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.