ACLU Sues Catholic Bishops, and Why Contraception Grows Economies

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Put on a bow on it

CBS coverage of the Supreme Court contraception case

MSNBC coverage of the Hobby Lobby case

Rick Santorum says employers lose religious freedom if they can’t control their employees’ health insurance

Cardinal Dolan on the health-care reform law

NPR coverage of ACLU lawsuit

Bryan Fischer whines

Lila Rose thinks your clinic is worse than Hitler


On this episode of Reality Cast, an examination of why birth control is good for long-term economic prosperity. More on the Hobby Lobby case before the Supreme Court, and the ACLU sues the Catholic bishops for preventing miscarrying women from getting help.

If you haven’t been following the Feminist Frequency series on video games, I cannot recommend it enough. Here’s a sample from the latest.

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She goes on to explain how often, in video games, male characters have a diverse set of personalities whereas the rare female characters have the personality of “female.”


Unsurprisingly, conservatives are all excited because the Supreme Court decided to hear Hobby Lobby’s complaint about not being able to deny employees earned insurance benefits if they use them for contraception. As Scott Lemieux explained last week, it’s in no small part because they want to generally expand the scope of your employer’s power to exert control over your private life, and are excited about using the combination of sexism and fears about this new health-care law called Obamacare as cover to expand the power of bosses over employees. Unfortunately, a lot of media coverage of the lawsuit fails to convey the scope of the argument. For instance, CBS gave a lot of airtime to an employer who wants to make this all about whether or not you have access to contraception, which implies that if you can get it somewhere else, then it’s no big deal.

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That softball question was unacceptable and allowed the guy to frame it as a live-and-let-live issue. A better question would be, “Why do you believe you should control an employee’s insurance plan after they’ve earned it?” Or maybe, “How is this different from telling an employee she can’t spend her paycheck on contraception, if you believe you control compensation after the employee earned it?” Or, “How much control do you believe an employer should have over an employee’s personal health decisions?” Or perhaps, “Why should my insurance plan that I earned be tailored to fit your religion I don’t share?”

MSNBC did a better job of focusing on the real issue here, which is that employers want to be able to manipulate how your compensation is issued in order to impose their religious beliefs on you.

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I’ll point out that the threat is actually more serious than simply giving corporations “the same” religious rights as everyone else. It’s actually about saying that corporations have more rights than people. I am not allowed to express my religious freedom by exerting control over something I have released to someone else. When I write a rent check, I’m not allowed to tell my landlord not to spend it on religious stuff that I don’t believe in. When you buy a TV, you don’t retain the right to tell Best Buy that they can’t spend that money on, say, buying ham sandwiches for lunch. If I give my next door neighbor a Bible and they decide to throw it away, I can’t sue them. The  insurance plan belongs to the employee—they earned it. This is an employer trying to control something you already own. It’s no different than them giving you a company t-shirt and then telling you that you’re not allowed to use it for rags.

That’s something to keep in mind while listening to Rick Santorum try to wax poetic about this.

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It’s true that most religious people don’t stop practicing when they leave church. But his argument seems to be that they can therefore walk out of church and straight into your house and start trying to impose rules on you. That in order for Hobby Lobby’s owners to have their religion, their employees will simply have to give up their own religious freedom. This notion that the religious right has that they have to be able to force you to live by their religious rules in order to preserve their religious freedom has been growing lately. This is basically a test case for it. Will the Court decide that in order for employers to have “religious freedom,” employees will have to lose the basic religious freedom to make your own health-care choices using health insurance that belongs to you? I really worry that the answer is yes, but we will have to wait and see.

Of course, Rick Santorum is hardly the only member of the religious right who is eager to bloviate about a health-care law that he clearly doesn’t understand. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who actually got a hard question to answer for once, was pushed by NBC’s David Gregory to explain why he refused to support Obamacare even though he supposedly believes in things like health care for all.

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Cardinal Dolan is being deeply dishonest, something I like reminding listeners is forbidden by the Bible. The claim that Obamacare doesn’t cover the unborn is idiotic. There is no universal health-care system, period, that has separate insurance plans for a fetus and its mother. That doesn’t make sense from a medical point of view. Obamacare does cover prenatal and maternity care, however, so anyone who wants those things should actually support Obamacare. Second of all, the claim that it goes against their religious beliefs. How so? I guess it goes against their belief that they should be able to interfere with other people’s ability to get contraception. But again, the problem here is that your religious freedom ends where mine begins. Obamacare does not force anyone to take contraception. So you should not be able to force me not to use my own insurance plan on it. Cardinal Dolan is clearly mad that the ACA [Affordable Care Act] doesn’t allow him to control other people, but that isn’t and never will be a right that he gets, no matter what collar he wears.


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One of the common talking points from anti-choicers, when trying to establish the claim that they’re more about life than misogyny, is to say that they believe in abortion if it’s to save the life of the mother. It’s a nice, neat little cover story that you should absolutely understand is total bunk. For one thing, abortion bans that make an exception for a woman’s life are nearly impossible to enforce—even if doctors plead for a woman’s life, often the authorities will say the 1 percent or less chance that she’ll survive means that they won’t allow it. But more commonly, you’ll find that even in situations where there’s no way the woman can bring forward a healthy baby, anti-choicers will opt to force her to keep carrying it, even though delivery is always more dangerous than termination. This is true even in cases where a woman is miscarrying. If a woman has an incomplete miscarriage, where the pregnancy is failing but it hasn’t failed yet, the longer you wait to terminate, the more danger she is in of getting sick or even dying from infection. And yet, that’s what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops requires Catholic hospitals to do—wait until a fetus’ heartbeat stops on its own, even if there’s no chance of it surviving, rather than take simple measure to protect the woman from infertility, injury, or even death. Now the ACLU is suing.

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Running a fever? I’m not a doctor, but let’s be clear, that means your body is fighting off infection. This is exactly what happened in Ireland with Savita Halappanavar, who was refused a termination of her failing pregnancy even though she was clearly getting sick. Savita, was herself a medical professional, a dentist, which is probably one reason she knew what kind of medical care to ask for, even though it was denied her and she died. Luckily, Tamesha Means survived her ordeal, but she didn’t know that the hospital was refusing to give her the standard care in cases like hers. The care was refused, because the Catholic bishops believe that it’s more important to let the fetus have a few more heartbeats than it is to save a woman’s health or life. It’s hard to shake the sense that they’re punishing you for failing to be a better baby incubator.

NPR’s reporter talked to a medical professor about the actual standard for care, in case you fear there’s any confusion here.

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Again, we’re talking about, by and large, women who want their pregnancies and are already in emotional pain because they’re losing them. Refusing them basic care is just adding insult to injury. And it has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with life. These directives are issued by a bunch of Catholic bishops who don’t give two hoots about giving proper medical care at all. On the contrary, it’s a show of power from them that, even though they can’t tell an IV from a scalpel, they still get to make your medical decisions for you. Not you. Not your doctor. Not the medical researchers who have figured out the standard of care. A bunch of dudes in robes who basically make it up on the fly because they claim God told them to. That is ridiculous.

It’s so obvious that this is about misogyny and not life that even some anti-choice sources are unwilling to openly defend the bishops on this one, but that doesn’t mean that all aren’t. Like Bryan Fischer whining on his radio show.

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It did, of course, not only endanger the health of this woman but in fact caused damage. She did get an infection. She was running a fever. But more to the point, the weird whining about “imposing” morality. One is allowed to believe, as terrible a person as it makes you, that a woman who has the misfortune of miscarrying doesn’t deserve medical care. That makes you a misogynist and isn’t really “moral,” but okay, you have a right to believe that. But do you have a right to advertise yourself as a hospital, take people’s money, and then refuse to serve them? No. Hospitals have all this tax and community support, and because of that, they are obliged to provide the services they say they do. In addition, does a group like the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have a right to force doctors to refuse care for fear of losing their jobs? Religious freedom is an important thing, but it’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card. You don’t get to murder people or torture animals and claim it’s just your religion. You don’t get to lie to people and tell them you’re caring for them when in fact you are putting them in danger of death. That is the question at stake here.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, reproductive rights are worse than genocide, fascism, and lynching edition. Or that appears to be the argument of one Lila Rose, who is really upset that Planned Parenthood makes it easier to have sex, which is, by her own measure, the greatest evil of all time.

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Yep, you sex-havers, who Lila Rose appears to believe are all having like 15 abortions a year or whatever. Planned Parenthood lets people have sex on their own terms without Lila Rose’s control, and in her eyes, that makes them worse than the Nazis, the KKK, and the Spanish Inquisition. Someone’s moral compass is all out of kilter here, but it’s not that of pro-choicers, the one-third of American women who will have an abortion, or the 95 percent of Americans who have premarital sex even though Lila Rose clearly disapproves.