Prohibition of HHS Contraception Mandate
HHS Wine Mandate
On January twentieth of this year, Secretary Sebelius of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revealed an interim final rule that will require many religious institutions, including Catholic hospitals and universities, to provide free Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved contraceptives and abortifacient birth control in their employees’ health plans.
This federal rule predictably angered many of the Catholic hierarchy since they teach that the use of all artificial contraception is a violation of natural and divine law. This imposition of the federal government’s power against the free exercise of religion, to be forced to provide substances that would lead them into direct material cooperation with evil, was perceived as a violation of their constitutional rights and rightly-formed consciences.
This whole episode reminded me of Ken Burns’ Prohibition that was premiered on PBS last year. In fact, in cultural debates, the historically dismal failure of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution powerfully plays into the hands of those who want to keep abortion legal, extend legal marriage rights to same-sex couples, and make all drugs legal.
We don’t want to legislate morals was the overall theme expressly portrayed throughout the documentary series. Many historical and contemporary commentators vociferously came to the same conclusion. The documented visual footage to that end was as strong as the axes and sledgehammers that destroyed all the beer barrels and wine bottles throughout the country during the prohibition of intoxicating beverages.
In one segment of Prohibition, there was a documentary on making the documentary. Burns explicitly said during this subsequent making of documentary that his Prohibition was meant to speak to those involved in contemporary issues of immigration, abortion, and a plethora of others. Again, we can’t legislate morals because it doesn’t work, just look at prohibition. So, stop.
However, doesn’t the HHS rule legislate morality? Effecting the actions of people by law de facto imposes morality. Of course, the difference between Prohibition and the HHS contraception rule is that alcoholic beverages were outlawed while birth control is proscribed. With the imposition of a contraceptive mandate on all Catholic affiliated religious employers, the U.S. government is practically sprinkling the popular culture’s worldview on them that will slowly dissolve their Catholic identity and ultimately their religious freedom.
What’s next? Will the Obama administration go after the home run of them all? Will elective abortion coverage be compulsory? “Might as well,” they might ponder if the final rule is upheld in court. The plethora of self-identified Catholics who are laissez-faire about the religious conscious rights of other Catholics probably won’t fight alongside the hierarchy against an abortion mandate. It’s also true that many self-labeled Catholic hospitals perform abortions and prescribe contraception on non-hospital script pads while hiding abortifacient drug placards behind cupboard doors.
What many commentators have missed, though, is one of the cited reasons why HHS ultimately imposed the rule. According to part of the HHS statement, “Scientists have abundant evidence that birth control has significant health benefits for women and their families”.
This clause made me think of something else that scientists have consistently found to improve health that Prohibition explicitly outlawed. Some alcoholic beverages taken in small quantities such as red wine and even beer have reportedly been beneficial for the heart and other body organs. Since health increases, health costs decrease. However, physicians still do not recommend that drinking should be undertaken in excess for various reasons, liver damage being a common one.
Just imagine if HHS issued a rule to mandate the coverage of red wine in health plans. They could say that it improved health as a justification. What would happen? A few things would predictably happen from increased access to mandated free alcohol. Many protestant groups, Mormons, Muslims, and others would protest. There would be more domestic violence. The main reason for passing the Prohibition Constitutional Amendment was to curb the beatings of married women by drunk husbands and from married men from drinking the family savings into oblivion. There would be more arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), and car crash fatalities would skyrocket.
Bringing it back to contraception, what will happen when contraception use increases? Will it increase abortion rates? First, abortifacient birth control will certainly increase abortions. Second, non- abortifacient contraceptives may increase the abortion rate. In the January 2011 issue of Contraception, it was shown that in Spain for 2,000 women aged 15 to 49 from 1997 to 2007, contraceptive use increased from 49.1% to 79.9%. Spain’s abortion rate increased from 5.52 per 1,000 women to 11.49. How will the abortion rate of the United States change? The evidence indicates an increase in the number of elective abortions, especially if the Catholic Church in the U.S. cannot practically resist its free coverage.
Since the Catholic Church teaches that all human life is to be protected in law just like other more developed living humans (CCC 2273), the Church hierarchy and its members have the constitutional right, at minimum, to refuse compliance with any future abortion mandates and compulsory payments for contraceptives in their own institutions. This includes Catholic hospitals, universities, and any Catholic employer who refuses to provide them under guidance from their properly-formed conscience. Just because a product is purportedly beneficial to someone doesn’t mean that others must be mandated to supply it to them, especially if the use of the product-in-question and its secondary effects are morally reprehensible to the provider.
© 2012 Wondering Zygote Emeritus
Written: February 2012