A Win for Opponents of the HHS Contraception Rule?
Score one for Hercules, but the hydra lives on. The Wall Street Journal reports: “a federal judge on Friday granted a temporary injunction sought by Catholic owners of a Colorado heating-and-cooling company who had objected to new federal requirements that they provide contraception coverage in workers’ health-insurance plans.” A final ruling has yet to be made, but this could mean that private companies owned and operated by Catholic individuals, such as Hercules Industries, would not have to comply with the HHS ruling that employers cover contraception in their health care plan. Obviously this is big news, at least for now, as it may set the groundwork for broader exemptions than what the Obama administration has been so far willing to concede. It may also place a few stones on the path to single payer.
The ACLU’s Sarah Lipton-Lubet isn’t pleased with the injunction. In a statement, she says, “We are disappointed with today’s decision. It is unacceptable for employers – especially for-profit companies – to use their personal beliefs as an excuse to deny critical health coverage to the people who work for them,” adding, “this is not religious freedom, this is discrimination. Real religious liberty gives everyone the right to make their own decisions about their own health, including whether and when to use birth control. It doesn’t give anyone the right to impose their beliefs on others.”
Since the start of this controversy, I’ve argued for understanding it as an irresolvable conflict of values. Obama and company pushed for the contraception ruling because they include contraceptives among the healthcare goods and services to which all U.S. citizens have a right and which should be universally covered. Catholic employers have objected vociferously to the HHS ruling because the official teachings of their religion prohibit not only the use of contraceptives, but also their providing them for others through a form of proximate material cooperation.
Lipton-Lubet, like many critics of the Catholic Church’s position here, fails to acknowledge and appreciate the conception of religious freedom under which the Church and its fully-assenting members live: offering a healthcare plan that covers contraceptives or other healthcare goods and services deemed sinful is itself a sin, an act, according to Catholicism, that’s contrary to the moral law. If Lipton-Lubet understands this, she sees it as a non-issue. From her standpoint, the owners of Hercules Industries want the right to impose their beliefs on their employees. In this, she’s arguably right, if the owners, by denying coverage of contraceptives, hinder or prevent any employees from obtaining birth control.
Considering both standpoints, then, what we have here is an irresolvable conflict, one that won’t be going away any time soon regardless of what courts decide in the near future. The emergence of this sort of conflict shouldn’t surprise anyone, least of all the Catholic Church. Given the controversy surrounding the morality of some particular healthcare goods and services, any attempt to achieve universal healthcare was bound to erupt heated moral conflicts.