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Five Reasons Why Obama Was Right to Mandate Inclusion of Contraception

Personal control over one’s body is an essential pre-condition of ethical behavior, and reproduction is one of the most important and private aspects of bodily function any person has.

Some brief thoughts on Friday’s decision by the Obama Administration to require contraceptive coverage in health insurance plans:

1.  Personal control over one’s body is an essential pre-condition of ethical behavior, and reproduction is one of the most important and private aspects of bodily function any person has. It is not for either states or corporations to decide this for the individual, either by prohibiting them from or coercing them into reproduction against their will.

2.  Human life is an end in itself,and should therefore never be treated as a means towards any other end. In this instance, however, religious groups opposed to birth control, and which may pressure insurers not to provide or employers not to purchase contraceptive coverage for workers are backhandedly using the threat of conceiving a human life as a consequence for sexual behavior which does not conform to that religious group’s beliefs.

3. Closely related to #2 is the issue of collective punishment, in which the child who is conceived bears the consequences of the “improper” sexual behavior as well as the parent who would potentially be deprived of access to contraception. There is significant data which shows that unwanted children suffer disproportionately throughout their lives compared with children whose parents welcomed their births. Realizing this, it is grossly unfair to inflict such a life upon the child who has done nothing but be born.

4.  The government has a public health interest in making sure that insurance products contain a minimum of protections for consumers. Allowing an insurer to offer a plan without contraceptive coverage would be like allowing the manufacture and sale of automobiles without seat belts. The potential damage to the consumer in both cases outweighs the rights of companies to treat these safety elements as optional in their products.

5. Closely related to both #3 and 4, the government has a financial interest in making sure that insurance products contain a minimum of protections for consumers.

A) The government subsidizes healthcare benefits for the vast majority of those who have insurance by treating it as non-taxable compensation. Both employers and employees save a great deal of money in this way. It is this fact which undermines any attempt to evade the requirement to provide contraceptive coverage in an insurance plan on the grounds of religious conviction: once you take money from the government in a particular transaction you lose whatever independence you might have otherwise had within your religious tradition to opt out of this or that provision and then become subject to the government’s standards.  It doesn’t mean that the religious conviction isn’t valid, but it does mean that the government has to answer why the religious conviction of one group should be allowed to compromise the well-being of some of its citizens, particularly when it is subsidizing that religious group’s activities.

B) The government also has a financial  interest because of what happens to the lives of the children who are unwanted. The costs to society greatly exceeds that of their wanted counterparts from birth to death, whether it be in education, health, housing or corrections. The government has the moral responsibility to care for such persons whether anyone wants them or not, but prudence would dictate that whatever could be done to minimize this happening to children ought to be done.  Making contraception available to women of child-bearing age, particularly the economically disadvantaged, is an important step in that direction.

Lastly, Obama’s health care plan will come online in 2014, which means that the August 1, 2013 deadline for religious organization to comply with this requirement should clear up the conscience question for those who will refuse to comply.  At that time, employers could drop coverage, sending their workers to the healthcare exchanges where they could purchase insurance themselves.  It will cost hospitals more, since they will have to increase workers wages to allow them to pay for what they have to buy and these wages will be subject to payroll taxes, paid by both the hospital and employee, but hospitals’ consciences will be clear.

13 thoughts on “Five Reasons Why Obama Was Right to Mandate Inclusion of Contraception

  1. no such thing as unwanted child, ‘unwanted’ is not a property of human being. there are adults who refuse to recognise their duties to the child they conceive however. Sex isn’t a hobby or pastime. Contraception violates natural law and so undermines civil society itself – misleading to imply it is a matter of confessional discipline.

    1. Marty, sex is a hobby or pastime for millions of Americans, including many Christians. Protestants for the most part believe sex is for pleasure and that procreation, while being a wondrous gift, is a seldom-experienced and seldom-desired outcome of sex. What you call natural law is so only within the Catholic tradition, which to Protestants is not natural at all, but rather cultural. The use of the term “unwanted” is not used in a metaphysical sense but rather is a reflection of the relative worth of the child to it’s parents. Rhetorical flourishes won’t keep such children off drugs, in school or out of prison. I am sure we would agree on how we should care for these children once they are here. Where we disagree is whether we should be making it possible for potential parents to remain so, rather than actual parents, if that is their decision.

  2. n.b. too EEOC v. Hosanna-Tabor. wldnt survive SCOTUS scrutiny. pres. B.O. admin. just avoiding embarrassment priot to election

  3. it is the idea that such a powerful thing is trivial, that undermines marrige and so child welfare. the state should not promulgate such a teaching with this mandate, if not natural law then what? metaphysically speaking. u find my principle unserious – but i insist its superiority to your princpled utilitarianism. – the perennial philosophy please http://www.scifiwright.com/2012/01/contra-contraception-2/

  4. Just because something can be done for pleasure or fun doesn’t mean that it is trivial. And how does thinking this way about sex undermine marriage? This is boilerplate Protestantism that goes back to Luther but I don’t think that you can demonstrate that Protestants have taken their marriages with any less seriousness because of their different construal of the purpose of sex. from the Protestant perspective, natural law has historically been used to justify all manner of abusive cultural institutions, from slavery to the so-called divine right of kings. In this instance, to most Protestants’ way of thinking, it is being used unjustly to control women’s sexuality by chaining it to the consequence of pregnancy, simply another instance of a dominant cultural institution cloaking it’s control mechanism in theological garb. As always, the burden of such natural law formulations, as with slavery and monarchy, falls disproportionately on one party. Protestants are not advocating unrestrained sexuality, but rather urge self-control rooted in love of neighbor, the keeping of one’s word, the building of community and other such concepts which are equally applicable to both men and women.

  5. I think this is extreme. The Franciscan nominalists rejected realism about 700 years ago, for example, but that hardly led to the end of civilization. People do just fine outside of the narrow ideological categories you offer. I’m sure they work for you, but there are other frameworks within which to construct a moral universe and civil society.

  6. its extreme to deny teleology – what does ‘bodily function’ or ‘essential’ mean absent it?

    Ockham was franciscan true but 700 yrs just means an unnoticed error in the beginning takes time for logical outworkings to manifest.

    r u a nominalist?

    civilisation? see todays ‘publicdicourse.org’

    1. I don’t deny teleology, just your flavor of Christianity’s account of it. I guess if I lived 700 years ago I would be a nominalist. Actually. I’m more of a Wittgensteinian, Derridean, Kristevan, Foucauldian, Lyotardian, Hauerwasian, Moltmannian postmodernist.

  7. Timothy I don’t understand. If you have the time could you tell me what you mean? (if you believe there is objective meaning – u know translatable from one mind to another) Now I have DB Hart’s ‘The Beauty of the Infinite’ so I can at least go to that if I’m still struggling.

    As I understand it we have only three choices, nominalism, conceptualism or realism. If you really are a nominalist then I immediately ask myself ‘why am I even listening to him?’. Do you understand? If your nominalism has a ‘postmodern’ guise I ask myself the same question – basically ‘what foundation is he using to try and persuade me?’. “Is his argument just an itch he’s scratching?”.

    1. Tip o’Neill said “All politics is local.” Thats kinda where I’m coming from. every religious group has their own narratives, practices, lingo, implicit/explicit rules for interpretation and behavior, etc. Adoption of these criteria gets one into the group and frequent practice makes one an insider who “gets” it. Communication is possible between people inside the group and outside of it, but there is an increase in the static that makes understanding tougher. That static is always present in any communication no matter how close or intertwined the communicants. The statement “Please pass the butter” at the dinner table can cause a huge marital conflagration if uttered at the wrong time or in the wrong tone. Misunderstanding takes place all the time because meaning is coming comes at us in communication on so many different levels–there can be a whole range of emotions packed in a statement, there can be irony, there can be humor, there can be political overtones, there can be implied legal contracts, etc etc. Insiders through long practice gain fluency in sorting through the layers to grasp what is important in the community, while outsiders, who ostensibly know the definitions of the words being used and even the syntax, can still remain ignorant of what is being communicated among group members. Scholars call this the incommensurability of discourses, that is, the breakdown of communication resulting from there being no one to one correspondence between a word and a thing or between what I mean when I speak and what you understand from me when I speak. It takes work to understand. It’s what you’re doing here when you ask me to explain myself, for example, because the gap between our ways of understanding Christian faith is wide.

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