Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Obama Contraception Mandate

There is a fascinating debate going on in the US over religious freedom. The issue is the Obamacare Contraception Mandate.  

Obamacare of course is the system of increased public health brought in in the first phase of Obama’s term of office. It is strongly resisted by many right wing Americans as anti-capitalism, anti-freedom and unconstitutional. The US Supreme Court is considering this question and will rule on this in June—the decision may have a big effect on the forthcoming US election.
One of the most controversial aspects is the Contraception Mandate whereby the US government requires every employer in the US including church based organisations that employ many non-religious people, by Aug 1 2013, to fund birth control through health insurance including methods that cause abortions (abortifacients).

As you can imagine, this has led to outrage among evangelicals who oppose abortion on grounds of conscience. Of course Catholic officialdom not only opposes abortion but all forms of birth control. So this is a major issue which is turning into an election issue and with 47m Catholic votes up for grabs, Obama has a real fight on his hands. Catholic leaders many of whom supported Obama are rallying against this, and one Catholic Senator whose vote helped get Obamacare through has come out publically in strong opposition.
Due to the firestorm of response, Obama has backed down to a degree. He has now said that church based groups would not be forced to fund contraception, but insurance companies will be expected to provide it free of charge. This is receiving condemnation from evangelicals and Catholics who rightly ask, ‘insurance companies providing something free of charge? Yeah right!’ When did insurance companies pay for something for nothing? For many this does not resolve the dilemma. It suggests the issue is about money and is seen as insulting.

There are a number of issues here. First, we have the ongoing question of abortion and the clash of women’s rights and the rights of the baby—a fight that goes on and we who hold firm to the sanctity of life must continue relentlessly. It is ridiculous for a state government to insist that Catholics and others who oppose abortion fiercely must provide it, whether directly or with abortifacients.
Secondly, there is the issue of religious freedom; specifically, should the government intrude into the rights of religious groups to exercise their freedom to act on conscience? Opponents rightly see this as the government intruding into private life, a threat to the US constitution. Why should Christian groups fund something that violates their belief system? Chuck Colson has said on this, "We do not exaggerate when we say that this is the greatest threat to religious freedom in our lifetime." There is a strong sense in the US that the government is attacking religion—this sort of thing suggests that they are. 

Thirdly, there is the question of whether contraceptions and abortion is really a health issue—why on earth should health insurance cover contraception? A birth is a natural thing, not a disease. Why on earth should private health insurance cover condoms, the pill, and abortion? I say all power to the Catholics and evangelicals in the US—stand up for what you believe! If people want contraception, they should go and get it.
Of course, all this is due to western civilisation being ever-increasingly in a sexual mess. I watched TV3 news two nights gao and there were two news items in the first bracket of news that caught my attention. First, there was a report on taxi drivers being offered sexual favours in exchange for taking young women home. This is appalling. I know this to be true, a family member (not myself), who is not a taxi driver, was recently offered a sexual favour to give a girl a lift—they were shocked an rand for their life. Secondly, there was a report on the NZ political leaders lining up to be at the Big Gay Out yesterday with John Key mobbed and named NZ’s sexist male politician. We are increasingly like the licentious Roman Empire in which Christianity started.

As I write this, I have just seen a debate on TV over whether brothels should be in residential suburbs or not. The very fact that we are having this discussion says it all.
The answer of course is not government forcing contraceptives to be provided for even by religious organisations, but the good old-fashioned Judeo-Christian ethic where sex is for marriage between a man and a woman, and people should otherwise abstain—but I suppose I am an old-fashioned prude.



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