“We the People”: Missing the Point about Missing the Point about Missing the Point. Thanks but No Thanks. Reply

If you signed the “We the People” petition asking the White House to rescind the HHS Free Contraception, Sterilizations, and Abortifacient Drugs (paid for by all U.S. employers) Mandate, you likely got back an email response, like the one below, in your inbox sometime last week. As their thoughtful response appears a little one-sided, I’ve added a brief point-for-point commentary at the end of each section.

Protecting the Health of Women While Accommodating Religious Liberty

By Cecilia Muñoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council

Thank you for using We the People to make your voice heard about the Obama Administration’s decision to ensure that women have access to free preventive care with no co-pays, including contraceptive services, no matter where they work.

We’re not sure what “preventative care” with “no co-pays” means because:

  1. read on any you will see that free means insurance will have to pay for it, therefore it ends up coming out of everyone’s pocket anyway, whether you like it or not
  2. preventative care seems to exclude alternatives that actually are free, such as abstinence and natural family planning

As background, the Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to cover preventive services, including preventive care for women, without charging a co-pay, starting on August 1, 2012. These preventive services include well women visits, domestic violence screening, and contraception, and all were recommended to the Secretary of Health and Human Services by the independent Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science.

By following the hyperlink in this paragraph you will learn about other health services attached to this coverage plan that they think justifies forcing you to also pay for insurance policies, which will cover Contraception, Sterilizations, and Abortifacient Drugs, starting on August 1.

The policies we have proposed exempt churches, other houses of worship, and similar organizations from covering contraception on the basis of their religious objections. But some religious organizations have raised religious liberty concerns about providing contraception in particular in recent weeks.

It’s not shocking that “some religious organizations have raised religious liberty concerns”; Katherine Sebelius never consulted any American bishop before issuing her mandate. Why not? Do we really need to ask that question? As far as the exemptions go, read on…

Today, President Obama has announced that his Administration will implement this policy in a manner that fully accommodates religious liberty (emphasis added) while protecting the health of women. As the President said:

  • Nearly 99 percent of all women have relied on contraception at some point in their lives –- 99 percent. And yet, more than half of all women between the ages of 18 and 34 have struggled to afford it. So for all these reasons, we decided to follow the judgment of the nation’s leading medical experts and make sure that free preventive care includes access to free contraceptive care. Whether you’re a teacher, or a small businesswoman, or a nurse, or a janitor, no woman’s health should depend on who she is or where she works or how much money she makes. Every woman should be in control of the decisions that affect her own health. Period. This basic principle is already the law in 28 states across the country.
  • Now, as we move to implement this rule, however, we’ve been mindful that there’s another principle at stake here –- and that’s the principle of religious liberty, an inalienable right that is enshrined in our Constitution. As a citizen and as a Christian, I cherish this right. In fact, my first job in Chicago was working with Catholic parishes in poor neighborhoods, and my salary was funded by a grant from an arm of the Catholic Church. And I saw that local churches often did more good for a community than a government program ever could, so I know how important the work that faith-based organizations do and how much impact they can have in their communities.

Video of his entire statement is available here.

  1. The first objection you will hear from anyone who backs this mandate is that the president tried to compromise with you conservative, rightwing, brainwashed, zealots in a way that fully accommodates religious liberty. You just want to impose your views on other women’s freedom, and deny them affordable healthcare.
  2. However, no one who has carefully studied the revised mandate agrees that it fully accommodates religious liberty. In fact, most religious leaders, legal professionals, heads of university law schools, and several others still insist that this mandate violates our first amendment rights (see the Beckett Fund’s “Unacceptable” letter).
  3. This response from We the People includes only the opinions that supports its side in order to back its position (see the statement from the four groups that you would not agree with anyway, below).
  4. The statistical data it includes, like the fact that 99% of women use some form of birth control at some point in their lives (yet we are also told that they can hardly afford it at the same time) does not constitute an authoritative opinion. Just because many people have used contraception, it does not follow that someone else has to pay for it. If 99% of the male population developed internet pornography addiction to the extent that they could no longer afford to pay for it, should anyone be obliged to compensate their addiction? Obviously not. Even less so for contraception, since it is not compulsory and there are alternatives to using contraception that are not addressed in this release.
  5. If the president really cherished the right to religious liberty, he would be more respectful of our religious views and would not be forcing this issue.

Here are a few basic facts:

Under the policy, women have access to preventive care with no co-pay that includes contraceptive services.
All churches and houses of worship are exempt from the requirement to provide coverage for contraception or refer for contraception.
If a woman’s employer is a religious non-profit organization, such as a charity hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of its health plan, her insurance company — not the hospital or charity — will be required to reach out and provide her contraceptive care free of charge if she chooses to use it.
There are tremendous health benefits for women that come from using contraception. Contraception is a safe and effective way of preventing unintended pregnancies which can be associated with increased health risks, and doctors also prescribe contraception for medical and health reasons, including helping to reduce the risk of some cancers, serious infections and cysts. Yet many women skip contraceptive care because of cost.

Bishop Lori of Bridgeport brilliantly explained why the “exemptions” under this policy do not respect anyone’s religious liberty. Everyone should read his Parable of the Kosher Deli address before Congress if they have not already. In sum, he makes it clear that anyone who objects to this policy for religious reasons will still be forced to violate his conscious and pay for services that he finds morally objectionable.

President Obama is also committed to preserving religious liberty and he listened to the concerns raised by certain religious organizations and took them seriously.

The facts speak to the contrary: It is not evident that he is committed to preserving religious liberty, that he really listened to anyone with an open heart, or that he took them seriously; from what we are seeing, it appears to be just the oposite.

You can learn more about the policy here.

This link is gratuitous. It does not add to or explain what has not already been stated in this release.

This is an issue where people of good will on both sides of the debate have been grappling to find a solution that works for everyone, and the policy announced today has done that. The right to religious liberty will be fully protected, and a law that requires preventive care without co-pays will not discriminate against any woman, anywhere. Here are a few statements from groups involved in the issue:

As a further insult, here’s what 4 groups who you probably would not agree with in the first place have to say — that is, if you signed the petition to rescind the mandate. The views of those who oppose the mandate are not represented at all — further evidence that the no one listend to or took seriously the concerns raised by religious organizations. Nor is there any mention that anyone besides religious organizations oppose the mandate. Yet they present us here with praise from religious (Catholic only) and a-religious groups in support of the mandate.

Catholics United:

President Obama has shown us that he is willing to rise above the partisan fray to deliver an actual policy solution that both meets the health care needs of all employees and respects the religious liberty of Catholic institutions.
Catholic Health Association:

We are pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished.
Planned Parenthood:

The Obama administration has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring all women will have access to birth control coverage, with no costly co-pays, no additional hurdles, and no matter where they work.

Today’s announcement makes it clear that President Obama is firmly committed to protecting women’s health.

Clear because you say so? It’s also clear that he’s not committed to respecting anyone’s rights of conscious. In sum, we live in a Democracy, therefore it’s all relative, might makes right, and have a nice day.

Thank you again for participating in the We the People platform to make your voice heard on this important issue.

In other words, Thanks but No Thanks.

Check out this response on We the People.

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