If one is to believe the “rumors” currently circulating around Washington, DC—otherwise called “reactions to trial balloons”—the Archbishop of New York, Most Rev. Timothy Dolan, walked away a winner following his meeting with President Obama last week.
Apparently, the Archbishop of New York convinced the President to uphold the so-called “conscience clause” that would allow religious institutions to be exempt from certain healthcare regulations that are to be promulgated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, on August 1, 2012.
In the crosshairs is the contraceptive-coverage rule which specifies a more general provision in the Obamacare healthcare reform. It requires all new insurance plans to cover “preventive services”—including birth control and abortofacients—without co-pays, deductibles or other out-of-pocket costs.
Knowing how Washington, DC, works, some Democrat lawmakers have taken note of the administration’s trial balloon and have gone on the offense.
According to an article in the Washington Post, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) raised the issue with President Obama while she was campaigning with him in New Hampshire. That discussion followed conference calls last week between other top White House officials and members of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. U.S. Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) said:
I think in the 21st century, most people are stunned to hear that we would even be talking about whether women can buy birth control through their insurance policies. You would be denying millions of Americans the ability to have an essential part of their insurance coverage because of some attenuated religious affiliation of their employer.
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CN) opined:
What’s baffling is not just the policy, but the political calculus here. The effect would be to undermine, if not eviscerate, the energy and enthusiasm of huge numbers of young people, women and independent voters who believe in the President.
The President of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, called it “unthinkable” that the administration would incorporate the conscience clause in the final regulations.
More interesting to The Motley Monk than all of that political posturing is the article’s report of a discussion involving a graduate student, Taina Vargas:
However, if [Catholic] organizations were to be exempted from the federal rule, these individuals would have to continue paying out-of-pocket charges for birth control—about $20 to $30 per month, according to Planned Parenthood.
Taina Vargas would not even have that option. Vargas, a graduate student studying for a master’s degree in diplomacy and international relations at Seton Hall University, said she was surprised to learn that the Catholic institution’s health plan does not cover her birth-control prescription.
“This really is an issue of principle for me,” said Vargas, who is not Catholic.
“If young women like myself choose to be sexually active and don’t want a child right now so we can focus on our education, I think [birth control] is something the university should provide…
I don’t think it’s right for someone else to make this decision for me.”
Even though Taina Vargas is attending a Catholic university, she is “surprised,” citing some unnamed principle that would require Seton Hall to provide her with birth control so that she can be sexually active and not have a child “right now.”
Vargas’ story raises two important questions:
- Exactly what does attending a Catholic university mean for someone like Taina Vargas?
- What “principle” does she hold that would trump Catholic moral teaching?
The answers are obvious and are precisely why the conscience clause should prevail. In this instance, when people go to work for or to attend Catholic universities or colleges, they should fully expect those institutions to uphold Catholic teaching unconditionally.
That’s where Taina Vargas may have it correct: It is a matter of “choice.”
If invited, one can choose to work for or to attend a Catholic institution of higher education with full awareness of its animating moral principles. If one does not agree with those moral principles, they can choose to turn down the invitation.
To read the Washington Post article, click on the following link: