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Showing posts from February, 2013

The bishops, Hobby Lobby, and the contraceptive mandate

Yesterday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement about the latest HHS contraceptive mandate rules. While they are still opposed to what they see as a grave threat to religious liberty, the overall tone of the statement is measured, and they waited one week to officially respond while they considered the new rules.

In the post-2008 world of hyper-partisanship and hyperbole, I think we are entitled to label that a kind of progress.

The bishops still find inadequate the Obama Administration's attempts to create a wall between religiously-affiliated employers and the provision of free birth control to their employees. I think that the firewall is in fact adequate and consistent with norms in American political culture and the current and past relationship of the Catholic Church with the U.S. government and the flow of taxpayer money to the Church (see my prior posts on the subject).

For that reason, I don't think that the Church is going to win the battle o…

Why not impose the contraceptive mandate on everyone?

Given the revised contraceptive mandate rules, there are now clear firewalls between religious employers and the contraceptive services their employees shall receive (see previous post). As I put it earlier, it is not like religious organizations are even providing free birth control-- their health insurance company or the federal government is providing it. The fact that religious organizations provide health insurance for their employees is just the hook for third parties to provide their free birth control to their employees.

Here's a question: If any organization with religious conscience objections can be exempt from having to directly (or even indirectly) pay for birth control for their employees, why shouldn't all organizations that offer health insurance, religious organizations included-- like churches-- be covered under the mandate?

The system that is now being proposed essentially has secular health insurers or the government pay for birth control for employees of …

The contraceptive mandate and indirect support of things we don't like

The latest proposals for the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate were released a few days ago. From what I gather, there are two major adjustments:
The types of groups that are exempt from having to provide free birth control in their health plans expanded slightly. More importantly, of the groups that are still required to provide a health care plan with free contraceptive services, those with religious objections to contraception are further insulated from funding those services. Insurers, not the organizations who contract with them, pay for contraceptive services themselves (so that no employer money pays for birth control). For employers that self-insure, a separate government entity will provide the contraceptive services, again at no cost to the employer.  At this point, for employers with religious objections to contraceptives, I think it is inaccurate to even say that they will be 'providing' contraceptive services to their employees. It is more accurate t…

America's falling birth rate?

One wing of reproductive politics focuses on the world's human population and the population of specific countries. The things I read about population growth, decline, birth rates, etc., all seem to be weapons in a proxy war over gender roles, contraception, abortion, and family planning.

Many people who are pro-life simply care about the sacredness of life or the rights of the unborn or declining  family values. They do not necessarily want more babies, per se. Others, however, are pro-natalist-- they see an active good in more babies being born and increasing the size of the population. They also focus on evils done in the name of population control-- China's one-child policy, for example-- and the unintended consequences of the worldwide family planning movement, such as the use of sex-selective abortions in countries like India.

The wing of the pro-life movement that is pro-natalist tends to fight against the conventional wisdom that the size of the world's population…

TRAPs, Mississippi, and pink abortion clinics

Speaking of Mississippi (see my last post), the fight goes on over the state's only abortion clinic, in Jackson.

As you know, the Mississippi government is trying to implement regulations that would make it impossible for the Jackson Women's Health Organization to stay open. The status of the clinic is in limbo while the state and the clinic battle it out in court.

In the meantime, two developments:

First, the governor, Phil Bryant, committed a gaffe, which in American politics means he told the truth. At a pro-life event, he stated the obvious: He wants to shut down the Jackson clinic. To be fair, it is not clear that he meant that his support and defense of the current Mississippi regulations is driven primarily by a desire to shut down the clinic. Governor Bryant theoretically could have a parallel desire to make the abortion process safer for women.

It does seem a bit of a stretch. What marks the Mississippi regulations as "TRAPs"(Targeted Regulations of Abortio…

Turkey's proposed abortion law

The country of Turkey is dealing with its own kind of TRAP law, it seems. In reproductive politics, the term "TRAP" refers to Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers-- regulations that ostensibly improve the safety of abortion as a medical procedure, but in reality serve to raise the expense and difficulty of providing abortions. By adding requirements, such as surgery-center quality facilities, which are nice but medically unnecessary, abortion clinics are driven out of business, limiting access to abortion.

One type of TRAP is to focus on the medical credentials of those providing abortions. In Mississippi, for example, the state is attempting to implement a requirement that all abortion doctors have admitting privileges to a local hospital. The problem is, all of the local hospitals around the sole abortion clinic, in Jackson, refuse to provide admitting privileges, either because they are pro-life or are intimidated by pro-life activists and government officials. As a…