Thursday, July 10, 2014

More from Patricia Miller's Good Catholics: The Battle Over Abortion in the Catholic Church — How U.S. Catholic Bishops Laid Groundwork for Hobby Lobby Decision

Here are some more noteworthy passages from Patricia Miller's book Good Catholics: The Battle Over Abortion in the Catholic Church (Berkeley: Univ. of CA Press, 2014), all having to do with the U.S. Catholic bishops's decision to conflate abortion and contraception in the late 1990s, as they sharpened their partisan political crusade against women's rights and healthcare needs in collusion with the religious and political right:

One reason for the sudden interest in contraception [in the late 1990s] was the increased viability at the state and national levels of contraceptive equity measures designed to ensure that health plans covered prescription contraceptives like the Pill just like other prescription medications. For years, insurers had omitted contraceptives from prescription drug plans—the only entire class of drugs routinely and explicitly excluded—which made women’s out-of-pocket medical expenses some 70 percent higher than men's. Measures to ensure contraceptive equity had been stalled by male legislators and social conservatives who asserted that employers and insurers should not be forced to pay for what they called a "lifestyle" choice, not a health care need (183).


But the decision of most health insurers to cover Viagra almost immediately after it was approved by the FDA in 1998 largely negated this argument (184).

And finally: 

When charges that contraceptives were abortifacients failed to halt the measure [i.e., for women’s contraceptive equity in healthcare plans], the bishops turned to a new tack: claiming that contraception equity laws violated the religious freedom of insurers and employers who disapproved of contraception and would be forced to subsidize its use . . . . It was a stunning claim, suggesting that anyone who administered or paid for an insurance policy should be free to dictate what coverage was provided to policyholders based on their objection to services that they themselves would not be forced to use. 
The Catholic bishops now sought a broad-based conscience clause that would allow any employer or insurer to refuse to cover contraceptives for any religious or moral objection. This represented a major escalation in the grounds for claiming conscience protections (184).

Sound familiar? The U.S. bishops (and the Vatican) were already crafting the bogus religious-freedom agenda, with its attendant blurring of the line between abortion and contraception to serve partisan political interests, in the late 1990s. They have been laying the groundwork for the decision the five Supreme Catholic men handed them recently in the Hobby Lobby decision for quite some time now. Patricia Miller tells this story very clearly, and with compelling documentation — and I highly recommend her book.

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