Tuesday, October 10, 2017

"Nuns Can Choose?" Yes, They've Chosen A Tide Of Abortions After Dotard's Repeal Of Contraceptive Requirement For ACA

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Gleeful nuns outside of Supreme Court bldgs. last year anticipating strike down of the ACA contraceptive requirements for employers. They should also be happy - after Trump pulled the requirements- as abortions soar.

The WSJ editorial yesterday ('A Nun's Right To Choose') claimed that the ACA contraceptive mandate was an "infamous regulation" that forced religious extremists like the Little Sisters of the Poor to violate their beliefs.  Of course, this is utter codswallop. Let us agree here  that logically, you can't have it "both ways". The Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious zealots have argued constantly and vocally that their precious beliefs are being "disrespected" by being forced to pay for contraception for their employees. This is even after President Obama loosened the rules, i.e. so the religious institutions didn't have to pay for the contraceptives directly (their insurance companies did), and they still squawked.

But given that artificial contraception is the optimal way to family plan, and also avoid unnecessary abortions, if you cut out affordable access to  the first you will have to expect the second. You can't have it both ways: No contraception and no abortion. To me and many others, if abortion is the last thing we want then we permit control of family planning via artificial contraception. It is deliriously unrealistic to expect poor or even moderate income families to simply make 'baby roulette' bets with their lives. Yet that is what these Catholic false dogmatists expect.

Recall that contraception is among a range of preventive services that must be provided at no extra charge under the ACA health care law.  (It is also a basic matter of human dignity in enabling poorer women, families to control the number of mouths to feed and clothe.) At the time, the Obama administration pointed to research showing that the high cost of some methods of contraception discourages women from using them. (A very effective means of birth control, the intrauterine device, can cost up to $1,000.)

Birth control pills are also not exactly cheap and to be effective they have to be taken over a lengthy period, not stopped on weekends, for example.  It is estimated currently that Trump's new order will cost poor women - who need family planning the most - an added $1,000 a year. Some may sneer at that amount but consider what it may mean for a single mom earning barely $22,000 a year at Walmart to support 2 or 3 kids - and risk having another.

The Little Sisters' argument  that their religious convictions and rights are being violated by providing contraception for SECULAR employees is totally bogus. If indeed, they’re all about preventing SECULAR employees – say atheists like me – from accessing artificial  birth control- then they are indeed imposing their faith. It also demolishes the WSJ editorial argument yesterday that the ACA contraceptive mandate us an "infamous regulation".   It also rips the added WSJ claim that the Little Sisters "still need relief in court". No, they do not. They need to get their heads screwed on straight as to what's being required of them vis-a -vis secular employees.

Hence, in the latter case the withholding of the ACA- allowed measures violates secular workers'  rights as taxpayers!  The point missed by the WSJ editors and others is that given the Church is funded by default via MY taxpayer dollars (since they don't have to pay taxes that I must) then I have to expect that if my wife or myself attends THEIR hospitals they will deliver the services WE need, not forbid us access to some subset they prohibit for their own flock!  (And note, these religious groups are perfectly free to prevent their own members from obtaining the contraceptives, or abortions.)


This is also why an array of organizations plan to argue in court that the Trump-Dotard mandated change in policy  unfairly imposes employers' beliefs on their workers. Which it does.  A worker's contraceptive coverage ought not depend on her employer's beliefs. An additional argument brought by three states' attorneys general is that the Dotard ruling amounts to sexual discrimination, as well as religious discrimination.  In the words of Hal Lawrence, chief executive of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:

"To take this away from women does nothing to improve the health of the United States and actually increases the risk of maternal mortality and some kinds of cancers."

As Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU has put it:

"This is an affront to women's rights and women's health and we are prepared to see the government in court."

When one gets right down to it this whole brouhaha is a cultural storm in a teacup that originates because the Catholic religious extremists either: a) don't understand their own basic principles or doctrines or b) do understand but wish to exploit public ignorance of them to get their way in the courts.

As pointed out by Theologian Hans Kung ('Infallible?') the birth control proscription comes from the Church's TEACHING OFFICE or Magisterium, not ex cathedra or "from the chair of St. Peter".

If a ruling comes from the Magisterium or teaching office, then it isn't binding! It isn't binding on Catholics and it isn't binding on those they would serve, say in their hospitals (patients who need contraceptives) or institutions (workers there, who aren't even Catholics!).

There are even more suspect moral overtones on this than meet the eye. For example, the majority of Catholics are probably totally unaware that the Church DID ALLOW abortions to be performed up until the third trimester, and until 1869. John Connery, S.J. a leading historian of the Church’s teaching on abortion, has been quoted as citing a long standing collection of Canon Law that “it was not until 1869 that abortion for any reason became grounds for excommunication” (See, e.g. Druyan and Sagan, PARADE, April 22, 1990). At the time the lack of dogmatic ruling created such furore that conservatives in the Church pushed for a higher dogma that would transcend the wishy-washy Magisterium ruling. They thereby succeeded in foisting the very late (1870) doctrine of "infallibility" which was more a rear guard action -addition to protect the Church from any possible subsequent alterations of moral teaching

Thus, if a ruling came "ex cathedra" and applied to faith or morals, the Pope couldn't make a mistake. (Of course, as the “papal infallibility” doctrine was only first proclaimed in 1870, it conveniently didn't apply to rulings made earlier such as the ones on abortions allowed up to the 3rd trimester). But the larger point here is that clearly, the fact the Church already changed its doctrine on abortion shows its moral positions are malleable and not set in stone!

What this means is that the Church itself cannot be free of errors in faith or morals if it has already made one that was since covered up. Obviously, if you can alter a position, it is hardly "absolute". In his marvelous book, Infallible?, Hans Kung observes (p. 143):

" no one, neither Vatican I, nor Vatican II, nor the textbook theologians, has shown that the Church - its leadership or its theology - is able to put forward propositions which inherently cannot be erroneous."

This is a serious statement which basically shows the "dogmas" being cited by the religious extremists like the Little Sisters have no gravitas or genuine spiritual import. If propositions posed as dogmas inherently "cannot be erroneous" then ultimately they rest on relative foundations. If the latter is the case, then employers and their employees can choose to ignore them.  The Little Sisters and their ilk aren't even being asked to do that - by way of the Obama original exemption. Merely to allow their insurance company to pay for them.

As I've posted before if these religious zealots are truly against the scourge of abortion then they should have no qualms about allowing the most effective means of contraception (note: the Catholics 'rhythm method' doesn't count). The fact they oppose effective contraception paid for by their insurance companies tells me they are okay with a tide of abortions- which will become the default method of birth control now for most poor women.

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