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The Catholic Church, the President, the Heritage Foundation and Birth Control

February 24th, 2012 · No Comments · Health Care, Human Rights, Lobbying, Politics, Populism

One of the implementations of the new health care reform that has gone into effect is the provision that says that women’s reproductive health, the most visible of which is birth control pills, must be included in any health insurance package.

This is new. It is part of the law that tries to stop health insurance companies from putting out health insurance that is low cost but really doesn’t cover anything. One of the basic needs of younger women particularly is access to contraception.

The Catholic Church doesn’t like this because it is against contraceptive devices. This is a hangover from ancient canon law, one designed to create more Catholics, larger families, in past eras, when infant mortality was greater, when more people were involved in agriculture and larger families therefore needed, and when the Roman Catholic Church was aggressively trying to expand in the wake of the diversity of religious beliefs and institutions.

So now comes this challenge from the Catholic Church and suddenly it is taken up in a somewhat specious argument by the Heritage Foundation. In arguments that are so ridiculous that they should be banned from the airwaves, the attacks are relentless.

“Obamacare is on a collision course with liberty generally and our first casualty is religious freedom.”

So sayeth a spokeswoman for the Heritage Foundation. Before we demolish their arguments, let’s first remember where that comment is coming from and who the Heritage Foundation is.

And let’s also straighten out their logic. The Catholic Church is on a collision course with the needs and desires and legal rights of American citizens who do not hold their beliefs and who, regardless of Catholic beliefs, want access to birth control. That is the correct issue. Now, about Heritage…

The Heritage Foundation was begun in 1973 by Joseph Coors and William Mellon Scaife. Coors is a longtime opponent of unions, gays, civil rights, gun control laws and safety in the workplace. William Mellon Scaife funded most of the attacks on Bill Clinton through the “Arkanasas Project” at his magazine, the American Spectator. He also funded the Mountain States Legal Foundation, dedicated to such policies as oil shale mining in Rocky Mountain National Park.

One of both William Mellon Scaife’s and Joe Coor’s protégés was Gale Norton, who, when she became Secretary of Interior in the Bush Adminsitration, opened up national parks and national monuments to oil, mining and timber exploitation, while cutting funding for maintenance of the parks to practically nothing. After her chief deputy had been tried, convicted and jailed, she resigned and scurried back to Denver before she could be investigated by the Justice Department for some alleged collusive deals with Shell.

The Heritage Foundation’s surface comment is that the new health reform law is in conflict with the religious rights of churches. This is of course, nonsense. The reason for comments like these is the overwhelming opposition to health care by many of the Heritage Foundation’s supporters, such as the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the conservative leaders of global corporations and a segment of the super-rich. (Ones with the same Neo-Fascist approach as Coors and Scaife.)

Let’s overlook for a bit the fact that President Obama’s health care reforms are based on a system of health insurance exchanges. He could have opted for simply extending Medicare to those 55 and under, and then 45 and under and then to everyone over a period of time. Many Democrats feel that this would have been much better.

But he didn’t. To placate the health care establishment, he chose a more moderate approach. That is to say, rather than taking a meat axe to the corrupt health insurance industry, he decided to resurrect an old proposal to bring private health care under control using competitive health insurance exchanges.

This was an idea originally proposed by…are you ready…the Heritage Foundation. That proposal, which of course was not favored by a health insurance industry which quickly figured out what would happen, was adopted by Mitt Romney and the Massachusetts legislature. It was the basis for the Massachusetts universal health care bill. It turned out to be a good idea, so the Obama Administration jumped on it.

Both the Heritage Foundation and Governor Romney, however, are disassociating themselves from any kind of proposal that could have lead to universal health care. And why would that be? Well, it’s pretty simple. They fear the wrath of one of their key supporting groups: the “Big Healthcare” industry: health insurers, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies.

Just to give you an idea of the financial clout of the health care industry, during the health care reform debate…in a period of no more than 9 months in 2009 in trying to defeat the bill…they spent $400 million dollars in campaign contributions, direct lobbying efforts and on television commercials. Not only did they spend it in Washington but they also went into the home districts of many of the Congressmen and Senators involved in the various committees taking up the legislation.

The federal law says that every woman who has health insurance must (i.e. the law demands it, therefore the term “mandate,”)–must be allowed to have the means of contraception. In other words, the Catholic Church cannot overrule the Federal Government. The contraception may be provided by an insurer working for the Church, but the Church cannot withhold access.

That is how the law that Governor Romney signed in Massachusetts read also. Romney is once again flip-flopping on an issue to first get the Republican nomination, then he will flop back and say that while he did approve in Massachusetts, he will now repeal health care reform if he is elected.

The Republican Tea Party members, working on behalf of the health insurance industries have said that this new rule under ACA (Obamacare) is a “violation of religious freedom” when it is not only NOT a violation of religious freedom, but also the permitting of these Church groups to deny contraception would be a violation of the Constitution.

Church groups have the right to impose their beliefs on their members, but when they deal with other members of society, they have no right to impose their beliefs. And their own workers would be included in that broader definition of “citizens” who cannot be told what they can or cannot do in civil situations by the Church.

The Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Right Wing so-called ethics organization has said that this new law is wrong because the Church-run organizations must either violate their convictions or get out of the business that they are in. But that is not true. These organizations contract with health insurance companies to provide health care to their employees.

It is the health insurance company that must follow the law and provide contraceptive devices or pills. If the Church decides to do this, then the Church is acting not as a religious organization as far as the government is concerned. It is acting as a health insurance provider and health insurance providers must offer contraception.

This must be made clear. This health care law is the farthest thing from what some call “despotism.” This is typical exaggerated rhetoric on the Right. It is basically a way of telling a lie without seeming to be a liar.

These “ethical” people…who are wrong, and they know it—they can read the law as well as anyone else…deliberately call something a vile, evil act designed to grind down the people (i.e. despotism) when, in fact, it is simply providing a needed service to people who are eligible for it under the law, often desperately need it and overwhelmingly say they want it.

Catholic institutions do not “have to get out of the business of helping the poor or educating people” simply because they have decided that…just as in the case of the children raped by Catholic Priests…they think that they are above the law. The Catholic Church may not like contraception, but if they cannot allow their non-catholic workers to have access to contraception, then they are violating the law.

The People are not at fault here. The great masses of American men and women want birth control. The only reason the American people are involved…in the Church’s words…in “making them violate their principles” is that the Church in this case is denying them their civil rights. It is a current civil right under the law to be able to get birth control. Insurers normally provide it. The only one intruding is the Catholic Church, interrupting that process.

If we were to follow the logic that the Church must not allow society to make them violate their beliefs, then Catholic priests, nuns and bishops should be out invading every pharmacy and trying to steal and destroy birth control pills and devices. They would be blowing up pharmaceutical companies where birth control pills are made.

The Church would like you to believe that they are active in this issue but they are not. A majority…many more than a majority, but a majority at a very minimum, of Catholic women take birth control pills regularly. The Catholic Church knows it, knows that it cannot and will not stop, and yet they do not excommunicate or in any way punish these women…yet they would with hold birth control pills from their employees. It is total lunacy.

There was not, as the Heritage Foundation’s blog presenter suggested a great hue and cry when this was announced. Eighty percent of American families say that they use and want access to birth control. The only hue and cry came from the Catholic Church, and as soon as it began to make noise, the Republican Party apparently on some kind of hari kari suicide mission, decided to join in and support a position that most women find ridiculous.

The logic is pretty simple. If you want birth control to be available to you and if you want the Catholic Church to act like any other legal non-profit in this country, and obey the laws by not intruding into your life and if you want them to enforce the laws within their own religion by turning in their priests to local government authorities when they are discovered to have raped or sodomized a child, then vote DEMOCRATIC.

If you believe that the Catholic Church should be able to tell you, if you work for one of their institutions, how you should handle your sex life and your reproductive situation and if you think that they should handle their problems of rape and sodomy internally and not involve legal authorities…then vote REPUBLICAN.

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