Obama announces “an accommodation” on the birth control issue:
The “accommodation” is reasonable, and The Catholic Health Association (which was considered subversive by some Bishops during the 2009 health care debate) is “very pleased with the White House announcement”.
The original issue is complete bullshit—yet another unholy liaison between religious extremists and right wing political opportunists. As MoJo’s Nick Baumann points out, much of the policy dates back to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruling back in December, 2000, that went entirely unchallenged by the Bush administration:
“It was, we thought at the time, a fairly straightforward application of Title VII principles,” a top former EEOC official who was involved in the decision told Mother Jones. “All of these plans covered Viagra immediately, without thinking, and they were still declining to cover prescription contraceptives. It’s a little bit jaw-dropping to see what is going on now…There was some press at the time but we issued guidances that were far, far more controversial.”
After the EEOC opinion was approved in 2000, reproductive rights groups and employees who wanted birth control access sued employers that refused to comply. The next year, in Erickson v. Bartell Drug Co., a federal court agreed with the EEOC’s reasoning.
So what changed? Almost nothing:
“We have used [the EEOC ruling] many times in negotiating with various employers,” says Judy Waxman, the vice president for health and reproductive rights at the National Women’s Law Center. “It has been in active use all this time. [President Obama's] policy is only new in the sense that it covers employers with less than 15 employees and with no copay for the individual. The basic rule has been in place since 2000.”
The real issue at stake IS about religious freedom. It’s about whether an employer can impose its religious views on employees—and their bodies. It is whether individuals who work for religious-affiliated employers are required to accept their employer’s extremist views.
And, no mistake about it, a prohibition on contraception in America, in 2012, is an extremist view.
No. Individual rights to private matters of conscience—and matters of personal health—trump those of religious institutions.
The government is right to protect individuals from that institutional violence.