Contraceptives for Nuns? Government at Its Most Absurd (John R. Graham)
Wednesday January 8th, 2014
How absurd can a law be, to force nuns (who have taken vows of both poverty and celibacy) to explain to the state why they don't want to pay for contraception? That requirement was too much for Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who issued a temporary injunction against Obamacare's mandate that health plans must cover contraception.
I am not sure it is possible to describe all the absurdity of the contraceptive issue in a few hundred words. And I do mean "all," because some of the law's opponents are engaged in a disproportionate response to the contraceptive mandate.
But first, the law itself. As a religiously affiliated organization, the Little Sisters of the Poor is exempt from the mandate. However, the law requires the order to file paperwork to that effect with the third-party administrator (TPA) of their health plan. They cannot just pay for a health plan that does not cover contraceptives without a co-pay.
Perhaps this bureaucratic burden is a fraud-prevention technique. There may be groups of lascivious atheists who plan to dodge the contraceptive mandate by dressing in black habits, registering as non-profit religiously affiliated monastic orders, and praying most of their waking hours. But I very much doubt it.
The New York Times editorialized against Sotomayor's injunction, claiming that it was just another case of an employer imposing its religious values on its employees. I did not think monastic orders had "employees." Isn't quietly working under the Abbess' or Abbot's direction part of the deal?
But the Times has a point. This is why a Catholic university, like Georgetown, has to obey the mandate. Sandra Fluke, then a law student there, participated in a Democratic publicity stunt on Capitol Hill in 2012, arguing that Georgetown should be forced to pay for her free contraceptives.
Is there no other solution than to impose the state's power on people and institutions who oppose contraception? Well one would be for Georgetown, and other Catholic universities, to expel all non-Catholic students and fire all non-Catholic staff. Alternatively (and I honestly have not read this anywhere else, so it must be remarkably original), Sandra Fluke could have attended law school at any one of the dozens of non-Catholic law schools in the United States.
On the other hand, why are the anti-contraception forces so up in arms about the mandate? Before Obamacare, contraception was a "universally available benefit and is excluded only at a customer/employer's request," according to a reimbursement consultant's report.
Most Catholics work for secular private or government employers. I have never met one who turned down a job offer at the New York Police Department, or IBM, or Morgan Stanley, or Walmart because the health plan covered contraception. Granted, these are not "mandates," but the Catholic is paying for what he believes is an immoral service, nevertheless.
Beyond advocating against the mandate, Catholic leaders should be advocating for individually owned health insurance, so that every person is free to choose the health plan that suits his needs. A Catholic who does not want to invest retirement savings in companies producing immoral goods or services is free to invest his money in Ave Maria Mutual Funds. Why isn't he free to purchase a health plan that is certified by the Church as compliant with its values, wherever he works?
This brings me back to a previous post, about the emerging private exchanges as a way to migrate from employer-based health insurance to individually owned policies. In such exchanges, employees have a choice of plans from different insurers. Those that are certified Catholic (or Baptist, or Jewish, or....) could easily be identified in the exchange, facilitating exercise of conscience without coercion.