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Journal of No. 118


February 8th, 2012

Toying with the Lady Parts @ 04:19 pm


Firebrand godless childfree abortions-for-all person that I am, I'm still a little ambivalent about the Obama Administration's decision to make quasi-religious groups offer insurance plans to employees that cover birth control.

I mean, I honestly feel that a full range of family planning services is an essential part of women's healthcare. So... shouldn't the government direct insurance companies to cover family planning? But in that case, why have any exemption at all for churches?

I mean, if the Church of Red Asphalt has a philosophical objection to seatbelts, that doesn't stop the government from making laws that automakers have to follow. Those laws don't affect individual consciences or the tenets of the church.

If some nun wants to go on the Pill, it's no business of mine to help enforce the Church's will on her, that she not use BC, or if she does, she's damn well going to pay full price for it. She has her own conscience, and presumably knows what she wants. And if the Church finds out, they can always fire her or defrock her or whatever, like the Catholic school that fired the teacher for getting pregnant through artificial insemination. (Yay, religious liberties!)

I guess the problem is if the Red Asphaltists take their convictions so strongly that they forswear cars. Analogously, if churches or religious organizations stood on principle and dropped medical insurance for their employees, that would not appear to be a good thing, either. And this would conceivably apply not only to churches, but also the other religiously branded organizations currently under discussion.
(However, since many states already require this sort of coverage, presumably this is not what would happen.)

As a more realistic analogy, the Jehovah's Witnesses do not accept blood transfusions, even in life or death cases. This is a "non-negotiable religious stand", and JW's generally ostracize (former) members who undergo such procedures. Although their religious stand is quite clear, I don't think they are exempt from offering insurance that covers transfusions. Should they be? I don't see any difference, except that people get a lot more excitable when we start talking about lady parts, and what ought and oughtn't to be done with them.

Can I start my church that has as its central dogma that medical treatments that cost more than $100 are anathema? Can I then get really cheap 'medical' insurance to offer my employees?

Do we want the free market to decide what procedures insurance companies offer coverage for?
If not, and there is some sort of established nucleus of medical procedures that must legally be covered, why shouldn't birth control be part of that?
 
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From:Jennifer Johnson
Date:February 8th, 2012 08:59 pm (UTC)

Religious Freedom

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Religious organizations should retain their right to operate as they choose in the United States. There is a long-standing precedent that if you choose to work for a church or religious organization, you are not offered the same government-mandated benefits and protections you would be if you worked for a regular employer. The employee and employer are presumably entering an arrangement of certain values and beliefs that are mutually understood.

I worked for an extremely small employer when I became pregnant with my first child. My employment was pretty much terminated as a result, albeit cordially and with warning. I had all manner of well-intended friends and family members screaming I should cry foul, demand maternity leave, etc. But - it was a small employer. It is regulated differently. A small company with 2.5 employees cannot afford to hold a job for 3 months or offer paid leave, or operate at profit when over a third of its work force is suddenly removed. I knew the risks, costs, and benefits associated with my employment arrangement when I chose to accept the job.

The prospective employee bears some responsibility to evaluate the employment situation before accepting a job. Government regulations can offer protections to individuals so that there is no bait and switch or withholding of reasonably expected benefits on the part of large companies, corporations, government employers, etc. But ultimately, you don't accept a job with a 3-person company if having FMLA benefits are of vital importance to you. You don't accept a job at Holy Spirit Catholic School if you want your employer to pay for your NuvaRing. This is just common sense.

Presumably, our judicial system is equipped to handle anyone who tries to abuse religious freedom protections by creating Church of the Cheap Medical Insurance out of nowhere.





Edited at 2012-02-09 01:01 am (UTC)
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From:essentialsaltes
Date:February 8th, 2012 09:23 pm (UTC)

Re: Religious Freedom

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Religious organizations should retain their right to operate as they choose in the United States. There is a long-standing precedent that if you choose to work for a church or religious organization, you are not offered the same government-mandated benefits and protections you would be if you worked for a regular employer. The employee and employer are presumably entering an arrangement of certain values and beliefs that are mutually understood.

So, historical precedent is the reason this should remain the way it is?
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From:ian_tiberius
Date:February 9th, 2012 04:08 am (UTC)

Re: Religious Freedom

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At one time, it was mutually understood by employer and employee that small children would work fourteen-hour-days in dangerous factories. Precedent alone is not a sufficient reason to preserve the status quo.

The fact that the Church might not like what their employees do with their benefits doesn't mean they can be withheld. Can they refuse to issue a paycheck because the employee is going to buy condoms, or cancel vacation time because the employee is going to go visit (and have sex with) someone he isn't married to? Of course not. So what makes health benefits different?
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From:kyrialyse
Date:February 9th, 2012 01:25 pm (UTC)
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I tend to agree that religious organizations should not be forced to act against their beliefs (except in obvious cases of public safety, like I'd really rather no one sacrificed virgins in Times Square. Although that would be really popular on YouTube)
For example, although I believe gay people have the right as human beings to get married, I don't think churches who disapprove should be forced to perform the ceremonies for them.
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From:kyrialyse
Date:February 9th, 2012 01:26 pm (UTC)
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Stupid computer posted too soon. Postus interruptus! What I was going on to say was that according to the news report I saw, these institutions, Catholic hospitals and suchlike, accept public funds. And if you accept public funds, in my view you need to obey the same rules as everyone else and may not discriminate.
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From:ian_tiberius
Date:February 9th, 2012 01:39 pm (UTC)
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I don't believe that the new law is in any way limited to institutions that accept public funds; it's for all entities that provide health insurance to employees. There *is* an exemption, but to be exempt an institution has to meet all of the following:

"1) has inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a nonprofit organization."
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From:essentialsaltes
Date:February 9th, 2012 01:58 pm (UTC)
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Interesting. That's the same exemption that appears in most of the state laws. And I believe I read elsewhere that that particular verbiage first cropped up in the CA law (1999).
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From:essentialsaltes
Date:February 9th, 2012 02:13 pm (UTC)
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I guess the question is whether offering a more inclusive insurance plan for your employees is an 'act against their beliefs'. Although what passes for my argument in the OP seems to aim toward coverage without any exemptions at all, I'm sincere in my ambivalence about the issue. But I wonder how much of that is tied up in the pervasive idea that contraception is 'optional' or 'not really' healthcare, unlike blood transfusions. But reproductive health is a part of health. Quoting WHO:
Within the framework of WHO's definition of health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, reproductive health addresses the reproductive processes, functions and system at all stages of life. Reproductive health, therefore, implies that people are able to have a responsible, satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so.

Implicit in this are the right of men and women to be informed of and to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of fertility regulation of their choice, and the right of access to appropriate health care services that will enable women to go safely through pregnancy and childbirth and provide couples with the best chance of having a healthy infant.


I dunno. I'm trying to talk myself into being a crusader for the Pill, but I guess I still don't feel super strongly on the issue. Fine, let the Church be dicks. Wouldn't be the first time.

I'm with you on churches having the right to marry whoever they like.
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From:Jennifer Johnson
Date:February 15th, 2012 11:24 pm (UTC)

What is "insurance" anyways?

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This whole discussion also operates under increasingly-common view of health insurance that implies it should cover all costs universally.

Truly, this is a bizarre notion of insurance. For example, most states require residents by law to have auto insurance, but the auto insurance does not pay for my tires, maintenance, or even repairs that are not linked to some kind of accident. Yet all of these items are still important for a vehicle to remain safe and operational.

I could delve into a whole other rant about how I think we're missing the mark with health insurance to begin with, but I suppose that is another topic. Insurance should essentially function to protect a person from catastrophic financial ruin in the event of unforeseen circumstances - such is the case with virtually every other kind of insurance. Health insurance has become a great deal more than that, and while I find that problematic, it is what it is. That's fine, but I cannot find justification for mandating religious organizations to provide coverage non-essential, non-major health care, when it contradicts their ethics.

I find Ian's argument about the child labor as somewhat of a straw man. Having to purchase one's own NuvaRing is hardly a violation of human rights. The Church being mandated to pay for it is hardly religious persecution, either, though I do find it to be a small violation of religious liberty to be forced to play a role, as a religious organization, that violates religious ethics. If a law passed mandating the ROTC's presence on private university campuses in order to receive accreditation, I would hope that universities run by any pacifist faiths would be similarly exempt.
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From:ian_tiberius
Date:February 16th, 2012 10:07 pm (UTC)

Re: What is "insurance" anyways?

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The thing about health insurance is that health care is a huge portion of a normal family's budget these days, far more than it's ever been in the past, and it can be wildly variable from month to month. Even relatively minor injuries or illnesses can result in bills for thousands, or tens of thousands, of dollars. When I had appendicitis a few years back, that was a completely unforeseeable, unpreventable occurrence that would have cost me around eight thousand dollars if I hadn't been insured. Catastrophic? Not for me, but for a family that gets by on the median income - or, God forbid, less - it would be devastating.

For families that don't have piles of cash lying around, it makes a great deal of sense to have an insurance plan that covers everything (or almost everything) and reduce that unpredictability down to a simple monthly payment that you can plan for in your budget. It's easy to dismiss if you're upper middle class, but for probably the majority of the population in this country, this is critical.

Now back to the issue at hand. The fact is that all businesses in this country have to cooperate with a wide variety of regulations. You're calling my child labor analogy a straw man because that's an obvious human rights violation, but that wasn't really my point. So let's find a less dramatic analogy. Nobody's allowed to refuse to pay overtime because it violates their religious conviction that idle hands are the devil's playground. Nobody's allowed to ignore OSHA regulations, or hire 17-year-olds to serve booze, or refuse to hire black people, on the basis of their religious beliefs. Why is the Catholic church special?

Furthermore, the whole thing is horseshit. Consider:

* Catholic hospital pays employee a salary as compensation for work performed, employee cashes paycheck and buys birth control pills - perfectly okay

* Catholic hospital pays for employee's health insurance as compensation for work performed, employee procures birth control pills from insurance company - DANGER DANGER OBAMA IS TRAMPLING THE FIRST AMENDMENT

There are certain legal requirements every company (well, almost every company over a certain size) is obligated to meet if they want to hire employees in this country. You have to pay minimum wage, you have to observe safety regulations, you have to provide health insurance. Nobody gets to pick and choose which of these regulations to observe and which to ignore.

And if you still disagree - are Christian Scientists allowed to provide no health insurance whatsoever? Are Muslims allowed to deny you a lifesaving heart operation that involves a pig valve? If not, why are these situations different from the Catholic/birth control situation?

Journal of No. 118