Nick Kristof joins in on the contraception debate. No prizes for guessing what side he is on - he trivializes the opposition, presents reams of information documenting the notion that contraception care is a good idea (and who disputes it?), delivers a bit of misinformation, wrings his hands and concludes with a false choice and a bold exhortation to Do The Right Thing.
First, the trivia - his title is "Beyond Pelvic Politics". Please - would he use a title of "Wedding Bell Blues" on a post about gay marriage? Of course not, since that would be a matter of grave moral urgency.
Next, he draws on this study to argue that contraception care is a good idea, and the cheaper the better (since he is a lib, "cheaper" means 'paid for by someone else').
Here is the misinformation:
I wondered what other religiously affiliated organizations do in this situation. Christian Science traditionally opposed medical care. Does The Christian Science Monitor deny health insurance to employees?
“We offer a standard health insurance package,” John Yemma, the editor, told me.
Oh, snap, you silly intolerant Catholics. But wait! This is from the Christian Scientist website, Basic Teaching, first paragraph, my emphasis:
The heart of Christian Science is Love. It's about feeling God's goodness. It's based on the Bible and is explained in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures and other writings by Mary Baker Eddy. It addresses major points about God, good and evil, life and death, sacrament, salvation, and more. Christian Science encourages people to see things from a spiritual perspective, as Jesus taught. Jesus said, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also...” (John 14:12). Mary Baker Eddy said, “these mighty works are not supernatural, but supremely natural...” (Science and Health, p.xi:14). This can mean resolving difficult challenges with health, relationships, employment, and so on through prayer, although people who practice Christian Science are free to make their own choices about what to think and do in each situation, including health care.
And the Times story to which Mr. Kristof links makes that same point:
Publicly, the church has always said that its members were free to choose medical care. But some former Christian Scientists say those who consult doctors risk ostracism.
The truth may lie somewhere in between, said Rennie B. Schoepflin, a professor of religious history at California State University in Los Angeles and author of “Christian Science on Trial: Religious Healing in America.”
“There has never been a monolithic ‘Church of Christian Science,’ ” he said. “There has always been a tension between those in the church who were more zealous and those who were less so.”
Well, then - maybe they aren't such a great example of a religious group that squashed its own beliefs to accodate the rest of us.
Next we have some hand-wringing:
After all, do we really want to make accommodations across the range of faith? What if organizations affiliated with Jehovah’s Witnesses insisted on health insurance that did not cover blood transfusions? What if ultraconservative Muslim or Jewish organizations objected to health care except at sex-segregated clinics?
What if a Jewish group did what? Why ask me? First, our country has had employee-sponsored health care for something like sixty years - are we having a problem with Jehovah's Witnesses, or Muslims, or Jews? And more importantly, this is (OK, was) a free country - if a group sponsored by the Jehovah's Witnesses has a quirky health care plan to which Mr. Kristof objects then by all means, don't take a job there. What happened to respecting diversity or (dare I suggest it?) the religious freedom ostensibly enshrined in the Constitution? I should add that Mr. Kristof holds a cramped view of the Constitution:
But in general I’m more sympathetic to judicial intervention to protect minorities than to protect principles (such as separation of church and state, privacy, or even freedom of the press).
Well, Catholics are still a minority in this country, and the bishops are an even smaller minority. But I suspect that is not what he means.
Let's press on to the false choice:
The basic principle of American life is that we try to respect religious beliefs, and accommodate them where we can. But we ban polygamy, for example, even for the pious. Your freedom to believe does not always give you a freedom to act.
Declining to pick up the tab for someone else's contraception is quite a different action than taking a second or third wife. We might even describe declining to pay as "inaction".
In this case, we should make a good-faith effort to avoid offending Catholic bishops who passionately oppose birth control. I’m glad that Obama sought a compromise. But let’s remember that there are also other interests at stake. If we have to choose between bishops’ sensibilities and women’s health, our national priority must be the female half of our population.
Why must we choose between the religious conscience of Catholics and the desire of women to have their health care paid for by someone else? From the Guttmacher Institute study lauded by Mr. Kristof we learn that federal progrms that deliver these services are cost-effective. Great - if Obama thinks this service ought to be "free", he ought to put up a bill, corral the votes, and pay for it, so that any woman lacking contraceptive coverage is eligible for yet another Big Government program.
The bishops and their followers are not trying to ban contraceptive use; they are not even trying to ban federal funding of contraceptive use. They just want to avoid funding it themselves. The notion that this conflict can only be resolved by trampling their religious freedom is false.
THE DEPARTMENT OF GOOD IDEAS NEVER SLEEPS (WHICH MAY BE THE PROBLEM...) Since individual liberty and property rights are no longer an issue, here is a Big Idea - many studies document that caffeine enhances mood, cognition, and physical performance. And what employer doesn't want happy, alert, energetic employees?
So, the Wake Up And Smell The (Free!) Coffee Act of 2012 will require every employee to provide either a free coffee station (Keurig is fine!) for each twenty employees, or hand out vouchers for the local delis and Starbucks. I have no doubt we can gin up studies demonstrating that the enhanced employee energy will make this a self-financing effort, i.e., FREE! - if not a Laffer Curve, call it a Gulper curve. Other than Mormons, there should be no religious objections. And clearly, we are talking about real money - let's flash back to Gutmacher and the financial obstacles to contraception:
Methods of contraception vary not only in their effectiveness, but also in their costs and the timing of those costs. Condoms are relatively inexpensive on an individual basis, but 50 cents or a dollar per use can add up to substantial amounts of money over a year, much less the 30 years that the typical woman spends trying to avoid pregnancy. Brand-name versions of the pill, patch or ring can cost upwards of $60 per month if paid for entirely out-of-pocket, although generic oral contraceptives can cost considerably less; these methods also require periodic visits to a health care provider, at additional cost.
$60 per month or less for pills? $1 per day for condoms? Have they priced a cup of coffee lately? I never get out for less than a buck fifty, which runs to maybe $30/month right there, and I am not even talking about the crumb cake. Poor women (and men!) who lack mental acuity and physical energy because they haven't had their daily Joe need this program.
What do we want? A half-caf mocha latte! When do we want it? NOW!
There is an umnet need here. If only we had a community organizer in chief in the White House.