I'm a little surprised to see this continuing hubbub over the administration insisting that Catholic institutions receiving federal money offer health care plans that include contraception. I'm even more surprised to see a lot of usually sensible voices taking this garbage seriously, which makes me think I'm not getting something.
Kevin Drum put it in a way that resonates with me: I'm willing to entertain the idea of religious exemptions to certain federal regulations depending on how big of a deal those believers consider that tenet vs. how big of a deal we consider it from a public good standpoint. If Jews consider it super important that Jewish hospitals not prepare kosher foods near pork, and the government has a rule stating otherwise but doesn't have a great reason to demand everything be made in the same kitchen, then fine, give them an exemption.
On contraception, though, the opposite is true. Strong majorities of Catholics support contraception, majorities nearly identical to the general population. From the other side, in terms of public health availability of contraception is very, very important. It more than anything else has allowed women to take control of their own lives, set out on the careers they've always wanted, and keep a number of chronic ailments at bay while, hey, dramatically reducing demand for abortions. "The pill" really is a wonder drug.
A lot of the noise over this issue is no doubt electorally based. Republicans and those rooting for them are chucking every brick they can find at President Obama, and that's fine. They're the opposition; that's their role. Nevertheless, we should be mindful that a lot of disingenuous objections will be raised at him this year. Did anyone give a shit about this rule when President Bush enforced it?
All of that is enough for me to have made up my mind, but it also happens that I have pretty strong feelings on the subject of Rome's anti-contraception stance. I believe that the Vatican's opposition to contraception is barbaric, oppressive, and grossly negligent of the lives of the millions of women at the mercy of Catholic men and Catholic regimes. And this is, I suppose, where I really part ways with many of the liberal Catholics like E. J. Dionne who have been looking for some sort of common ground between the parties. I'm sorry, but religions occasionally get some moral question dead wrong. It happens, and we do ourselves no favors by refusing to question the moral stances of the various faiths.
For instance, I realize it's like farting in church to remind everyone that countless women across the world have died preventable deaths thanks to the Catholic Church's obstruction of sexual education and condom distribution, but the truth hurts. It's also true, though not very ecumenical of me, to point out that a lot of Catholic women have conceived unwanted children only to have them aborted because of Vatican opposition to the pill. And finally, I'd be a real dick making a nevertheless good point if I were to say that maybe perchance the very last people on the planet with any credibility to lecture the American people or their government about the ethics of the bedroom is the US Conference of Bishops.