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Controlling Birth Control

Let’s assume for sake of this post that Obamacare is constitutional on its face. That is, there is no problem requiring all citizens to have insurance. I don’t think this is necessarily the case, but this issue will be decided in the courts over the next year or so. The more interesting question for people of religion is whether the requirement that employers insure their employees and provide all women with free access to birth control pills is a violation of the first amendment or more provocatively, if is an “attack against religion”.

To start, some math. The government is an insurer. With or without Obamacare. This is because the government provides public health care for many people. The poor, the elderly, and others all get their health care paid for by the government. Insurance costs have risen higher than the inflation rate. One proposed reason for this is because uninsured people weigh down the system. At this point there are three choices. One choice is to continue on this path and provide care to the uninsured without a plan to pay for it. The second choice is to cut off the uninsured and deny them care unless they pay up front. The third choice is to create a comprehensive plan to lower the cost and insure everybody. Obama has chosen choice number three as have many other countries across the world.

Choice three requires that costs be lowered. One useful tool in keeping health care costs down is to provide free birth control. This is a mathematical fact. It sounds crude and unkind. But it is true. Unwanted pregnancies are bound to happen in a free society and even if we all agree that it is amoral to engage in activities that can create an unwanted pregnancy that doesn’t change the fact that they still occur. Providing birth control to everyone helps alleviate this burden.

That is the math. It is not a decision by secularists to force people to stop having religious babies. It is an economic decision.

That being said, we need to analyze whether an unintended result of this policy is offensive or even an attack against religious people.

The Pope declared that using birth control is proscribed by God. In Catholicism, the Pope has this authority. Under the current rules, Catholics do not need to use birth control. They don’t have to pick it up at the pharmacy. They can pretend it doesn’t exist for all anyone care. Although, according to the statistics 98% of Catholic women have used birth control and 78% believe one can be a good Catholic and use birth control.

The next issue is whether a Catholic person or institution can be required to pay for birth control on behalf of others. This is where it gets sticky. Technically speaking, Catholics, like most other religions believe that everyone has to listen to their laws, not just Catholics. Their view, like most religions, is that salvation or nirvana or perfection comes through their laws and lifestyle. Therefore, paying for others to use birth control sort of delays this process. It impedes their progress towards a world of perfection, ie Catholics. Thus, in this manner of speaking, the requirement that employers provide and pay for insurance that covers birth control is a type of violation of the religious beliefs of Catholics.

The problem with this view is that it enters extremely dangerous territory. It is impossible for the government to accommodate all religious views and hopes for world domination. Without getting into specifics, every religion has beliefs that concern some Utopian period where their laws are supreme. It is impossible to reconcile all these laws with government policy.

Religions have and will continue to focus on their adherents and instruct them to follow the laws of their particular religion. But religions must keep their Utopian beliefs between each other and cannot expect the world to cow to beliefs that impose on others or that dictate how others, outside their religion should act. Finally, the government is not to be used as a tool to manipulate the citizens of the country into neatly adhering to a particular religious beliefs. The government should not play any role in assisting religions achieving their goals of religious superiority.

The argument over birth control has become politicized. It is no longer about religious freedom, rather it has become an exercise in controlling birth control.

Finally, I find it odd that orthodox Jewish groups have aligned themselves with those who are against the birth control provision. I already wrote about that on DovBear a couple months ago: OU and Agudah Unite Against Contraceptives

Some links: NY Times, US News


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  • Anonymous

      Choice three requires that costs be lowered. One useful tool in keeping health care costs down is to provide free birth control. This is a mathematical fact. It sounds crude and unkind. But it is true. Unwanted pregnancies are bound to happen in a free society and even if we all agree that there is it amoral to engage in activities that can create an unwanted pregnancy that doesn’t change the fact that they still occur. Providing birth control to everyone helps alleviate this burden. 

    That is the math.

    I like math! Apparently 99% (98% for Catholics) of couples use birth control today. Can you show us the math regarding how many fewer unwanted babies will be born if the law forces insurance to pay for it?
    In my opinion, this is an almost purely political issue. Why? Because nobody has proposed a law to force insurance coverage to include immunizations, and immunization has as high, or perhaps higher, social benefit as birth control has.

    Unfortunately, election years tend to bring out the politics of nearly every decision.

  • tesyaa

    It’s not just an economic decision, is it?  Isn’t it also a public health and quality of life decision?  It is safer for a woman to avoid pregnancy than to give birth.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      a) I’m trying to speak in terms that conservatives are more likely to appreciate.
      b) Your assumption is debatable when you consider religious motivations of private citizens.

  • Daniel Wiesel

    “Although, according to the statistics 98% of Catholic women have used birth control and 78% believe one can be a good Catholic and use birth control.”
    That is a very interesting statistic. Do you have a source?

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Click the NYT link at the end of the post. This stat has been floating around for a while.

  • http://profiles.google.com/holyhyrax Holy Hyrax

    >But religions must keep their Utopian beliefs between each other and cannot expect the world to cow to beliefs that impose on others or that dictate how others, outside their religion should act. 
    Too true, but what does that have to do with what the government is imposing on them? Meaning, i agree, the catholic church should not set out to make birth control illegal for others (my means of the state) , but neither should the government impose things on them as well.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Where is the imposition on Catholic citizens?

      • http://profiles.google.com/holyhyrax Holy Hyrax

        Then where is the imposition by the Catholics on others outside their religion?

        But to answer your question at least, the catholic church is comprised of….catholic citizens and government telling them they need to supply something (X) in which case they don’t believe in (X). Now, rightfully, not every employee of catholic organizations are catholics, but you are still asking that organization to do something they don’t believe in. These catholic churches aren’t telling their non-catholic employees they are not allowed to get X on their own, but that THEY should be the one supplying it.

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          Again. Please articulate how paying for insurance that provides birth control violates any Catholic law.

          • http://profiles.google.com/holyhyrax Holy Hyrax

            Perhaps, (in a hypothetical scenerio) it would be the same as asking the OU to pay for insurance that would also provide free euthanasia. That particular service, that their money is going to, is an affront to their religion. Come on rabbi, you are being a little obtuse here, I think. 

            You, as an orthodox rabbi, just think of any scenerio that deeply offends your religion, and then the government saying you must put in the money for that service. 

            • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

              If a non-Jew wants to be euthanized and somehow it was the case that euthanasia was an important public health issue, I would have no problem paying for insurance that provided it. I wouldn’t use it. Others may.

              • http://profiles.google.com/holyhyrax Holy Hyrax

                a) wow
                b) I know this is one of those dividers between the right and the left, where the left likes to call anything they want for a free a “public health issue.” Nevertheless, the fact that it is for public health does not mean someone else should pay for it, let alone an organization that is dimatrically opposed to it. 
                c)  Well, I think its jim dandy that you personally don’t mind paying for it. If you are up for it, send a check, but would you side with OU if ever the government tried to impose something we were so opposed to? Either euthanasia or anything else we considered immoral. 
                d) what is to stop Jews from using such services? It’s not like you can dictate that the insurance only pays for non-Jews. 
                e) again, I am just a little…..bewildered by you. We all are entitled to our beliefs an opinions ofcourse. But you carry on some sort of mantle of  “Orthodoxy” yet you would have no problem paying for a service that covered euthanasia? The fact that hypothetically it may be legally, does not make it moral. And I am equally bewildered that you think, by you NOT wanting to pay for it, (and letting others buy it themselves if they wish) it would be YOU that is imposing your values on others, rather than the government, out of nowhere, now demanding something out of you.

                • http://profiles.google.com/holyhyrax Holy Hyrax

                  But, at the very least, we have clarity where we stand. And I think that is perhaps most important.

        • http://profiles.google.com/holyhyrax Holy Hyrax

          If anything, you are all against a religions utopian supremacy, but have no problem with governmental views on a utopian supremacy. I’m not saying the catholic belief should dictate birth control be flat out illegal in the U.S. But I also don’t want governmental belief being imposed on an organization that clearly does not believe in it. The government is not “accommodating” anything here, since it is the government being active here, wanted to create something new and impose it on others. If anything you are asking the catholics to accommodate the government. So then I find it a little odd, that you are finding something odd in OJ organizations siding with the catholic church in this issue. 

  • ahg

    The problem with this view is that it enters extremely dangerous territory. It is impossible for the government to accommodate all religious views. Without getting into specifics, many religions have beliefs that require children to be put through dangerous, irreversible, body altering procedures.   It is impossible to reconcile all these laws with government policy.  Therefore male circumcision, along with other forms of genital or other body alterations should be prohibited until adulthood.  The state must protect the children….Do you see why protecting religious freedom should be the first and foremost concern of every orthodox Jew, even if he issue at hand isn’t as much “our issue” as it may be for Catholics and others of the Christian faith.
    If you think I am exaggerating then you haven’t been paying attention to what went on this year a little north of you in your state last year.  

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      I don’t view it the same way. Why fight a ridiculously contrived battle for the sake of some future war that may or may not take place? The people on the paranoid side of this argument have zero credibility on these matters in my book at this point.

      • http://profiles.google.com/holyhyrax Holy Hyrax

        Um, for the sheer value of Liberty perhaps? That this entire country is founded on the principle of checks and balances and not giving too much power to the centralized government in fear (or as you call it, being paranoid) that they will end up deciding too much and imposing on the private citizens. LOL, paranoia!!!! The core principles of our legal system was founded on paranoia. 

        Why not simply leave religious institutions alone? Why force them to pay for a moral wrong? Are women so entitled to free contraception that you have to minimize the liberty of another group for that end goal?What people like you don’t realize is that power, and liberty lost don’t happen overnight. It drips slowly and slowly. (It’s what Thomas Sowell calls “first stage thinking”). Right now, our lovely county passed a law that you are fined $1000 for throwing a frisbee or football on our beaches. Do you think that sort of “chutzpah” to pass such laws would possibly exist if the state hadn’t passed other laws, like absurd non-smoking laws? Or trans fat laws? You stop the state in the beginning, before they can get to this level of chutzpah. Because once they are on a roll, its very hard to stop them. 

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          Yes. It is paranoia. I’m sorry.

          You should also do some research on the law at the beach.

          I was a relaxing of archaic laws. Not a new law. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/02/football-and-frisbee-beach-furor-la-county-reels.html

          • http://profiles.google.com/holyhyrax Holy Hyrax

            I know its paranoia, so what? Most things tend to be paranoia when people see government flexing too much power over its citizenry. Remember, like the patriot act?

    • http://profiles.google.com/holyhyrax Holy Hyrax

      Good point ahg

      With brit milah, Fink was hollering at the people trying to get government involved. Now? Well nothing now. Why? Because these are Catholics.

      • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

        Why is it so for you to see the difference between BANNING a religious activity that has not been shown to harm anyone and requiring companies that are run by religious people to provide insurance which provides birth control to people who use it?!

        They have nothing to do with each other. I am getting tired of talking about this. Seriously. It’s getting ridiculous already.

        • http://profiles.google.com/holyhyrax Holy Hyrax

          Because they are BOTH an imposition by the government. You are looking at this in the micro, where you SHOULD be looking at it at the macro. If anything, if anything, I can understand government getting more involving in making brit milah since you ARE freaking mutilating a child here. 

          And how is it so hard for YOU to understand that a religious organization finds birth control abhorrent. And now, they are forced to fund that abhorrence. Its IRRELEVENT if they specifically use it. They are FORCED to pay for it. I would never want my money going to something I find to be immoral. This isn’t complicated Fink. 

          Lets give you micro example for you to understand better. I once bought something non-kosher accidentally. I wanted to get rid of it somehow and someone, Jewish, wanted it. I told her that I could not give it to her. She got incensed that I was imposing my orthodoxy on her. But I’m not. She, on her own, can do whatever she wants. But I don’t have to actively give her something that I find morally wrong.

          Yes, this is getting ridiculous already.

          • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

            What fantasy world do you live in that the government doesn’t impose on you? Do you have a driver’s license? Do you follow zoning laws? Do you beat your children? Do you steal? Do you think these are NOT government impositions?! The government makes millions of impositions. I only need to protests the impositions that are offensive. THIS ONE IS NOT OFFENSIVE.

  • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

    One more thing:

    Do the religious groups also oppose insurance plans that subsidize birth control and it costs the user $10 instead of full price? Or do they only oppose FREE birth control? Because all insurance with prescription plans cover BC. Do the insurance plans at these religious places not cover BC at all?!

    What is going on here!?

    • http://profiles.google.com/holyhyrax Holy Hyrax

      Good question:

      My guess would be that it is the “FREE” one, since, it’s not really free, but they have to foot the extra bill. But if I am not mistaken, that is the compromise Obama tried to make. That they don’t pay for it, but the insurance company would offer it.

      • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

        I’m sorry. But their position just went from paranoid and ridiculous to insane.

        • http://profiles.google.com/holyhyrax Holy Hyrax

          insane?

          • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

            Yes. Insane to say that subsidizing BC is perfectly fine but giving it for free is an assault on religion. That is insane.

    • ahg

      I imagine the Catholic church is large enough that in some places they may have been able to negotiate a customized plan to suit their needs although I don’t really know.   However, I do understand why creating special protections for something they find abhorrent and in contradiction to their religious values is wrong.   

      Vaccinations are also beneficial and cost saving to society but they are not free. 
      Generic conception pills, without coverage, run about $30/month.  Is it terrible that an employee of the Catholic church pay $360 a year out of pocket for their pills?   For those who can’t afford the $360, there already is gov’t health care plans all tax payers pay for that will give it to them for nothing.  

  • http://profiles.google.com/holyhyrax Holy Hyrax

    >Yes. Insane to say that subsidizing BC is perfectly fine but giving it for free is an assault on religion. That is insane.
    Most insurance companies offer birth control with prescription. There is nothing the Church can do about that. (plus you don’t even know the plan the Church uses. It may not even cover, so who knows) But that is different than saying the organization is SPECIFICALLY paying for that specific product on top now. 

    Clearly, the government is mandating something different here than has been the case till now. Instead of calling them insane, why don’t you take your own medicine, and show a little more tolerance, and compassion, and actually ASK them, instead of name calling. There is obviously something here that you are missing. But its easier to simply call them names……because they are catholics

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      I am not missing anything. I have read up on this topic extensively.

      • http://profiles.google.com/holyhyrax Holy Hyrax

        If you have read on the topic extensively, then why did you bother asking the above question? Clearly, you are missing something.

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          It’s a rhetorical question.

          • http://profiles.google.com/holyhyrax Holy Hyrax

            So explain. At least from their perspective. Clearly, there is something here that Obama is asking them to do differently. So what is it?

            • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

              Pay for insurance thats provides it for free as opposed to with a co-pay.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      And I am not name calling. I am saying the faulty logic is insane. Not the people. Come on…

  • http://profiles.google.com/holyhyrax Holy Hyrax

    >Pay for insurance thats provides it for free as opposed to with a co-pay.
    1) Are there any insurances out there that DO NOT cover birth control?
    2) Which insurance are they using now? Are they using a policy that does not cover birth control
    3) I can understand if now they are forced to pay extra, specifically for the cause of birth control.

  • http://profiles.google.com/holyhyrax Holy Hyrax

    >What fantasy world do you live in that the government doesn’t impose on you? Do you have a driver’s license? Do you follow zoning laws? Do you beat your children? Do you steal? Do you think these are NOT government impositions?! The government makes millions of impositions. I only need to protests the impositions that are offensive. THIS ONE IS NOT OFFENSIVE.

    OH PHULEASE. Im strickly talking about government mandating the private citizen to buy something. If women want birth control, let them pay for it. Nobody is stopping them. Did I give any hint that I am against government enforcing law and order and the common protection of its citizenry? For crying out loud.

    And if you don’t find it offensive. Great for you. Then buy it for your employees. But let other organizations buy, or not buy what they want.

  • Anonymous

    It is NOT necessarily paranoia, the numbers clearly show government growing almost incessantly and thus gaining more and more power.

    See here for more information - http://bit.ly/a7ARNf

  • Anonymous

    It is NOT necessarily paranoia, the numbers clearly show government growing almost incessantly and thus gaining more and more power.

    See here for more information - http://bit.ly/a7ARNf

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Baruch-Gitlin/100000444518959 Baruch Gitlin

    I’d like to raise another controversial issue that might help clarify this argument: organ donations and transplants. As I think most people are aware, there are many poskim that do not recognize brain death as death. Therefore, Jews following these poskim are not permitted to donate organs upon brain death – which I believe makes organ donation impossible under most of not all circumstances. Yet, at least some of these poskim do allow a Jew to accept an organ donation even if brain death were the criteria used to enable the transplant. If an insurance program paid for organ donations based on brain death, would this be considered an attack on freedom of religion because it would be forcing employers to participate in a program that might encourage murder, according to halahca? Or would this be acceptable, because its providing for lives to be saved in a halachicly acceptable manner (from the point of view of the organ recipient)? My point in bringing this example is that once we start lobbying for religiously-based exceptions to health insurance programs, we’re treading in some very complex territory. I don’t think any government health insurance law could really address every religiously based reservation.