Pres. Obama Gives Women Their Own Social Security

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza (10 February 2012)

WASHINGTON – It was done ugly. But let’s not miss this moment.

Let’s also not be seduced into believing Pres. Obama did something he did not. He didn’t force anything on religious institutions or on “all Americans”, as has been claimed on cable, as well as the Wall Street Journal.

Let’s also not forget that the 1st Amendment swings both ways and that individuals are as protected from religion as institutions are from the government, something that is getting lost in all this. Considering one of the primary reasons the New Americans fled England, this is rather stunning. As an Episcopalian who now practices daily meditation as my primary mode of spiritual connection, the dishonesty being used when citing the 1st Amendment during this discussion has been as telling as the purposeful misinformation.

The furor forced the White House to make a final move Friday, with Pres. Obama starring.

It was insanity, except that Pres. Obama walked into battle with the majority of Americans behind him, including 99% of adult women who rely on birth control in their lives, including for serious medicinal purposes. It was a moment of promise reminiscent of how Obama came into the White House, except this time the media was tearing him apart instead of propping him up. A moment when Obama’s die hard supporters could say, this is the guy I voted for; when people could believe again, if only for a moment.

I’m not one of those people, never have been.

I’ve written innumerable columns about Pres. Obama’s continual inability to find a purpose or policy compass, while channeling Bush on foreign policy decisions and terror policy, over which progressives give him a pass. And one can only imagine if Pres. Obama would have understood the amount of energy and people power behind him when the health care debate began. These issues are real and troubling, with the cumulative compromise and capitulation to the right, including economically, remaining an irreconcilable situation.

That, however, doesn’t negate that the cosmos shifted on Friday.

Let’s skip over the flaws in the strong moral position position. Such as the fact that many states already require employers’ health care plans to cover contraception and that all over the United States there are Catholic universities and hospitals that comply.

Or that the bishops have totally failed to convince their own faithful that birth control is a moral evil and now appear to be trying to get the federal government to do the job for them. We’re rising above all that.

The Battle Behind the Fight, by Gail Collins

While everyone talked about the Catholic Church, religion and the 1st Amendment, women inside the Administration, dare I say including Michelle Obama, knew that the women employees of Catholic and other religious institutions needed to have their own 1st Amendment rights protected. If not, it would mean the female employees wouldn’t have the same rights or coverage as other women working at a non-religious institution.

Pres. Obama, the constitutional lawyer, knows the 1st Amendment goes both ways and decided to use a scalpel to manifest policy and an implementation that gave everyone what they wanted. A unicorn materialized, wrote Markos Moulitsas.

Except… If anyone heard Sean Hannity on Friday you were in for the laugh of your life, while seeing this will become the fight of the election, at least until they read the polls or turn to make it all about government intrusion, their only hope. There are consequences for adult behavior, Hannity railed, harping against free, free, free birth control. He was actually parroting the Catholic bishop line, which was rooted in being against, though I can’t believe it’s the 21st century and I’m writing this, women having sex for pleasure. Flashback:

I don’t want to overstate or understate our level of concern,” said McQuade, the Catholic bishops’ spokesperson. “We consider [birth control] an elective drug. Married women can practice periodic abstinence. Other women can abstain altogether. Not having sex doesn’t make you sick.” – Dana Goldstein (h/t Alternet and Amanda Marcotte)

Not having sex doesn’t make you sick.

This coming from a man representing celibate Catholic bishops who are part of a worldwide organization that was guilty of ignoring, protecting and hiding pedophile priests who sexually preyed on young boys for decades and decades; we’ll leave the nuns for next time.

All of this with a backdrop that featured a Super Bowl ad with Clint Eastwood praising the American car company comeback, which was orchestrated by the Obama administration, causing a furor for days. Karl Rove’s reaction precipitating Eastwood making a statement he wasn’t Obama’s guy. Heaven forbid. Even though bailing out the U.S. auto industry, part of our American heritage, ingenuity and genius, is saving part our national soul.

This isn’t working out like the Republicans expected. Not for Mitt Romney either, who is now stuck with one-upping Rick Santorum who is railing about the guillotine.

Now Sen. Roy Blunt, from my home state of Missouri, the same far right religious pack who brought Rick Santorum a win, has announced legislation to deny women the physical, emotional and economic freedoms Pres. Obama just gave them, to appease what ails the right. Republicans are evidently getting ready to fight 99% of the women in this country, including suburban Republicans and independents who use birth control and want their daughters to grow up with that safety net, too.

They’ve obviously snapped. Who wouldn’t? Beaten by Barack Obama. It’s got to be a bummer.

I’m elated.

Obama’s not down, he’s up and he’s just scored the biggest win for American women in a hundred years, ballpark.

Think about it. There’s serious and important history being made here.

For modern women, the stress level is about to be lowered, as are their monthly bills. Think of all the energy and potential to be unleashed. This freedom is personal, emotional and economical, unless Mitt and Rick get the opportunity to repeal free birth control.

Free contraceptive coverage for modern women, regardless of means or status, is what Social Security and other entitlements are for seniors and the poor.

Wait until that sinks in.

Taylor Marsh is the author of the new book, The Hillary Effect – Politics, Sexism and the Destiny of Loss, which is now available in print on Amazon. Marsh is a veteran political analyst and commentator. She has been profiled in the Washington Post, The New Republic, and has been seen on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera Arabic, as well as on radio across the dial and on satellite, including the BBC. Marsh lives in the Washington, D.C. area. This column is cross posted from her new media blog.

  

15 Comments

  1. And of course now the debate shifts from abortion to contraception which is an argument the left can win as opposed to struggle to a multi-decade stalemate on. As an added bonus that contraception comes under threat until the right loses its anger towards it which is likely to result in many Dem POTUS’s in the next few cycles.

    In my view Obama just shifted a narrative that Nixon started when the GOP turned abortion into a wedge issue. Between that, the war on drugs and the southern strategy Dems could struggle as they might in the congress but the big chair was the GOP’s. Until the GOP embraces contraception the roles seem to have been reversed.

  2. TheMagicalSkyFather says:
    FEBRUARY 12, 2012 AT 9:57 AM

    The importance of your comment cannot be overstated. It’s succinctness is as brilliant as the political philosophy behind it.

    Brava.

  3. Considering one of the primary reasons the New Americans fled England

    I’m not sure what you meant by that, but just to clarify, I’ll quote commenter “merkin” from the thread under a recent Michael Reagan article:

    There is a common misconception that the Pilgrims journeyed to the New World in search of religious freedom. They actually were fleeing religious freedom. What they wanted to do was to deny freedom of religion to others, to impose their religion onto others. This is a part of what inspired the guarantee of religious freedom in our constitution, to avoid one religion imposing their beliefs on others.
    http://themoderatevoice.com/13.....ent-299066

    I added the comment that some of them later fled the colonies to Rhode Island in search of religious freedom and quahogs.

  4. Gads, people STILL don’t get the real issue here. Even you, Taylor.

    This is not about contraception. Or women’s health.

    This is also not about freedom of (or from) religion.

    This is something more insidious. This, like “Citizens United” and other, similar legislation, is about putting the rights of corporations (and now including ventures funded primarily by religious institutions) above the rights of their employees and the American people in general.

    The broad principle at stake here is whether businesses who provide medical coverage are allowed to cover or not cover certain medical procedures solely on the belief structure of the management team in charge. That’s what this argument is REALLY about.

    In this case, the Catholic church wants to force its belief structure, not upon its followers or its clergy — which is clearly protected under the 1st Amendment — but upon the employees of the non-religious institutions or organizations it manages.

    These colleges and hospitals are not only for Catholics. They do not only hire Catholics. They are not only funded by Catholics, but do receive funding from the general public as well as government sources from Medicare to college loan programs to scholarships to research grants. These are not “religious institutions”, they are simply owned (partially or wholly) by a church group and have similar ideals. Otherwise, they are simply businesses like any other business.

    And businesses cannot discriminate, nor can they force employees to make personal life choices in line with their own corporate values. That is interfering with the fundamental rights of workers.

    If right-wing rancor was allowed to stand, businesses would be allowed to make the choices for their employees, instead of employees being able to make their own choices. Then companies could easily ban diabetes coverage because “gluttony is a sin”, or refuse coverage for meat-eaters because it violates “our vegan values”, or take any number of insidious actions.

    Companies can (and do) expect a level of behavior from their employees. But there is a limit to how far that can be taken, and when it comes to things like health care coverage, reproductive choices, sexual preferences, and other basic human issues, that limit is clearly met.

  5. I’m not entirely convinced this is an historic turning point. It does have the potential to be, though.

    The problem is the way the Obama administration (predictably) mishandled the situation. They didn’t get out in front of the issue (pointing out that the requirement was not new, was already in effect in 28 states, etc.), allowed the GOP to control the narrative, and then appeared to cave, shining the spotlight on their ineptitude rather than where it deserves to be shining:

    On the GOP’s confusion about the uterus.

    For the Republican party, the uterus isn’t where babies come from – it is a political battleground. More importantly, it is a battleground upon which they believe they own the high ground. In many ways, they believe they own it…both the battleground and the uterus itself.

    I find it odd that the party which argues against government involvement in every aspect of our lives argues for maximum government involvement in the uterus. The only explanation that I can come up with is that they think they own it. That the uterus is something they (and not the woman) have control over.

    What the GOP has done here is to provide an historic opportunity to not only shed light on the differences between the two parties with regards to reproductive rights – something which has been done over and over again – but to fundamentally shift the discussion.

    Abortion is and will likely always be a contentious issue, but contraception is nowhere near controversial. Ask most people, and they support contraception overwhelmingly. Contraception is control. A woman controlling what happens in her own uterus.

    The GOP, the Catholic Church, and other religious conservatives are clearly opposed to a woman controlling what goes on in there. They just basically stood on top of the mountain and shouted out loud “the uterus belongs to us!”

    That’s BS, and it is about time someone called them on it.

  6. Barky says:
    FEBRUARY 12, 2012 AT 12:37 PM

    I know exactly what this is about and it’s exactly what I’ve written about for days, including in the above column.

    cjjack says:
    FEBRUARY 12, 2012 AT 1:04 PM

    I’ve written about the badly played tick tock several times, which is comparable to the way the Administration handled the health care debate. But that is no longer the primary issue.

    The free contraceptive mandate rule is historic. That is inarguable.

    Bob Munck says:
    FEBRUARY 12, 2012 AT 12:00 PM

    I meant exactly what I wrote, with many discussions recently with constitutional lawyers & experts confirming it for me.

    The New Americans weren’t a monolith and did include freethinkers, who eventually won the day and still are winning.

    The 19th century religious conservatives were a majority, but there were hard core dissents from freethinkers. That’s why it didn’t last; you came blame Whitman, Thoreau and others, and an Enlightenment period.

    The hard right religious doctrine eventually lost sway. This coincided with more equatable rights being sought for individuals beyond the white male robber barons; African Americans (though they lost out in 1873), as well as women, who won a big one on Friday, compliments of Democratic women & Pres. Obama.

    In the end it’s about individual autonomy, which extends to the work place.

    1st Amendment freedoms FROM religion, especially when it comes up against basic labor law is at issue here, though no one wants to admit the 1st Amendment swings both ways.

    What one woman gets through a mandate in the law, another woman in a Catholic-run but non-church institution, shouldn’t be denied.

    In the 21st century, even those of deep spirituality like myself, are still fighting to keep the 1st Amendment alive so that religious institutions don’t trample on the rights of people to be immune FROM their overreach.

    Thanks very much for your thoughtful comments. I so appreciate all of them.

  7. @cjjack

    Although I have not been participating in this and other threads on this subject, I have been following it with interest, and I think that your comments are most reasoned, pertinent, logical and spot on. Thank you

    Also, someone said something to the effect that while we must have freedom of religion, conversely we also need freedom FROM religion.
    Also, spot on

  8. Good points well put. Arguments for a “religious employer” exemption have gone from wrong to ridiculous.

    Questions about the government requiring or prohibiting something that conflicts with someone’s faith are entirely real, but not new. The courts have occasionally confronted such issues and have generally ruled that under the Constitution the government cannot enact laws specifically aimed at a particular religion (which would be regarded a constraint on religious liberty contrary to the First Amendment), but can enact laws generally applicable to everyone or at least broad classes of people (e.g., laws concerning pollution, contracts, fraud, negligence, crimes, discrimination, employment, etc.) and can require everyone, including those who may object on religious grounds, to abide by them. (E.g., http://supreme.justia.com/case...../case.html http://www.aafcp.org/cplm/files/12.pdf.) Were it otherwise and people could opt out of this or that law with the excuse that their religion requires or allows it, the government and the rule of law could hardly operate.

    When moral binds for individuals can be anticipated, the legislature may, as a matter of grace, add provisions to laws affording some relief to conscientious objectors.

    The real question here then is whether there is any need for such an exemption in order to avoid forcing some employers to act contrary to their consciences. Those demanding such an exemption initially worked themselves into a lather with the false claim that the law forced employers to provide their employees with health care plans offering services the employers considered immoral. The fact is that employers have the option of not providing any such plans and instead simply paying assessments to the government. Unless one supposes that the employers’ religion forbids payments of money to the government (all of us should enjoy such a religion), then the law’s requirement to pay assessments does not compel those employers to act contrary to their beliefs. Problem solved–except perhaps for an employer who really desires not just to avoid a moral bind, but rather wants to retain control of his employees’ health plans, limit their choices to conform to the employer’s religious beliefs, and avoid paying the assessments that otherwise would be owed. For that, an employer would need an exemption from the law.

    Indeed, some continued clamoring for just such an exemption, complaining that by paying assessments they would be paying for the very things they opposed. They seemingly missed that that is not a moral dilemma justifying an exemption to avoid being forced to act contrary to one’s beliefs, but rather is a gripe common to most taxpayers–who don’t much like paying taxes and who object to this or that action the government may take with the benefit of their tax dollars. Should each of us be exempted from paying our taxes so we aren’t thereby “forced” to pay for a war, health care, or whatever else each of us may consider wrong or even immoral?

    In any event, they put up enough of a stink that the government relented and announced that religious employers would be free to provide health plans with provisions to their liking and not be required to pay the assessments otherwise required. Problem solved–again, even more.

    Nonetheless, some continue to complain. They fret that somehow religious employers ultimately will pay for the services they oppose. They argue that if insurers (or, by the same logic, anyone, e.g., employees) pay for such services, those costs will somehow, someday be passed on to the employers in the form of demands for higher insurance premiums or higher wages. They counter what they call the government’s “accounting gimmick” with one of their own: the “Catholic dollar.” These dollars remain true to an employer’s religious beliefs, it seems, even after paid by the employer to others, e.g., insurers or employees, in that they can be used only for things the religious employer would approve. The religious employers’ aim, we are assured, is not to thereby control the actions of others, oh no, but rather is merely to assure that the employers themselves do not somehow act contrary to their own beliefs by loosing “their” dollars into hands that would use them for things no self-respecting religious employer would himself buy. Their religious liberty, they say, requires not only that they be exempted from the law, but further that anyone to whom they pay money also be exempted and thus “free” to act according to their desires.

    I wonder what they would think of their follow-the-dollar theory if they realized they had some of my “atheist dollars” in their wallets that can be used only for ungodly purposes, lest I suffer the indignity of paying for things I disbelieve.

  9. The objection does not hinge on whether or not religious employers must PAY for contraception. That is a straw man which is propped up by the Obama Administration.

    The actual objection hinges on whether or not religious employers are morally culpable for the provision of contraception.

    Consider the moral issue in this way: if Catholic hospitals shut down completely, then employees of Catholic hospitals would not receive contraception through the Catholic hospitals health plan, and then the Catholic Church would not be morally culpable for dispensation of contraception.

    The Obama Administration is asking a religious institution to either stop serving the poor, or to be willfully morally culpable for the dispensation of contraception. The Obama Administration is violating the Establishment Clause guarantee of the free exercise of religion.

    And, this is just one example of many controversies which Obamacare will necessitate. Kerfuffles which used to be worked out in the free market will henceforth become topics of national contention; on an ongoing, never-ending basis. Washington, D.C. will incessantly talk about healthcare issues, and incessantly talk about healthcare issues, and incessantly talk about healthcare issues. Oh, joy.

  10. “The Obama Administration is asking a religious institution to either stop serving the poor, or to be willfully morally culpable for the dispensation of contraception.”

    Is a Catholic hospital a religious institution, or a hospital?

    The Bible says you cannot serve two masters, yet the Catholic Church clearly wants to have it both ways.

  11. desert moderate,

    If employers neither provide contraception (by providing health plans the include it) nor pay for providing contraception, how might they be morally culpable for the provision of contraception?

  12. Excellent post Taylor. Perceptive, honest, and to the point. It’s a pity the MSM has become too distracted and spineless to report like this anymore.

  13. The Bible says you cannot serve two masters, yet the Catholic Church clearly wants to have it both ways.

    I am not a Christian, but I believe the Catholics would say by having a religious institution and hospital they are serving the same master.

  14. The actual objection hinges on whether or not religious employers are morally culpable for the provision of contraception.

    First, there is equal treatment under the law. It comes first.

    Second, this is not a matter of a religion but of the operation of a business that just so happens to be owned or operated by a church. Being religious does not excuse you from having to follow the law.

    Then there are the rights of the individual to make their own choices (instead of having their employer make it for them).

    As far as health care goes, I would argue that healthcare really is one of the Top Three economic issues threatening the country and MUST be addressed. It is a drag on business growth, it is severely limiting the mobility of the workforce, and it consumes a large amount of financial resources with comparatively little to show for it (compare effectiveness with peer countries and it becomes obvious).

    And finally, public opinion is clearly on the side of making contraception available.

  15. “..this is not a matter of a religion but of the operation of a business that just so happens to be owned or operated by a church. Being religious does not excuse you from having to follow the law.”

    Thank you.

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