the founders of the United States intend for its president to be judge, jury and executioner? Whatever happened to checks and balances? Or due process?

Imagine the response of our politicians and pundits to a campaign of assassinations against western scientists conducted by, say, Iran or North Korea. When it comes to state-sponsored killings, the double standard is brazen. “Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them,” George Orwell observed, “and there is almost no kind of outrage … which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side”.

But how many more of our values will we shred in the name of security? Once we have allowed our governments to order the killing of fellow citizens, fellow human beings, in secret, without oversight or accountability, what other powers will we dare deny them?

This isn’t complicated; there are no shades of grey here. Do we disapprove of car bombings and drive-by shootings, or not? Do we consistently condemn state-sponsored, extrajudicial killings as acts of pure terror, no matter where in the world, or on whose orders, they occur? Or do we shrug our shoulders, turn a blind eye and continue our descent into lawless barbarism?

© 2012 The Guardian

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Mehdi Hasan

Mehdi Hasan is senior editor (politics) at the New Statesman and a former news and current affairs editor at Channel 4. His New Statesman blog is here

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