I mentioned this in passing in yesterday’s Roundup, but the lawsuit filed by two major Catholic institutions over the Obama Administration’s contraception rule is really something to behold.
The story so far: The Department of Health and Human Services instituted a rule from the Affordable Care Act that ensured all employer-provided health insurance plans would cover reproductive and preventive services with no co-pay. This included a wide range of preventive services and not just birth control. But religiously-affiliated institutions, mostly Catholic ones, objected.
Mind you that homogenous religious institutions like churches were already exempted. But religiously-affiliated employers, even though they have employees that don’t subscribe to their faith, wanted to control what kind of health services those employees would be allowed to access for free. It’s a question of “conscience,” you see, not control.
So the Administration responded to these objections by crafting a compromise, whereby the insurance company would have to provide the free preventive coverage to employees who wanted it, if religiously affiliated institutions opted out. This means that the institutions would have no direct contact with the birth control services, for example. But I guess the indirect, tacit assent, through one of their employees getting free preventive services, was just too much to take. So they filed suit.
The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and the University of Notre Dame separately filed lawsuits in federal court challenging a Health and Human Services rule that would require them to offer coverage for contraception, the use of which runs contrary to Catholic teaching.
“For the first time in this country’s history, the government’s new definition of religious institutions suggests that some of the very institutions that put our faith into practice — schools, hospitals and social service organizations — are not ‘religious enough,'” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, in a statement.
Father John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, said: “This filing is about the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission, and its significance goes well beyond any debate about contraceptives.”
(Jenkins emphasized that the university’s suit was not intended to prevent access to contraception or to prevent the government from providing services.)
So it’s entirely a principles-based lawsuit (here it is, by the way). The plaintiffs suing over a contraception mandate claim to not want to prevent access to contraception!
The plaintiffs argue that they are being singled out, and that the law isn’t being applied in a neutral fashion. So the existence of any exemptions in a law at all, if they aren’t provided to these two Catholic institutions, makes a law unconstitutional? Furthermore, they argue that, because NARAL was consulted by HHS, that the law thus automatically “targets religious organizations for disfavored treatment.”
What Notre Dame and the Archdiocese of Washington are really saying here is that their statuses as religious institutions allows them to evade any law which they determine violates their religious beliefs, even if (in this case) they are not even part of the transaction envisioned in the law.
…and if you don’t think this is about control, particularly control of women, check this out:
More than one-third of obstetrician-gynecologists at religiously-affiliated hospitals say they’ve had a conflict with their institution about patient care policies based on religious tenets—including over half of ob-gyns at Catholic hospitals, according to a new survey.
“There’s really a striking difference between people who practice in Catholic hospitals and people who practice in hospitals of all other religious denominations,” Stulberg told Reuters Health. “Some of these conflicts seem to be unique to Catholic hospitals.”
That’s likely because Catholic health care institutions have the most specific restrictions on patient care and cover the widest breadth of reproductive services with their policies, noted Freedman—such as not giving out birth control.
Catholic hospitals put their beliefs over your health.