Friday, February 24, 2012

The contraception mandate and you: the religious debate

President Obama has gotten more than he bargained for with the fire fight he is facing with religious groups over a mandate that even religious organizations include birth control as part of their insurance coverage. What was originally framed as a step in the right direction for woman's rights and universal healthcare quickly turned into a constitutional debate over the president's ability to force specific coverage onto everyone, including religious groups.
The president's so called 'accommodation' was nothing but a shell game: the mandate still requires religious organizations to subsidize and authorize conduct that conflicts with their religious principles. The very first amendment to our Constitution was intended to protect against this sort of government intrusion into our religious convictions. (Texas Attorney General)

The Texas Attorney General's argument is weak at best and I call into question his understanding of the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The mandate is not directed at religious groups, but rather the insurance companies themselves. Are religious groups affected? Sure they are but then again they are also part of the greater population so any decision that applies to the United States as a whole affects them. Greg Abbott, as are religious groups, are linking the idea that insurance companies offering contraception methods as part of insurance plans somehow "authorize(s) conduct that conflicts with their religious principles" but I beg to differ. Something like 42% of women use contraception methods for something other than preventing pregnancies (the real reason religious groups are up in arms) - let's just ignore that for the time being since the religious groups are.

Let's take a tangent real quick before we continue and look at my experiences with sex and religion. I was raised a Catholic. Went to Catholic school for 10 years of my life and have a pretty good understanding of the mindset utilized by similar groups. Since sex education was a required thing growing up, we were taught three basic ideas:

  1. Only way to not get pregnant is to not have sex. Actually was told numerous time:  "the use of any contraceptive is a sin"

  2. You need to wait until you're married to have sex

  3. If you have sex with more than one person, you will get a STD for life

Pretty grim stuff if you ask me, but the reality was that it was only part of the truth. If you read into these ideas a little, you sense a fear factor rather than that of love and compassion. Why is that? Why was the church pushing a harsher reality onto students in their early years? Plain and simple - they have always done it. My interpretation of the church is that if the general public were left to their own devices, morality would not exist and the integrity of people would be that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Since the church has little physical influence over the personal lives of their employees (free will), another avenue of control is required - making birth control somewhat fiscally out of reach through not providing it in insurance plans. You won't find any studies published on the cold, hard number of people who classify themselves as religious and their use of contraceptives but I'll go out on a limb and say that more than 80% of married couples practice it in some form.

I'm going to pull the religious card here. I was always taught that people are tested while here on earth but every decision was yours, including the decision to sin or not follow the church. How is the abstinence from contraceptives offered by an insurance company any different? The answer is it's not.

Enough tangent, back to the argument. Religious groups can harp all day on moral issues of offering birth control as part of their insurance plans but the reality that they do not want to face is that, regardless of it being available in the insurance plan, their congregation would still practice contraception methods in some form. The other side of the argument, that some how they are subsidizing the use of contraceptives is totally crazy. The mandate specifically says that rates will not go up as a result of this. Let's look at the insurance company for a minute because this is the best thing that could have happened for them. The insurance costs of raising a child are enormous compared to providing birth control so it's a win-win for them.

Obama is not shoving contraception down the throats of everyone but merely making it financially available to everyone. That's it. It's the person's decision to take it or not. Because it is a free will decision, arguing that this mandate violates the First Amendment is absurd. Now if it was "crazy religious fanatics are required to take birth control every day" then you have something, but merely making something available to the greater public and arguing it violates your rights? Give me a break.