Watching from the bleachers as the Christian community gets increasingly agitated about the mandatory coverage of birth control in the national health care plan I become increasingly concerned. Clearly the proposal crosses the line of the state interfering with religion and I can’t imagine it surviving a court test on those grounds. What is concerning is how little we are willing to settle for.
Yes, it is quite alarming when Uncle Sam wants to tell us to do something contrary to our religious convictions. But aren’t our objections missing the bigger picture? If mandating coverage of birth control – especially that which is abortifacient – is so foundationally wrong why are we settling for the personal “opt out” entitlement under the guise of “conscientious objection” or “religious freedom?” Is it not still wrong for one’s nation to pay for the ending of unborn lives?
Sometimes the Christian community acts like this is a mere issue of being told to worship on Tuesdays instead of Sundays. This is not the government mandating that we must use only one Bible translation or must pay taxes on church property. This is not even the government saying that only religious groups must pay for birth control even if it is abortifacient. This is the government saying all of us as a nation, collectively, must pay for birth control (abortifacient or otherwise) because a pregnancy is being looped in as a preventable and presumably treatable “disease.” It is grouped right in there with breast exams and colonoscopies.
I do believe the Christian voice must be heard on this matter but I also believe it is self-serving just to seek an “opt out” provision. Didn’t we learn anything from the compulsory sterilization experience in early 20th century U.S. history and especially what occurred in Germany? For the most part the Lutheran and protestant voices were silent if not endorsing of the 1933 German eugenics program that required sterilization when “a great probability exists that his (or her) offspring will suffer from severe bodily or mental hereditary disease.”
It was the Roman Catholic voice that held this program back – for a while. Finally, granted by the Third Reich an “opt out” provision so long as they took take care of their own, the Roman Catholic Church dropped its full opposition and the program took off. In 1934 compulsory sterilization was ordered in 56,244 cases.
It didn’t take long before this program included gathering up and institutionalizing these people into centers where most died by starvation and disease.
There is something foundationally wrong with treating pregnancy like a preventable disease. It skips the need for moral responsibility. It ignores the fact, acknowledged even by abortion-advocates, that life does exist at fertilization. To simply ask for exemption based on religious grounds denies our calling to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” and to “consider others above ourselves.” Treating pregnancy as a preventable disease is fundamentally wrong?
Think about – allowed to stand, what happens in the cases of “contraceptive failure?” With abstinence still being the only 100% perfect form of birth control all other forms of birth control have failure rates. What do you think happens when processes, procedures and protections provided in your health plan fail to do what is promised?
The current administration had promised in campaigning to pass a Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) which would codify abortion rights. When a health care provision in treating a “disease” fails that provision still covers what it takes to treat or “heal” the malady. It does with breast cancer – it does with colon cancer – and it logically would or should with contraceptive failure.
Some have claimed this provision found its roots in the requirement in many health plans to cover erectile dysfunction medicines for men. This may not be an apples-to-apples comparison but maybe that logic should be revisited as well.
One thing that is clear – it is not in our best interest to consider pregnancy a disease.
At the same time I would counsel Christians to recognize that not all of the health plan is evil. Provisions to care for those who need care is a worthy endeavor and it behooves Christians to support that which is commendable. For now, however, we should strongly object to that which is wrong. Getting an “opt out” provision based on religious convictions is not enough.