It was difficult to click on a Web site, turn on the TV or venture into the social media space over the weekend without encountering news of President Barack Obama’s attempt to blunt criticism that his health-care plan would force religious groups to violate their deeply held morals and values by paying for contraceptive drugs that could cause abortions.
As you’ve probably read, seen or heard from that coverage, the administration’s self-described “accommodation” has not gone over well with institutions or people of faith, prompting pundits to suggest the Obamacare contraception/abortion mandate will be a major issue at the ballot box come November.
My disagreement is not over whether Americans care deeply about these matters; they certainly and rightly do, and their concern will absolutely be expressed in how they vote. What I disagree with is that these are thought of as mere “issues” to be considered solely in light of their potential to affect an election outcome. Principles like how we view human life and whether we are truly free to live and practice our religious convictions speak to the very essence of who we are as people and as a society. They are woven through every aspect of our lives. They are not issues for America; they are the ethos of America.
There are many compelling points to be made that the president’s revision does not adequately address the concerns of Catholic charities and other religious groups – including evangelical organizations like Focus on the Family. Chief among them is that this is not about money to us; it’s about morals.
Under the revised mandate, employers who have “a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan” will not fund these services directly. Instead, the insurance plan will cover these services to all female employees.
Still, all insurers must include coverage for the objectionable services in all the policies they would write. At this point, it would appear that self-insuring religious employers, and religious insurance companies, are not exempt from this mandate.
Also of concern is that private business owners who provide healthcare services for their employers have no exceptions. A Catholic business owner would have to fund contraception; an evangelical business owner would have to fund possible abortion-inducing drugs. To think you’ve placated Christian groups by giving them what they want, while denying it to other people, disregards a core tenet of our faith: the needs of others are always to supersede our own.
Then there’s the issue that the drugs mandated for coverage by the Obama administration go beyond contraception as most Americans understand it. That is, they don’t just prevent the fertilization of a woman’s egg. Drugs like Plan B and Ella, which are mandated for coverage, can cause an early abortion by preventing the embryo from attaching to the uterine lining. This is terminating a human life.
That brings up a point that should be pondered by fair-minded Americans who hold even vastly different views on the sanctity of human life: This mandate elevates contraception and abortion-inducing drugs to the level of preventative healthcare. They are not. Plan B should not be considered equivalent to the polio vaccine. Pregnancy is not a disease.
Perhaps the most fundamental flaw in the White House’s “accommodation” reasoning, no matter, frankly, what in the end that accommodation turns out to be, is that religious liberties are not something any president has the legal authority to recognize or deny. As Christians, we believe these rights come from God; but you don’t need to believe in God to recognize such rights are protected for all citizens by the Constitution.
There is a limit to what government can compel us to do -- or not do -- particularly in matters of faith and conscience. It is in the best interest of all Americans, of every ideological stripe, that this limit, this line, not be crossed.
This is not about politics. It is about more than one government policy. It is about what’s proper -- and it is never proper for government to force the people who elected it to violate their consciences.
Jim Daly | Feb 14, 2012 10:53 AM