"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Blessed Are The Tweakers”: The Battle Behind The Contraception Fight

It’s not really about birth control.

As you probably heard, President Obama changed the new rules on health care coverage to accommodate howls of outrage from the Catholic bishops, who didn’t want Catholic institutions paying for anything that provided women with free contraceptives.

Now, they can get a pass. But if their health policies don’t provide the coverage, their female employees will be able to get it anyway, directly from the insurance companies, which will pay the freight. Contraceptives are a win-win for them, since they’re much cheaper than paying for unintended pregnancies and deliveries.

Was it a cave, tweak or compromise? President Obama thinks of himself as a grand bargain kind of guy, but he really strikes me as the kind of person who will, when possible, go for the tweak.

Anyhow, it’s a good tweak. The women still get contraception coverage, the president has shown his respect for the bishops’ strong moral position.

Let’s skip over the flaws in the strong moral position position. Such as the fact that many states already require employers’ health care plans to cover contraception and that all over the United States there are Catholic universities and hospitals that comply.

Or that the bishops have totally failed to convince their own faithful that birth control is a moral evil and now appear to be trying to get the federal government to do the job for them. We’re rising above all that.

On Friday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the tweak “a first step in the right direction,” which is certainly better than nothing. Sister Carol Keehan, the head of the 600-plus-member umbrella group for Catholic hospitals, applauded the change.

So far so good. Everybody happy?

No way.

Rick Santorum, Presidential Candidate On The Move, was unimpressed. At the White House, he said, they were still “trying to impose their values on somebody else.” Imposing your values on somebody else is definitely an area where Santorum is expert.

The leader of the Republican Study Committee, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, called the tweak a “fig leaf,” which he seemed to regard as a bad thing.

Representative Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican and leader of the House anti-abortion forces, said the latest announcement demonstrated that the president “will use force, coercion and ruinous fines that put faith-based charities, hospitals and schools at risk of closure, harming millions of kids, as well as the poor, sick and disabled that they serve, in order to force obedience to Obama’s will.”

I would take that to be a no.

Smith, however, seemed pretty mellow compared with Paul Rondeau of the American Life League, who took the president’s willingness to meet his critics halfway as proof of his unbendable will: “This man is totally addicted to abortion and totally addicted to the idea that not only is he the smartest man in the room, he is the smartest in the nation and taxpayers will fund his worldview whether they like it or not.”

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Potential Vice Presidential Candidate, expressed some vague appreciation for the president’s efforts, then rejected them totally. The whole thing, he said, “shows why we must fully repeal ObamaCare.”

And here we have the real issue, which goes way beyond contraception.

The bishops have made their point. Even if many of them had managed to avoid noticing the Catholic institutions in their own diocese that were already covering contraceptives to comply with state law, they are absolutely correct that Church doctrine holds that artificial methods of birth control are immoral. They’re not going to let the White House ignore that just because their own flocks do.

But Republican politicians have other fish to fry. They want to use the bishops and the birth control issue to get at health care reform. Right now in Congress, there are bills floating around that would allow employers to refuse to provide health care coverage for drugs or procedures they found immoral. You can’t have national health care coverage — even the patched-together system we’re working toward — with loopholes like that.

Which is the whole idea. National standards, national coverage — all of that offends the Tea Party ethos that wants to keep the federal government out of every aspect of American life that does not involve bombing another country.

But that shouldn’t be a Catholic goal. The church has always been vocal about its mission to aid the needy, and there’s nobody needier than a struggling family without health care coverage. The bishops have a chance to break the peculiar bond between social conservatives and the fiscal hard right that presumes if Jesus returned today, his first move would be to demand the repeal of the estate tax.

Let’s move on. Blessed are the tweakers.


By: Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, February 10, 2012

February 11, 2012 - Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Women's Health | , , , , , , ,

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