Busted Halo

Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft tries to balance her traditional Mexican-American cultural heritage and Catholic identity, personified by her grandmother La Lupe, with her roles as a young wife and mother.

Click this banner to see the entire section.

February 14th, 2012

The Accommodation


The White House issued an accommodation Friday exempting religious employers from having to pay for contraceptive services in their insurance policies. When I heard this first line, I immediately rejoiced that the Administration had heard the cry of its people and changed its policy. Then came the next line, “Contraception coverage will be offered to women by their employers’ insurance companies directly, with no role for religious employers who oppose contraception.”

The USCCB has understandably responded to this accommodation with caution as outlined here. This is drastically more articulate than my response to the accommodation which was, “Wait, what? How does that make sense?” Or posed as Olivia’s favorite question, “How they do that?”

So according to the government, religious employers (which was not defined) will not have to pay for contraceptive services, but instead insurance companies will pay for the contraceptive services themselves. Last time I checked, insurance companies were not in the business of doing stuff for free. Now that insurance companies will have to cover the contraceptive services that religious employers won’t, wouldn’t that make insurance companies raise the rates on religious employers’ plans because they will have to pay for those claims? I just don’t see how this will stop church money from being used for contraceptive services.

The government did throw in this line about insurance companies, “Covering contraception is cost neutral since it saves money by keeping women healthy and preventing spending on other health services.” Obviously insurance companies will cover contraceptive services for free because in the end it will save them more money than having to pay for pregnancy and kids. Uh, what? No, it won’t. Insurance companies will be paying for something that they weren’t before. Pregnancy and kids are covered by insurance plans and the employer is paying for those incurred costs. So the insurance companies save no money by giving birth control to women for free.

I appreciate that the White House is trying hard to appease all sides here, but this still falls short. Mostly because it’s so vague.

I was trying to make it clear that this whole issue is first and foremost a religious liberty issue. If the government forces religious employers to provide contraception to all its employees, what’s next? Will it force all Catholic high schools to pass out condoms? Will it force churches to hand over personal information on parishioners it knows to be undocumented?

And it really doesn’t make sense that the Catholic Church is being penalized for helping and employing and working with everyone, regardless of faith. If the Church were to turn inwards and only hire Catholics, only educate Catholics, only give aid to Catholics, and only admit Catholics to its hospitals, then fine, the government would be appeased and the Church wouldn’t have to pay for contraception. (This is a good article about this very point.)

But this issue, for many people, is about contraception. For those of you who want to further debate the position of the Church and contraception, I would like to write more deeply about it in the future. But for now there are a few notes I’d like to make.
The Church is not declaring war against contraception. It is against contraception but it is not trying to outlaw it. It doesn’t fire women who are using birth control. It just doesn’t want to pay for it. If receiving free contraception was such an important benefit to an employee, then she could simply not work for a Catholic employer. People are making it sound like the Church is preventing women from gaining access to their only source of water. The Church just doesn’t want to pay for something that it is morally opposed to.

And, just for the record, the what-about-birth-control-for-medical-reasons question can be answered here.

Sorry, Mr. President. I’m still not buying it. Back to the drawing board.

The Author : Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft
Vanessa, a Notre Dame grad, loves the Catholic Worker Movement, Catholic education, and overbearing Mexican mothers, which she may or may not be. She lives in Austin with her husband and five daughters and is a freelance writer. You can find Vanessa at v.kraft.im or follow Vanessa on Twitter @laluped.
See more articles by (104).
Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • adthmo

    @Lynn, the Church will not prevent you from getting your own birth control, sterilizations, or abortifacients, nor will they keep you from purchasing your own insurance to cover those kinds of services. The point here is that the Church doesn’t want to pay for something that is evil. This mandate is the US government is forcing them to do so. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the Church on the issues of birth control, abortifacients, and sterilization, I’d hope you support the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution that protects the right to freedom of religion.

  • Sarah

    Re: “So the insurance companies save no money by giving birth control to women for free.” Not true… the payment by employers is not on a one-for-one for staff pregnancies. The Insurance company “bets” on how many pregnancies there might be in a year and charges for that. If there are more births than expected, the Insurance Co. loses money. If there are less births, the Insurance Co. makes money.

  • Lynn

    This is not a religious freedoms issue, this is a health care issue. No employer, no matter who it is, should have the right to tell their employees what medical care they will or will not cover. The same is true for insurance companies. Those medical decisions are between a person and their doctor. We all pay premiums for our insurance which means that a good chunk of our coverage comes from our own pockets in the first place. This wouldn’t even be a discussion if the health care system in this country changed, which it needs to do. I am a Catholic woman and while I appreciate the Church’s view on issues, at the end of the day it is up to my judgement what I choose to do. And when I make those choices, the only person I am accountable to is God. No one is making Catholic women take birth control. Catholic organizations receive quite a bit of taxpayer (government) funding yet want total separation from government rules. I think the church should be more concerned with women’s health and protecting women than dictating what they will or will not cover for their health care.

  • Carol

    Gina, birth control pills are also an abortificant and increase the risk of breast cancer by as much as 50% when used for 4 years prior to the birth of the first child. The World Health Organization..not the Church..has classified the pill as a carcinogen. Also couple who contracept have a much higher rate of divorce..50% by some counts. NFP users have a divorce rate of 4%. I think this alone says alot. In this issue the Church has been very wise. It took me awhile a lot of study on why the Church follows this, but She is right!!!

  • Carol

    Sorry Ed, but if anyone belongs in a married couples bedroom it’s God..If you really study why the Church has the position on BC that it does you would totally get it. Just read the encyclical Humanae Vitae or JP II’s Theology of the Body. It will totally change your mind on the contraceptive issue..it changed mine. As a health care practitioner I do not prescribe artificial birth control and am a NFP only provider, praise God. With this mandate I feel my right of conscience slipping away.

  • jim

    If you had any interest in finding a solution acceptable to the bishops, there are 28 states that require contraceptive coverage, including your home state of texas.
    On the other hand, if you just want to fuel the hate obama cult, carry on as you are-avoid any facts that contradict your conclusion, and the right wing will love you.

  • Harry

    Seriously, I think the Bishops are snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory. They won the round and are now asking for more and thus making it an issue about contraception rather than 1st Amendment rights.

  • Angelique

    Gina and Ed, I’m with you. I also agree with you Mr. Brown. I believe in religious freedom for everyone, not just us Catholics. We should each be able to practice our own faith in our own way without any employer putting restrictions on anyone.

  • Ed Thompson

    How can the Church Bishops be so adamant against birth control when something like 98% of Catholic women have used birth control at some time in their lives? I remember the unnecessary strife caused by Paul VI in 1968 when he ruled against any forms of birth control. Since then, most Catholics I know simply disregard the Church’s position and practice some form of birth control during the child-bearing years. I’ve always believed the Church should stay out of people’s bedrooms.

  • Albus

    A lot of people are missing the big picture. The act of requiring or mandating a private individual, religious org, business, etc. to buy/provide anything is unconstitutional. When entering the his post the President made an oath to follow the constitution. He and HHS has ignored that. We are no longer a free society as long as they continue mandate us to doing things we do not want to do.

  • Gina Santonas

    I do not understand how a woman can support the Catholic Church’s ruling against birth control. I know I will get attacked by many of you but I believe strongly that this is something the church needs to change to survive. I understand about the importance of children and family life but this does not stop that. A married couple should be allowed to decide when they do not want any more children. Also is stops disease from being spread. Many woman also take birth control pills to prevent ovarian cancer, fibroid tumors, excessive bleeding… Why do they still follow this rule but allow annullments for a price? They also accept concubines and slavery in the Bible, we don’t do that anymore? The Church does not care about women. Decisions are made for us by men who will never be married or support children.

  • Laura

    Brava, Vanessa!

    I’m just worried that now it will be easier for supporters of the original mandate to cast the Church in a negative light politically because it APPEARS that the government has made a concession and we’re not having it. I’m in agreement with you; the government has really made no concession or compromise on the issue at stake here, but now since it has seemed to extend an offer for compromise, we will look like the bad guys in treating it with caution or ultimately rejecting it.

    I hope that the Church remains committed to fighting the good fight on this issue.

  • adthmo

    @Mr. Brown: Yes, I would feel the same in that employees of the Church of Christ, Scientist should expect the organization they work for to uphold its beliefs. As Vanessa said, this is about religious liberty. Her point is not that this administration will specifically require passing out of condoms at Catholic high schools, but rather that, if this is allowed to stand it sets a precedent and who knows what the next mandate will be?

  • Mr. Brown

    While it’s understandable the Catholic Church does not want to use their own money to provide birth control — but if this is the case would you feel the same if someone work ed for Church of Christ, Scientist and that Church refused to pay for medical treatment of any kind because that is their belief? It also is a slippery slope going from providing contraception to saying the administration will make Catholic high schools hand out contraception — this is simply nothing the administration has any plans to do.

powered by the Paulists