The public discussion may have died down for now, but the substance of the issues has not gone away in a compromise. President Obama’s conflict with the Roman Catholic Church bishops has not reached a “balanced” compromise. It is hard to see how it can reach a “balance.” It’s not over, till the regulation is overcome.
The Health and Human Services announcement mandated that Roman Catholic employers provide contraceptives, sterilization and the “morning-after” pill to women as part of their health coverage plans. Roman Catholic bishops strongly objected based on two points: religious protection under the First Amendment and freedom of conscience. The President then responded by allowing exemptions to Roman Catholic churches but not schools or hospitals or any other institution operated by the Catholic Church. Instead, the President mandated that the health insurance companies provide these services to women who want them – free of charge. In the rose-colored room of the White House there must be free lunches!
It was reported today that Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Joe Manchin (D-W VA) have co-sponsored a bill that would allow any employer to deny this coverage if it runs counter to the employer’s conscience. Another bill, sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), would go further by allowing health providers to deny coverage for any service violating their consciences.
The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, called these bills “dangerous” and “wrong.” Carney said what the President believes: it is vital for women no matter where they work to have access to free preventive care, including birth control. “No matter where they work” is the operative phrase. The Roman Catholic Church is in the sights of the statement and it means all American’s First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion must bow to the State.
As a pastor of an evangelical church and a citizen of this country, I have an obligation to respond to this new mandate. That is because this battle is not just a Roman Catholic thing. Evangelical Christians must link arms with Roman Catholic bishops and any other organization that believes life is sacred, and abortion by any method, is a moral injustice.
This latest public policy mandate by the Obama Administration is wrong on at least three levels. First, it is immoral. Regardless of prevailing public opinion or the opinion of the United States Supreme Court, there is no “right” to abortion. Life is sacred from the moment of conception. Psalm 139 says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” It does not matter that many ignore the truth of God’s word. He runs the universe according to his moral laws. Besides, God does not need human approval for the affirmation of his truth.
Second, this mandate is unethical. Does anyone think that by making a pronouncement that health insurance companies will provide these services for free? I did not hear one insurance company meet the proclamation with cheers! Insurance companies are in the business of making money. The only things insurance companies give away “free” are key chains with their logos on them and business cards. And even then their subscribers pay for the printing of those cards!
This gambit by the President reminds me of the hucksters on New York City’s streets playing the shell game. It’s rare, if ever, that the player beats the house. Anyone with just a little bit of life’s experiences under his or her belts knows that there is no free lunch; especially when the government is involved. The costs for those services will be passed on to the consumer in higher premiums. As much as some outspoken Catholic bishops and nuns have said that their consciences would be relieved by this side-step, they are only lying to themselves or know absolutely nothing about economics. If this “compromise” satisfies and stands, how can an employer find ground to support in others what his conscience cannot? If my friend is a heroine addict and needs money from me for rent, I should be suspicious. But if he tells me all I have to do is wire the money to his bank so that my conscience is free from the guilt of giving it to him directly, am I really free of culpability?
A sub-argument to the shell game promoted by the Obama Administration reveals its deep-seated cynicism. Since even the President realizes that insurance companies are in the business of making money, he believes that there’s an incentive for them to get on board with the mandate because there will be a cost savings to the company. The plan is simple: the way to pay for contraception and abortion services is to save money by lowering the birth rate among their subscribers. This is pure cynicism at the core of the Presidency and beyond unconscionable.
The issue is also a Constitutional one. I am no Constitutional scholar or the son of a Constitutional scholar, but the first part of the First Amendment directly and plainly addresses this current mandate: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Remember when we were told by Ms. Pelosi that the Obama-Care bill had to be passed so that we could find out what is in it? We just found out: the abridgment of every American’s First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion. It simply does not matter to the current Administration that religious freedom is an unalienable right. These rights can be sold, transferred or surrendered for the right of an abortion. Even more cynical than the display mentioned above, why must Christians receive a waver from the government to exercise a freedom guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution?
This mandate is not only a moral, ethical and Constitutional matter; it is about words and their meaning. As it stands, this HHS mandate is couched in terms that would hardly find objection. The Obama-Care law, we are told, only seeks to provide for women’s health care. Who can be against health care for women?
Health care is supposed to be about ridding, healing or preventing diseases to the human body. The question we should be asking is “When did pregnancy become a disease?” The President has already said that pregnancy is a “punishment” that he would not want for either of his daughters. In March 2008, while on the campaign trail in Johnstown, PA, Mr. Obama said this:
Look, I got two daughters – nine years old and six years old. I am going to tech them first about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby. I don’t want them punished with as STD at age sixteen, so it doesn’t make sense to not give them information.
Pregnancy was a punishment just waiting to become the equivalent of a sexual transmitted disease. We see from that statement the fruit three short years later: the disease of pregnancy needs health care (read abortion) solutions. “Do no harm” has come to mean something different, too.
This cynical worldview cannot be allowed to stand. As long as Christians who are persuaded by God’s word have a say, we must say it by writing letters to our representatives and most importantly at the ballot box. But we must also say it at the throne of grace. If necessary, we can say to our government what Peter said to his, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
We must also pray because “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (Jms 5:16). We must pray for God’s help in turning back what could become a tide of greater unrighteousness. And we can pray fervently and confidently knowing that our leaders are accountable to God for their stewardship of his nation.
Catholic Online; [on-line]; accessed 22 February 2012; available from http://www.catholic.org/video/watch.php?v=1492; Internet.