The national discussions these days all seem to be chicken-and-egg arguments.
Right-wing: Social pathology causes poverty!
Left-wing: Poverty causes social pathology!
The real answer: This is a stupid question. Real life is much more complicated than that.
Aside from the vast oversimplification of complex dynamics, we all manage to not understand each other by engaging in what-is-it-really-about arguments.
Right-wing: It’s about religious freedom!
Left-wing: It’s about women’s health!
The real answer: Sorry, right-wing, it’s about women’s health, and the religious freedom card is a hefty load of codswallop.
Religious practice being a matter of personal values, beliefs, and behaviors, it should directly affect only the practitioner of said religion. There is only one realm in which anyone would think it appropriate for an employer’s religious issues to impact an employee’s health care, and that realm is the control of female reproduction.
Let me give an example.
Say there’s a medication, a treatment for cancer, that is made out of bacon. (What? Many people think that bacon has salutary properties.) If an individual is suffering from cancer, one might reasonably expect that their health insurance will cover the bacon meds.
Jews (some of them, anyway) don’t eat pork. It’s a biblical thing. Bacon is off limits. For Jews. But if an employee of Beth Schlomo Medical Center has cancer and needs the bacon pills, they will be covered by the Beth Schlomo health care plan. Should the Jews running Beth Schlomo be able to refuse coverage for bacon pills for a cancer-stricken employee, who may not even be Jewish?
Sure, the employees can pay for their own bacon pills, but the cost is high. They may have to skip the pills and rely on some less efficacious treatment. And in any case, why should their health coverage be subject to the whims of their employer’s whacky religious issues?
We will never have an argument about this, because it will never happen. Jewish employers would not refuse to cover bacon pills. Seventh Day Adventist employers do not refuse to cover blood transfusions. Christian Scientist employers do not refuse to provide health insurance at all.
Birth control is basic, critically necessary care. Of course it should be covered. It has zip to do with religious freedom. The Catholics who own Saint Mary Margaret Paul Health Care Center are free to not use it (though most Catholics actually do use it). They are not free to foist their whacky religious issues on their employees and refuse to cover basic care in their health plans.
Why are we even having this conversation? Because we, as a culture, still think that wise, godly men ought to decide how women manage their reproductive lives. We, as a culture, still don’t want women running around having sex just because they want to. We, as a culture, still don’t really think women ought to want to have sex at all. We, as a culture, still want to use female sexuality as a tool to manage male behavior. And indeed, men’s behavior has gotten worse since women abdicated their responsibility to manage it for them.
Are you following me? Are my leaps too long? Let me break it down further.
· Anyone can claim any nonsense as a religious belief.
· You have to follow the usual rules in spite of your religious nonsense.
· Except where sex in involved.
· Because women having sex without patriarchal permission is the root of all evil.
Of course, sex is what the social pathology argument noted above is about, too. More about that another day.