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Why The Catholic Contraception Controversy Is A Phony Battle

Public health and women’s autonomy collided with religion  last week. Elders in the Catholic Church were incensed as the regulations  implementing the federal healthcare law would have required institutions  affiliated with the Church (but not the Church itself) to provide health plans  covering contraception. The rules (part of the normal regulation-writing  process that comes after a sweeping law is enacted) would not have forced the Church or its clergymen to hand out birth control; they only would have required  Catholic-affiliated schools, hospitals, and universities to play by the rules  everyone else has to follow, and provide for full healthcare coverage for  women.

The Obama administration, under fire as the health issue  turned into a  political issue, offered a compromise: health insurance companies   would have to provide the free birth control to the female employees  (some of  whom are not even Catholic), but the religious-affiliated  institutions would  not have to pay for it.

It was a dodge of sorts, to be sure, but it gave the  bishops the  cover they needed to maintain the Catholic Church standard opposing   contraception. Still, it was a generous compromise. And now the bishops  are  suggesting it is not enough, citing “serious moral concerns” about  the compromise,  particularly as it might apply to entities that  self-insure.

That, on its own, is a bit of a stretch. The Church,  after all, has  given marriage annulments to politically-connected people who  had not  only been married for years, but have had children. If that’s not an   inartful dodge around the Church rule forbidding divorce, nothing is.  And while  it’s probably not helpful to resurrect the painful episode of  the decades of  child sexual abuse by priests and the failure of the Church to stop them, it’s  also true that the institution of the Church  is still rebuilding its “moral”  brand.

Picking a fight with the Obama administration does  nothing to advance  that goal. Nor does it improve the Church’s power over its  own  flock—98 percent of whom have used birth control. Government should  indeed  protect religious freedom, which is why no one’s asking priests  to marry  same-sex couples or forcing Catholic hospitals to perform  abortions. But what  the Church is dangerously close to doing is an  equally invasive reverse: asking  the government to try to enforce a  rule the Church has been wildly unsuccessful  in imposing on its own  members.

There’s one clear reason why both the Church and the GOP  presidential  candidates have been raising the tired old accusations of the a  war on  Catholicism (an allegation that is extremely insulting to Catholics, to   whom faith in God is sincere and unshakeable—certainly not threatened  by a  coworker getting free birth control pills). It’s an election  year, so it’s  prime time for making hyperbolic and incendiary  accusations that have little  basis in fact. Social issues have been  largely absent from the campaign so far,  and for a reason: the economy  has been so bad that it was enough of an issue  for GOP candidates to  run on. But now that the unemployment rate is creeping  slowly down and  the stock market is stabilizing, the economy may retreat  somewhat as an  issue. And that leads candidates to insert wedge issues like the   contraception debate.

Remarkably, opponents of the Obama administration rule,  along with  self-described liberal pundits, are convinced that the “Catholic  vote”  will rise up against Obama in the fall. That analysis assumes that all   Catholics vote according to their Church’s dictates, which is absurd,   especially in this case. If nearly all Catholics use birth control, why  on  earth would they vote against a president who tried to make access  to birth  control easier? Those who are that upset about contraception  weren’t planning  to vote for this president, anyway.

There will be more social issues raised during this  election year,  especially after the GOP nomination is sealed. But the  contraception  debate is a phony one.


By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, February 13, 2012

February 14, 2012 - Posted by | Affordable Care Act | , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] Why The Catholic Contraception Controversy Is A Phony Battle ( […]


    Pingback by Catholic Views on Contraception « Confessions Of A YEC | February 14, 2012 | Reply

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