The Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate has been a cause of much debate lately. Through the Affordable Care Act, many private health care plans will have to cover women's preventative services without charging a co-pay. This will begin in August, 2012, and the services include well women visits, domestic violence screening, and contraception [Fact Sheet: Women's Preventative Services and Religious Institutions]. On February 10, 2012, President Obama caved in to the backlash of the religious right and tweaked the original HHS mandate. It releases the religious employer's requirement to provide contraception coverage. An important point here is that the insurance company will still be required to offer contraceptive coverage free of charge.
To avoid all kinds of institutions claiming religion so they won't have to pay, some criteria needed to be established. (1) It has religious inculcation as its primary duty. (2) It primarily employs people of the same faith. (3) It primarily serves people of the same faith. These criteria cover most small churches, but the larger Catholic hospitals will not satisfy these criteria [Jonathan V. Last, The Weekly Standard]. This, I believe, is the source of all the uproar among the right wing opposition.
The main argument of opposition is grounded in the first amendment of the Constitution, and in particular the first part which reads "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." In Jonathan Last's article (linked above), he mentions Cardinal Roger Mahony's quote, "I cannot imagine a more direct and frontal attack on freedom of conscience... This decision must be fought against with all the energies the Catholic community can muster."
What the opposition has failed to do is to give me any kind of data, or offer any kind of evidence that would suggest HHS is making the wrong decision. Upon recollection of the following cartoon, I came up with the Republican Method.
The Republican Method goes like this: The conclusion is that Obama is wrong. What facts, evidence, or obscurities can be conjure up to support it? It shouldn't be surprising that Republicans have chosen to flee to the Constitution for support, an important document that can be interpreted in more than one way.
Obama says in his remarks on February 10, "Now, as we move to implement this rule, however, we've been mindful that there's another principle at stake here - and that's the principle of religious liberty, an inalienable right that is enshrined in our Constitution. As a citizen and a Christian, I cherish this right." He clearly respects the Constitution and has taken it into consideration.
The way Obama, many democrats, myself, and many others interpret the Constitution, an important document to all of us, this mandate in no way breaches the first amendment. To Catholics, Republicans, and many others, it is a breach of the first amendment. What we need to come to terms with is that if we use the Constitution alone, there is NO WAY of deciding who is right. Neither side will concede. What is the next course of action, if we are to resolve the issue? My suggestion is the scientific method. Let's look at the facts and evidence.
What happens when women have free access to contraception? R.M. who writes for the Economist, wrote an article that really helps answer this question. "A large body of evidence shows contraception use has helped women avoid unintended pregnancies, which in turn has led to lower abortion rates, healthier babies, stronger marriages, and improved social and economic conditions for women." He further emphasizes that studies have shown unintended pregnancies are bad for parental relationships, greater availability of contraception doesn't lead to an increase in sexual activity, hormonal methods of contraception are useful in the treatment of menstrual disorders, and oral contraceptives reduce a woman's risk of developing certain cancers.
Cardinal George is quoted as saying [Ed Morrissey, HotAir.com] "even if contraceptives were used by a majority of couples only and exclusively to suppress a possible pregnancy, behavior doesn't determine morality. If it can be shown that a majority of Catholic students cheat on their exams, it is still wrong to cheat on exams." Cardinal George is equating cheating on exams with using contraception. I think cheating on exams is bad. But, if studies showed me that cheating on exams resulted in the evidence of the previous paragraph, I would change my mind about cheating on exams. In light of all this evidence, Catholics and Republicans are ignoring it. There is a word for that... when you ignore evidence and believe something to the contrary... oh, yes: IGNORANT.
The Catholic Church, bishops, cardinals, and the pope should take this evidence as a sign from God. They could put a stop to all of this ridiculousness if they simply interpret the Bible or God as suggesting "contraception is okay." After all, 98% of Catholic women ages 15-44 who have had sex have used contraceptives. It would be prudent if we could clear their names with God.