Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Contraceptive Mandate Accommodation Con Job

I'm pressed for time so this may be a little scattered, but I said I'd make a prediction and so I will.

But first: Obama's compromise is not, I think, really that at all. It sounds to me like a word game in which one and the same proposition is described in two different ways, such that the appearance changes but not the substance. It's as if I had declined - wishing to avoid culpability in the transaction - to tell an inquiring friend how he might find a prostitute, but told him instead of a pimp of my acquaintance who had some women at his disposal. If moral sophistry did not already have a bad name, Obama's tactic would, let us say, turn the trick.

Obamabots will object that this is a poor analogy. You, they will say, do not even have to tell your friend about the pimp's services. The pimp himself will be required to approach your friend about this additional free benefit. The pimp makes his real money by selling women to other individuals and institutions who have no moral qualms about sexual activities between consenting adults. You only have to contract with the pimp to provide other, non-objectionable services, such as low co-pay visits to the doctor for treatment of venereal disease.

As far as I can tell, it would work like this: a Catholic institution will no longer have to make noises about its health benefits policy offering contraception, but the insurance company with whom they've contracted will in fact have to offer it. For free! That is, whatever company the institution signs up with must offer the coverage. If the institution refuses, it is required to offer no health plan at all and, further, to pay to the government enormous sums of money in punitive fines. The certain result? Unable to attract a sufficient number of qualified employees and debilitated by the fines, the institution dies. The hoped-for result? The institution, bowing before the state, decides to swallow its principles, rationalizing that it's better to live to fight another day. Before they do that, though, they'd best consider that, once they cave, the impetus to change the law will dissipate like fog in the morning sun. That other day on which to fight will never come.

What Obama has offered the institutions is a chance to pretend that the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing, even though it knows. They won't verbally be offering the contraceptive coverage, but they know who will. They will always know because they're allowed to do business only with the kind of insurance company that offers the coverage - which is every insurance company in the land. Thus, they become unwilling partners in the birth control drug-pushing business, which is further disguised by calling it "essential preventive healthcare for women." To add another layer of pretense, Obama then tells these institutions that not only will they not be required to offer verbal assent to the transaction, but that the party doing so will be offering the drug for FREE! "See?" he says. "You're not culpable because not only are you not paying for it, NO ONE ELSE IS EITHER! Can we all go home now?"

Obama's supporters think they've scored a great coup with this offer of something for nothing. I'll set aside my scepticism that anything can be gotten for free; that, for example, the insurance companies will part with the pills out of their largesse or even largeness of heart. Let's say it's true; the pills will cost nobody nothing. What Obie's sycophants can't seem to comprehend is that this is irrelevant to the Catholic objection. If I were a streetcorner pimp or pusher, I could offer the whores and the drugs for free and it would still be immoral. A pimp at any price, or none at all, is still a pimp.

I must say, though, that in this arrangement I have some sympathy for the pimp-pusher, who is being as fully compelled by the government to offer this service as is the religious institution with which it contracts. It may be that some insurance companies promote contraceptive coverage with great delight. I presume that its inclusion jacks up the price of a group policy to some greater or lesser degree. But maybe some insurance companies didn't want to become pimp-pushers. Maybe some employees who make their living selling insurance policies have moral inhibitions about providing coverage for someone's sexual behavior, and in some cases for their attempt to be rid of a newly conceived human being. They're in a difficult position now, aren't they? It seems to me that their consciences ought to be as of much value as that of an institution's collective sort.

To make a long story short, this all sounds to me like tyranny, not by another name, but in the fullness of its undisguised contempt for the rebellion of conscience against the reigning secular ethos. After all, people who oppose birth control coverage are extremists, are they not? Well, here's an irony: "As recently as the 1990's," CBS tells us, "many health insurance plans didn’t even cover birth control. Protests, court cases, and new state laws led to dramatic changes. Today, almost all plans cover prescription contraceptives — with varying copays. Medicaid, the health care program for low-income people, also covers contraceptives. Indeed, a government study last summer found that birth control use is virtually universal in the United States..."

In other words, the collapse has been sudden, precipitous, and frankly devastating as regards the liberty interests of private employers and insurance providers, a liberty they have surrendered to government authority without so much as a peep. I don't know how to explain it, but Obama is capitalizing on it and has simply taken this surrender to its next logical degree.

And yet, we can comfort ourselves - can we not? - with the knowledge that the Catholic objection still stands on the moral and constitutional high ground, which must always triumph in the end. Musn't it? Well, it's more complicated than that. My prediction is that Obama will win this "war" (the Catholic Sebelius's word), but that is the subject for another post. Sorry.

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