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