I have been in hiding for Lent, holed up in Toad Hall with a breviary and Rosary. Well, OK, I haven't really been in hiding, but I have been away from Ricochet since Tuesday, February 21. So I am sure this topic has been discussed and debated at great length already, but I wanted to share with you all an essay published today in my local paper on the contraception mandate, mostly because I am proud of it. (If you follow the link above, you can see my real name!)
It’s About the Constitution, Not Contraception
No one is seeking to outlaw contraception. Contraception is readily available across the country at a low cost. Many insurance plans already cover it, and for those whose plans do not, low-cost riders are often available. Access to contraception is not threatened. The question Americans face is whether or not the federal government has the power to force people to purchase a product which violates their consciences and the free exercise of their religion, contravening the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
At our nation’s founding, Catholics were a small minority and unwelcome in many parts of the country. However, because of the guarantee of freedom of religion, millions of Catholics emigrated to the United States to help build our nation. Today Catholics are about 22% of the population of the country as a whole.
Catholic organizations serve the poorest and most vulnerable without regard to age, creed, sex, or income level. They run hundreds of hospitals, comprising the nation’s largest group of non-profit systems, serving millions of patients with dignity. Catholic schools educate nearly 2.5 million students. Throughout New York State, Fidelis Care insures health care for 725,000 people. Catholic Charities in New York coordinates a network of nearly one hundred agencies that served 356,000 of the most vulnerable and needy last year, including women in crisis pregnancies and victims of domestic violence.
These Catholic organizations exist entirely because of the desire of individual Catholics to follow their consciences and religion. The command of our founder to love one another as He loved us is obeyed by those who support these organizations with their time, money, and love.
Many of these organizations are not run directly by the Church, but by religious orders and affiliated institutions that follow distinctly Catholic directives to uphold and protect the dignity of each person. Serving millions of Americans, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, they flourish in a land in which the fundamental right of people to exercise their religion freely without state interference is guaranteed in our Constitution.
Today, the federal government threatens the existence of these institutions through the provisions of Obamacare that require employers to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilizations, and contraception coverage or face fines of $100 per day per employee. The Catholic Church has consistently taught that these practices are incompatible with the Catholic religion. The Obama Administration offered what it called a compromise, to pass on the costs of contraception to the insurers so that employers do not pay for it directly. This is farcical. Insurance companies cannot provide any service for free. The costs will be passed on to the employers paying for insurance coverage.
Our nation is drowning in debt, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will be 190% of gross domestic product by 2035. The current debt is more than $49,000 per American, or over $136,000 per taxpayer. Mandatory entitlement spending amounts to about 60% of all government spending. Instead of dealing with these problems, the Administration and its allies falsely raise the specter of theocratic forces set to punish women and interfere with their personal choices.
Even people who support contraception access can recognize that it is dangerous for Americans to yield to the government the power to supersede our Constitutionally guaranteed rights. If these universal human rights can be abrogated by politicians, what will happen when a different party is in power?
The matter at hand is not a threat to women’s access to contraception. The matter at hand is the unconstitutional and unprecedented seizure of power by the Obama Administration.