Thursday, February 02, 2012

Should Catholic Organizations Be Exempt From Rules Requiring Insurance To Pay for Contraception?

Related link.

Tough one, but I'd guess no.

If religion R believes that women should be kept illiterate, and it also funds a hospital, should it be permitted to refuse to hire female doctors? If religion R2 holds that seizures are mystical experiences of God that should be welcomed, should it be able to refuse to buy Imitrex for its employees who don't share this view? Seems to me that this is similar to restaurants denying service to people of African descent. It's your restaurant alright...but there are considerations that trump your privacy rights here. Such folks are asking to be allowed to swing their fists past the point where the rest of our collective nose begins. Though I do think that the case is kind of a tough one.

It's complicated because the Catholic stance on abortion [contraception] is so obviously wrong. Complicated, I mean, as a case on which to determine a general principle. Our views would probably swing the other way if an organization were refusing to fund insurance that covered, say, female genital mutilation. I can tell you right now that I'd be on the other side of the debate in such a case.

It's especially complicated given the overpopulation disaster we're headed for. In general, there ought to be lots more contraceptive use, not, again, that makes it a bit tough to be dispassionate about this case.


Blogger Spencer said...

This is one I've been scratching my head over. Though I disagree with you that the Catholic stance on abortion is "obviously wrong," I think we would probably both say the thing about the Catholic stance on contraception.

Sure, there has to be some point at which the interests of the common good outweigh someone's 1st Amendment religious rights. But why should we draw it here? After all, there is no other Constitutional provision that guarantees a right to free birth control. And if there were, it would likely be a requirement on the State, not private or religious institutions. Furthermore, the analogy with epilepsy is flawed in that epilepsy is something that can't be avoided and there are no cheaper alternatives to epilepsy meds. The need for contraception, on the other hand, can be avoided by abstaining from sex or by buying condoms - a much cheaper alternative. Whatever minimal validity "it just doesn't feel natural" has, it's not a Constitutional one.

What's more, the mandate, as I understand it, extends beyond contraception to abortion, requiring RU-486 to be subsidized, as well. The Catholic position on contraception is a fringe position, even among American Catholics. The question of abortion is a moral issue that deeply divides American society. The mandate is an act of force that goes way beyond saying that the legality of abortion is the law of the land. It actually requires a major religious institution to pay for a procedure that it considers deeply contrary to its teachings. Regardless of whether we agree with those, I don't see how that's not a violation of the First Amendment.

6:13 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...


For 'abortion' read 'contraception'--that was a typo, and thanks for calling me on it. For the record, I do *not* think that an anti-abortion stance is obviously wrong, though an anti-contraception one *is). I'm anti-anti-abortion on generic I-can't-tell-what's-right-here-and-I'm-basically-a-libertarian grounds. The anti-contraception stuff, we agree, is just nuts.

It's true that condoms are cheap, and it's not too unreasonable to ask people to buy their own. And, like you, I'm unconvinced that abortions must be covered. It is (or ought to be) basically a one-time expense, basically a couple of hundred dollars, right? If forced to make the decision right now, I'd not force anybody to fund abortions, so long as their objection was genuinely one of conscience.

Hey, did you go to that crazy retreat that you were telling me about?

6:36 PM  

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