Grovel for the sake of it

Brilliant. The Obama admin knows the bishops and the Republicans won’t be mollified but the admin is submitting anyway. Worst of both worlds! Lose-lose! Give way on the principle but gain no actual votes or support. Good thinking!

The Obama administration, seeking to rein in a runaway political furor over birth control and religious liberty, is set to announce a possible compromise on Friday that is meant to calm ire from the right about a new administration rule that would require health insurance plans — including those offered by Roman Catholic hospitals, universities and charities — to offer free birth control to female employees.

Administration officials called the expected announcement an “accommodation” that they said sought to demonstrate respect for religious beliefs.

Well piss on them. It’s not their job to demonstrate respect for religious beliefs. Religious beliefs aren’t respectable as such. Beliefs are respectable if they’re reasonable; the very term “religious beliefs” implies the opposite of reasonability; this sick-making cant about respecting religious beliefs amounts to encouraging people to be unreasonable and dogmatic and stupid – artificially stupid, in the name of religion.

The administration announced the birth-control rule last month, and since then, Republican presidential candidates and conservative leaders have sought to frame it as an example of the administration’s insensitivity to religious beliefs, prompting Mr. Obama’s aides to explore ways to make it more palatable to religious-affiliated institutions, perhaps by allowing some employers to make side insurance plans available that are not directly paid for by the institutions.

Mr. Obama’s aides need to start exploring ways to demonstrate backbone and commitment to principle.


  1. jamessweet says

    Surprisingly, the compromise position they have come back with is actually pretty acceptable. I don’t really understand how it appeases the woman-haters, but if it does, then it’s great, since no women will be denied full health coverage as a result of the compromise.

  2. Godless Heathen says

    I actually disagree. I insurance companies will be required to provide birth control as part of their general health insurance packages. Women won’t have to pay extra and religious orgs won’t have to pay extra. But the orgs are still paying for the insurance that will provide no-copay birth control. I don’t see how that’s any different from the original plan or how religious orgs aren’t indirectly paying for it.

    It sounds more like the pro-women side won, but the administration is pretending it was a compromise to mollify women-haters. Which pisses me off, don’t get me wrong, but the practical impact seems to be the same as it would have been originally.

    The only reason I’d think this would be bad is if secular organizations/employers are somehow paying extra for insurance plans that offer no-copay birth control. Is that the case?

  3. Godless Heathen says

    Also, I’m basing my analysis on this paragraph from an article at RH Reality Check:

    The way it works is this: Insurers will create policy not including contraceptive coverage in the contract for religious organizations that object. Second, the same insurance company must simultaneously offer contraceptive coverage to all employees, and can not charge an additional premium. This provides free contraceptive coverage to women. The reason this works for insurance companies is because offering contraception is cost-neutral and cost-effective; companies realize the tremendous cost benefits of spacing pregnancies, and limiting unintended pregnancies, planned pregnancies and health benefits of contraception.

    This is a bit different than what the NY Times article you linked to says, which is:

    Emulating Hawaii, where the rule is in effect, would mean that employees at religious institutions that do not offer free contraception in the health insurance plan can get birth control through side benefits, which the employees nominally pay for but which often end up being free.

    Which implies that there may be a nominal cost.

    So, I’m not sure exactly what the deal is, but right now it sounds like we won, without stating it in so many words.

  4. says

    It seems to me that Obama is making a cosmetic change that takes the wind out of the sails of his religious critics but still preserves the rights of women.

  5. Lyanna says

    So…if Godless Heathen is correct…then who exactly is this “compromise” supposed to be appeasing? & how? After all, women are still getting contraception at no additional charge (NOT “free!” It’s earned! It’s part of their compensation! A maddening aspect of this imbroglio is that people are talking about health insurance as if it’s charity given out of the goodness of the bosses’ hearts or something). And the employer is still giving some of its money (really, the employees’ money, because as said before, insurance is part of compensation) to get birth control coverage. So who is the compromise for?

    I have two possible answers:

    (1) It’s still for conservative members of the RC hierarchy. But the point isn’t to comply with their religious so-called principles. The point is to make a public show of “backing down,” so that everyone can see that the conservative bishops and cardinals made Obama back down. And everyone can be impressed with their might.

    (2) It’s for people who do not believe that contraception is wrong, but for whatever reason have a perverse “respect” for religions that say it is wrong, and think that belonging to such a religion should afford one special treatment.

    Many of these people in (2) are Christian but some aren’t. What they share is “respect” for religious views that restrict women (and gays, probably), though they would not show the same “respect” to religious views that restrict (say) black people.

  6. Midnight Rambler says

    Lyanna – it’s for semi-normal Catholics who felt uncomfortable with the rule. Planned Parenthood, NOW, NARAL, and the Catholic Health Association have all come out in favor of it. That leaves the Conference of Catholic Bishops out in the cold, wanting the rule overturned for everyone (not just religious institutions, but including businesses owned by individuals).

    Frankly, I don’t see how this is really any different; it pushes any cost onto the insurance companies, which in one way or another will get passed on to the employers and employees just as before. But I suppose since the Catholic orgs don’t have to talk about contraception with the insurers, that makes them happy. And it brilliantly boxes in the wingnuts, showing that they are, in fact, simply against contraception. Ophelia has completely misread this.

  7. says

    Misread it how? They still said what they said. Even if they don’t change the policy, they shouldn’t be talking about respecting religious beliefs in making laws. That’s what I’m reading: the “framing,” if you will. I think they shouldn’t give any rhetorical ground to the theocrats.

  8. Midnight Rambler says

    Because it’s playing them (the Catholic groups) for suckers. Framing it as “respecting religious beliefs” while giving them absolutely nothing substantive gets their support while ceding them no ground. Obama has done this repeatedly and many on the left still don’t recognize it.

  9. says

    One, it apparently doesn’t get their support. And two, talk has its own effects – it’s not just empty provided no actual change is made. I don’t think Obama should be saying bad things are good even if he doesn’t act on the saying.

  10. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    I am no fan of Obama’s, but this isn’t submission at all. Obama got exactly what he set out to get and has done it in a way that doesn’t allow for republican candidates to come out against the “compromise” without admitting to being anti-birth control, which even for repubs would be an incredibly dumb position to take when, what, 99% of women use it.

    Its not an ideal win, but its still a win.

  11. says

    Given the original policy’s reasonable accomodation of religious institutions and the bend-over-backwards conciliatory nature of the compromise, I suspect this will give both conservatives and the Roman Catholic Bishops their “Komen Foundation” moment.

    The GOP and the Catholic clerical leaders speaking out against contraceptives is politically very stupid when 99% of sexually active women use contraceptives, 98% of sexually active Catholic women use contraceptives, and a majority of Catholics support the contraceptive coverage policy.

    In an ideal world, this sort of compromise would not be necessary. But we don’t live in that world yet. My observations of President Obama’s political actions suggest that he is (1) aware of the political cards he has been dealt, and (2) is thinking several moves ahead of his opponents.

    Like Andrew Sullivan, I think Obama is focused on the “long game” and not short-term political advantage.

  12. says

    Obama got exactly what he set out to get…

    …and has done it in a way that doesn’t allow for republican candidates to come out against the “compromise” without admitting to being anti-birth control, which even for repubs would be an incredibly dumb position to take when, what, 99% of women use it.

    Which they don’t mind doing, because they do that kind of thing all the time and their base LIKES IT.

    Its not an ideal win, but its still a win.

    It’s a sad day when for liberals losing only a tiny bit of ground, or symbolic bit, or at best holding ground is considered a “win.”

    Meanwhile we have a President who after several years is still “evolving” from the position of being against gay marriage to the newer position of still “evolving” and still against gay marriage, while the country he serves has already evolved PAST him.

    And who asserts the power to have you or me disappeared without a trace if he and he alone deems it to be necessary based on his own discretion.

    Weak fucking sauce.

  13. LawnBoy says

    I disagree that it was a cave – the primary goal of recognizing the rights of women to control their own bodies is achieved. I would prefer that contraception weren’t relegated to a special category, but the functional result of this “compromise” is that women get what they want, and insurance companies get the birth control subsidy and not the church. I can live with that compromise.

  14. Lyra says

    If Obama can get birth control for all women at no additional cost to them, I don’t care what kind of word games he plays to get it. I often get upset with Obama because he doesn’t meet my expectations, but if he gets this thing through, this will not be one of them, even if he panders to religion. I want results too badly to care.

  15. Ron Millam says

    I’m still pissed off that Obama didn’t fight tooth and nail to secure Single Payer health insurance for all Americans…. in effect, Medicare for everyone. So, anytime he even *appears* to take a step back from ANYTHING, it fans the flame of my original displeasure. It’s difficult for me to tell — am I angry with this latest development??…. or with his original kowktow?

  16. Midnight Rambler says

    It’s a sad day when for liberals losing only a tiny bit of ground, or symbolic bit, or at best holding ground is considered a “win.”

    It’s a win because it advances the policy, while simultaneously gaining support among voters for the election. The Catholic Health Association – i.e., the main ones who would actually be affected – have come out in favor of it, along with PP, NARAL, NOW, etc. It really doesn’t do anything different than the original one. Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops have come out full-force against it, including in their statement that they want exemptions for not just religious-affiliated institutions but individuals as well.

    And the Congressional Republicans are pushing a bill that would do just that, granting any exemption for any claim of “conscience” – so a store owned by a Christian Scientist (or someone who claimed to be one) could deny health insurance to their employees altogether. Those are dead losers with the public, which already had a slight majority in favor of the original policy.

    Jesus Hogfucking Christ, I’m so glad the negative commenters here aren’t running political strategy for the Democrats…

  17. JHJEFFERY says

    Hi Ophelia

    Good article.

    I’m from the Orlando area and I understand that you will be speaking at CFI. Looking forward to meeting you there.


  18. says

    Well good god, Midnight, so am I, and why the hell would we want to?! “Running political strategy” is a horrible occupation, especially when it’s for the Democrats. I hate “political strategy.”

    And even if I didn’t hate it, I wouldn’t want to adapt everything I do to its requirements. What’s your point? That nobody (except Republicans, naturally) should say anything that’s not compatible with “political strategy for the Democrats”? That we should all tailor everything we say to Democratic political strategy?

    Forget that. Political strategy is mass marketing, and I have zero interest in mass marketing. I don’t think everything needs to be made acceptable to The Great Majority.


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