Friday, February 10, 2012

Do you want the shaft with or without Vaseline?—UPDATED

Photo credit: Larry Downing/Reuters (© 2012)
From Reuters News Service, today at 12:50 pm EST:
(Reuters) - President Barack Obama, in an abrupt policy shift aimed at quelling an election-year firestorm, announced on Friday that religious employers would not be required to offer free birth control to workers and that the onus would instead be put on insurers.
The compromise sought to accommodate religious organizations, such as Catholic hospitals and universities, outraged by a new rule that would have required them to offer free contraceptive coverage.
Instead, the new approach puts the burden on insurance companies, ordering them to provide workers at religious-affiliated institutions with free family planning if they request it, without involving their employer at all, the White House said.
"Religious organizations won't have to pay for these services," Obama told reporters in the White House briefing room. "But women who work at these institutions will have access to free contraceptive services."
On paper, the new approach looks broader than the "Hawai'i-style exemption" that the USCCB had already signaled was "not much of a compromise", and already one "Obama Catholic", Sr. Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association, has announced she's "very pleased" with the announcement.  (Is she not disturbed that Planned Parenthood capo CEO Cecile Richards is also pleased with it?)

Well, then, what's the problem?

The first problem is that the insurance company is still compelled to offer it.  While doubtless few insurance companies will shed any tears over the matter, convincing themselves through actuarial number-shuffling that they'll save money on abortion and maternity coverage (they won't), it will still mean that an insurance company won't be able to separate itself from contraceptive coverage, which will mean the religiously-affiliated employers will still be indirectly funding the coverage ... the separation will appear only on the accounting ledgers.  (For some reason, some people still think there's a moral difference between direct and indirect material cooperation in evil.)

Contingent on the first problem is the second problem:  the religiously-affiliated employer doesn't have to (directly) pay for the coverage, but he/she/they must tell the employee where and how they can get the coverage.  (Again, no real moral difference between direct and indirect material cooperation ... don't you get it?)  Truth and Charity snorted:

The accommodation would still result in grave scandal.  Would Catholic employee lounges put up posters that summarize Humanae Vitae and then say at the bottom: “in spite of Catholic teaching, do you want access to contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients? If so, speak with our human resources department about your options!”

The third problem is that the compromise doesn't affect the person who buys insurance separate from employee benefits; the rule as it currently exists does not allow exemptions for carriers in the individual market.  Blue Cross still has to put it on my policy whether I want it or not; Blue Cross can't set up a subsidiary that offers coverage-free policies.  If I choose not to buy any insurance because of that provision, I must pay the government anywhere from $95 to $750 to exercise my religious freedom.

No, this "accommodation" is hardly an accommodation at all.  Rather, the Obamination is offering the USCCB and other opponents an opportunity to make a face-saving claim of a "win" while actually conceding nothing of substance.  You. Must. Pay.  One way or another.  Whether you want to or not.

Directly or indirectly.

P.S.: Kudos to my brother Knight of Columbus Chris Comiskey for making an impassioned plea at our council meeting last night to sign Frank Weathers' petition on the White House website[I'm embarrassed — I thought I had the petition linked somewhere on my site, but I can't find the darned thing.  My apologies, Frank.]  The petition is at 29,056 .... over 4,000 past the number needed to force a reading by the White House, and still climbing.  If you haven't signed it yet, now's a great time to do so.  Also, sign the petition sponsored by the St. Gianna Physicians Guild!

Update: 7:21 PM CST
Two things: First, Jill Stanek confirms that the "accommodation" is actually worse than the original mandate, judging from pro-choice reactions:

NARAL and Planned Parenthood have joined RH Reality Check to enthusiastically support President Obama’s just announced “accommodation.”
The reason? Whereas before at least churches were exempted from providing insurance coverage for contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization, now even church insurance policies will have to cover them. As RH Reality states, “Under this plan, every insurance company will be obligated to provide contraceptive coverage.”
 Second, I got my kiss from the White House for having signed the petition:

I don't know why the memo reminds me of this scene from Dog Day Afternoon: