Mar 04 2012

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Fluke, Contraception and Conscience

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This is the Question - No Matter What the Democrats Say

Let’s suppose that you were watching the news closely in early February, and had tuned into the Obama administration’s latest diktats from the bureaucrats at the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).

You would have learned that within the miasma that is Obamacare, there is a provision that required all insurers to provide “preventive health services.” As with most provisions of Obamacare, defining what was “preventive” and who were the ”insurers” was left up to unelected government functionaries to sort out.

You would have heard that this past August, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) addressed the laws provision, publishing an interim rule defining “preventive” health services to include contraceptives, morning-after pills, and female sterilization. In the same ruling HHS affirmed  that the “all insurers” provision of Obamacare would be require inclusion of religious organizations, whatever their beliefs.

From that, you would have heard that religious groups – primarily Catholics – objected, but received warm reassurance from the Administration that the final rule would be much more religion-friendly. A promise that the Administration did not keep, when the interim rule was published in final, with only minor modifications.

You would have heard that the rule mandated that everyone provide “contraceptive services” free of charge – including RU-486, the morning after abortion pill, as well as sterilization, with only the most narrow conscience exemption for religious organizations.

You would have heard that in drawing the exception so narrowly, HHS has captured in its web of compulsion a huge network of religious-affiliated organizations  whose fundamental religious principles regarding life are forcibly compromised by the HHS edict.

Indeed, in its zeal, HHS has effectively created a conscience exemption that Jesus and his Disciples could not meet.

You would have heard about the practical implications for Catholic organizations.

Journalist Jonathan Last stated, “In the Catholic world, for instance, a diocesan office often employs lots of people – lawyers, janitors, administrative staff – who are not necessarily Catholic. And the duties of such offices extend far beyond inculcation of faith – to include charity, community service, and education. Or take Catholic universities. There are more than 200 of them serving some 750,000 students. they clearly do not fit the exemption. Neither would any of  the 6980 Catholic elementary or secondary schools. Nor the country’s 600 Catholic hospitals; nor its 1,400 Catholic long-term care centers. Ditto the network of Catholic social services organizations that spend billions of dollars a year to serve the needy and disadvantaged.”

You would have heard that the choice for these organizations was to comply, or pay an exorbitant fine.

Responding to the uproar, later in the week, you would have heard that the Obama administration tweaked its policy.  Specifically President Obama said, “Under the rule, women will still have access to free preventive care that includes contraceptive services -– no matter where they work….But if a woman’s employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company -– not the hospital, not the charity -– will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge, without co-pays and without hassles.

The result will be that religious organizations won’t have to pay for these services, and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly….But women who work at these institutions will have access to free contraceptive services, just like other women, and they’ll no longer have to pay hundreds of dollars a year that could go towards paying the rent or buying groceries.”

So the Obama “compromise was a version of “don’t ask/don’t tell;” impractical and unworkable as a policy since someone will have to pay. 

Indeed, the new policy provided no evidence that religious affiliated organizations wouldn’t pay indirectly, or even address those persons or organizations that self-insure.

Thus the basic objection to the policy and its modification remained the same; the HHS rule violates fundamental constitutional protections for religious liberty by compelling organizations to offer services at odds with canons of faith.

Now, let’s say you took a long winter’s nap and woke up yesterday. Would you recognize the argument on this policy as it has since developed?

Shortly after the controversy broke out, three liberal, Democratic Senators, led by Barbara Boxer, wrote an Op-Ed in the Washington Post.  Their take on the argument?

Those now attacking the new health-coverage requirement claim it is an assault on religious liberty, but the opposite is true. Religious freedom means that Catholic women who want to follow their church’s doctrine can no do so, avoiding the use of contraception in any form. But the millions of American women who choose to use contraception should not be forced to follow religious doctrine whether Catholic or none Catholic.” (emphasis added)


So, it’s not about religious freedom at all – it’s about access to contraception; a point that no one who had objected to the HHS rule was trying to contest.

As the President would say, let’s say that again.

None of the religious organizations that protested the unconstitutional limitation on the conscience objection called for restricting access to contraception. Indeed, they didn’t even object to the full subsidization of contraception – including the abortion inducing Ru-486 for non-religious affiliated organizations – though there would be ample public policy grounds to do so.

But what was a constitutional conscience question has now morphed into a “War on Women.”

Enter Sandra Fluke, a third year law student at Georgetown University and a past president of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice  or LSRJ. Ms. Fluke gained notoriety in having been barred by Chairman Darrell Issa from testifying in the first panel, before a House hearing on the Obama administration contraception rule; a panel that was optically injurious in having only men testify.

Minority Leader Pelosi sought to make hay out of the situation by staging her own hearing and having Fluke “testify.”

Here is an unabridged segment of Ms. Fluke’s written statement.

Without insurance coverage, contraception can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school. For a lot of students who, like me, are on public interest scholarships, that’s practically an entire summer’s salary.

Forty percent of female students at Georgetown Law report struggling financially as a result of this policy. One told us of how embarrassed and powerless she felt when she was standing at the pharmacy counter, learning for the first time that contraception wasn’t covered, and had to walk away because she couldn’t afford it. Women like her have no choice but to go without contraception. Just last week, a married female student told me she had to stop using contraception because she couldn’t afford it any longer.

Oh the tragedy….poor dear.

So, given the choice between a Vente, Skim, Double-Pump, Mocha, Latte at Starbucks or a Pill-protected romp with the cute guy majoring in lost languages, women will take the coffee?

I mean, that’s essentially what Ms. Fluke said. Her birth control formula works out to about $3 a day for birth control in a three-year law school program.

Actually, Ms. Fluke’s example reflects the pricing for “designer Pills” that are on the high end of the spectrum. For the work-a-day folks, Planned Parenthood, states that a month’s supply of birth control pills ranges from $15-$50 per month or $1.67 per day; cheaper than the a week day issue of the  New York Times.

So, a 40 year struggle for equality in society – breaking glass ceilings, earning equal pay, having to be twice as good as any man to get half the credit – has now come down to a posit that only government intervention can save women from their hormones?

This is the “War on Women”?

Simply preposterous.

With the core religious objection now thoroughly obscured  by maniacal progressive rantings that the GOP wants to outlaw birth control, the ill-framed “war on women,” does in fact raise a larger question that remains unanswered –  when does personal responsibility kick in in a “nanny-state” culture?  At what point of human endeavor is the government not responsible for providing products and services free of charge?

In this particular case, by creating a narrative about government’s indispensable role in subsidizing American sexuality, the Democrats have provided yet another example of the extremes of big government.

You can be an ardent supporter of unimpeded access to birth control and still have that argument.







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