We are all, I suppose, aware of the current controversy about the government mandate that religiously affiliated institutions provide birth control coverage:
Seven states asked a federal judge Thursday to block an Obama administration mandate that requires birth control coverage for employees of religious-affiliated hospitals, schools and outreach programs.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court of Nebraska, alleges that the new rule violates the First Amendment rights of groups that object to the use of contraceptives. It marks the first legal challenge filed by states.
I have a complex attitude to this issue, mostly because I don’t understand the logic of the Obama administration in the matter. We are talking not only about religious rights here but also about the rights of employers. And I can’t say that I find it easy to blame the Catholic employers in this situation. A non-Catholic employee has a choice not to work for a religious organization and seek employment elsewhere. Yes, we are in a recession and jobs are hard to come by. I get that. However, a Catholic bishop has absolutely no choice whatsoever in the issue. He cannot, by his nature, be in favor of contraception. I don’t share this belief, I find it egregiously wrong, but there are people who believe that contraception is evil. The government is placing them in a completely untenable position where their only choice is to stop employing altogether. Or sue. Which is what they are doing.
Now, I might be misunderstanding something but there is a variety of alternative solutions to the issue that the government is not even trying to explore. For instance, the very need for employers to provide birth control can be obviated by making contraceptives very cheap and easily obtainable. If the government believes (correctly) that contraception is something everybody should have access to, then it makes sense that the institution that holds this belief should start providing contraception to people instead of forcing institutions that don’t hold it to do so. Why should it necessarily be the reluctant employer and not the willing government?
That, of course, would entail making a hard and probably somewhat unpopular choice on the part of the administration. Why assume this risk when it’s so much easier to shift the burden of the decision onto the already unpopular Catholic leaders?
Nobody is a greater believer in the importance of easy access to good-quality contraception than I am. However, I keep getting the feeling that the current controversy is not really about contraception at all. At least not on the part of the Obama administration. The whole issue could have been resolved without involving the Catholics at all. I, for one, would really like to know why it wasn’t.