OK, this piece over at The Smirking Chimp - a site almost as good for rant-a-thons as BAD - all but completely encapsulates my feelings about the GOP latching with leech-like desperation onto the ready availability of contraception as the issue that will topple Colossus Obama, presumably installing President Mormon, Moonbase or possibly even Man-on-Dog instead.
You've probably been following the issue already - the ginned-up outrage on the farthest fringes of the right that legislation establishing ready access to health care (something they already don't much like) would include, horror of all horrors, a requirement that a common, widely-used and publicly-approved-of medication be a mandatory part of any employer's health care package. Specifically, The Pill. And House Cryer-in-Chief Boehner's threat, this week, that Congress will legislatively overturn any such mandate in the name of "religious freedom."
News flash, John of Orange. Here are a few salient points.
First, this isn't a free speech issue. Yes, we know that your camp has done everything in its power to cast it as such, when it came to Bush-era policies allowing, say, pharmacists to refuse to dispense the morning-after pill on grounds that doing so would violate their personal religious convictions. (Here's where I could elaborate on the theme of, "You think pork is unclean, don't work at Der Wienerschnitzel," but that would be a distraction...and I think everyone here gets the point, anyway.) And, yes, we expect you to predictably trot out the "corporations are people" mantra, in this case, to insist that it is a blow to the very foundations of the Union to insist that contraceptive coverage be part of any organization's health plan, because all those incorporate "people" should be allowed the freedom to choose for all their myriads of employees.
But it's not really a speech issue at all, free or not. Nobody but Congress, lobbyists and pundits comb through the minutiae of anybody's health care plan to argue free speech protections. The Average American (Remember us? We employ you.) is much more grateful for having a job with benefits, hoping for a reasonable per-paycheck contribution, and having the ability to look askance at that scary co-pay number...because I can promise you it is better than the cost of sourcing coverage for even a small family on your own. Been there.
It's an insurance policy. Not a manifesto.
And I think the Average American also instinctively understands where the boundary between a corporation's "personhood" rights and his or her own individual rights lies. It's pretty clear that, if only for reasons of the doctor/patient confidentiality tradition, the pharmacy counter does not and should not get vetted by the boardroom first. One's medical condition should only become an employer's issue when it affects one's personal job performance; not in advance, and certainly not in a broad, company-wide sense.
Second, it's not a religious freedom issue because this is NOT - repeat, NOT - a policy that dictates any given religion's articles of faith, or mandates a state religion. Again, it's an insurance policy. Not a scripture. No employer short of holy orders is, I hope, going to say that by agreeing to employment with us you agree to the following rules of behavior, ascribe to the following beliefs, etc. That is, I think, still pretty much illegal.
Furthermore, nothing in this legislation compels any individual employee to hop right on out there and get on the Pill, now, this instant, should doing so violate that employee's individual beliefs. You are offering an option: one which is, as I noted above, widely available for generations, popular with the public, and effective, and safe. It preserves, rather than overturns, the conscience objection. And if you're that scared that your faithful are going to stray from your position (as, I might point out, plenty of Catholic women already do), then your issues are more in your own communications department and less in your employee benefits division.
It's an insurance policy. Not a sermon from the pulpit. Offering is not requiring or even endorsing, any more than having a vegetarian dish or two on the menu forces or urges everyone working OR eating in the restaurant to become vegan.
I could make the counter-argument, in fact, that efforts to oppose contraceptive coverage being a universal element of the health care legislation constitute a denial of equal protection under the law to women, whose health condition is the one most greatly affected by pregnancies, be they planned, accidental and/or unwanted. Yes, we know that Justice "Bite Me" Scalia apparently has no problem with discrimination against women.(Appalling, in and of itself.) And that nobody has reintroduced the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment, for those of you too young to remember how haltingly it limped its way to shameful failure), or legislation like it, in the past couple of decades is a perplexing tragedy.
But one thing you need to remember before you tread down this path, Boehner. Your constituency and those of all your GOP cronies isn't composed of Catholic bishops, Fox News pundits and right-wing ideologues alone. They also include a great many women. At least some of those women have been listening, especially in light of the recent (and ongoing) SGK/PP travesty. And when they step into the voting booth, in the primaries or the general election later this year, let's just consider. Will they march happily in lockstep with you and the other white men of privilege who are trying so hard to dictate to them what they are and are not "entitled" to when it comes to their health, simultaneously talking out of the other side of your mouths about how government needs to "stay out of" individuals' decision-making about their lives? Or will they turn to another candidate who seems to exhibit something like care or empathy for the issues that really matter to them, and genuine individual empowerment?
Stay tuned. Every day it looks more and more to me like the right-wingers have chosen the wrong horse to bet on in this race, by fixating on this issue. It's the modern-day burka of the Western world, and I believe waving it in the wind as Boehner is doing will prove to be the act of sheer foolishness that finally brings down their house of cards decisively.
One of my other favorite blogs, Library Grape, goes on to demonstrate how Boehner is making it both dumb and dumber.