Both the media and the social media have been abuzz with the mandate to provide contraceptives as a part of health care, and the “compromise” plan made by the President. There has been plenty of heat over this subject. I’m not sure how much light there has been.
One issue that has been cloudy is whether or not this contraceptive care includes abortion. The President said it does not. If one limits this to abortion as a medical procedure, he is correct. Roman Catholic spokespersons say it does. If, by that, they refer to the Pill they are sort of right. The Pill is intended to prevent ovulation and therefore pregnancy. If the egg doesn’t drop it can’t be fertilized. But sometimes it fails. In that instance, the egg may be fertilized. The Pill creates an environment in which the fertilized egg has a difficult time implanting on the wall of the uterus. This can and does happen for women who don’t take the Pill. But in this case, the Pill produces an unknown number of chemical abortions. This is why some Protestants oppose the use of the Pill (the Church of Rome prohibits all use of all contraceptives).
But the larger issue is that of whether or not the government mandating such coverage is a violation of the U.S. Constitution with regard to the free exercise of religion.
I’ve been in a few discussions along these lines. The focus of those discussions has to do with limiting the matter to churches. Churches must be free, these people say, but the organizations in question are those owned by the Church of Rome. But they are not covered by the EEOC exemption permitted to churches. I think the recent Supreme Court decision regarding a church run school cuts the legs out of that argument. But I am not a constitutional scholar, nor a lawyer. I’m just trying to think this thing through.
But the focus was always on the organization. Is that the only focus of the Constitution?
“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 First Amendment
The Bill of Rights, which contains all the amendments intended to limit the powers of the Federal Government, concerns itself with the rights of individuals (citizens) not organizations. Organizations only have “rights” as they are groups of citizens.
What we need to consider is if the mandate for contraceptive care, on the part of the Federal Government, violates the free exercise of religion on the part of Joe or Josephine Catholic. Should a person be forced, by the government, to purchase and pay for (even if partially) insurance coverage that violates the teaching of their church and their conscience?
Keep in mine, this would not mean that contraceptive can not be available. They can be purchased by any who want them. Like everyone else, people have to make choices based on the limited resources they have. If getting the premium cable package is more important to them than not getting pregnant, why should others pay for their contraceptives? If a person wants a plan that includes contraceptives, that does not create a problem. If a health insurance provider only wants to provide plans that cover such things, they are free to do so. The only party who cannot mandate such a thing would be the Federal Government.
This discussion is only incidentally about contraceptives. It is really about the powers and limits of the government. While I may not agree with the Roman Catholic Church’s position on contraceptives (and I don’t agree with them on biblical principle), I agree they have the right to freely practice this aspect of their faith without coercion by the State. If the individual Catholic’s right is not upheld today, then my individual Reformed Protestant Christian rights may be stomped on in the future. By the providence of God we live in a country where this matters. I want those rights to remain for the benefit of future generations.
It is time we reframe this discussion to include the very point of the Bill of Rights. We need to talk about the rights of Catholic citizens to freely practice their religion whether we agree with them or not.