Don’t be fooled by the crazy carnival around Obama’s contraception rule. The GOP’s main mission here is not to protect religious freedom. It’s simply to destroy Barack Obama and his signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act.
Yesterday was a red letter day for their efforts: California Congressman Darrel Issa held a hearing on the president’s new rules for employer provided insurance and contraception. But he didn’t call it that -- he bald-faced called it a hearing on “religious freedom” and lined up a host of male witnesses to tell him everything he wanted to hear. Women witnesses? No, not necessary, said Issa, who apparently doesn’t think women can opine on even his ostensible subject of religious freedom.
An attack on women? Of course. But, above and beyond, it’s missile pointed at the Affordable Care Act. But here’s the damn kicker: The rule on contraceptives that the Republicans are freaking out about -- the one Obama just eased to please the Catholic Church and the religious right and the loons in the Republican party -- has been in place since December 2000.
That’s right -- the contraceptive rule Obama just eased was the gift of George W. Bush. Did anyone scream about this before now? Did the Catholic Church bellow and roar in 2000? Hell no. In fact, DePaul University, the world’s largest Catholic university (and where I work), has been offering contraceptives through its insurance plan for years.
From Mother Jones Magazine: “In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn't provide birth control were in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex. That opinion, which the George W. Bush administration did nothing to alter or withdraw when it took office the next month, is still in effect today—and because it relies on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. Employers that don't offer prescription coverage or don't offer insurance at all are exempt, because they treat men and women equally—but under the EEOC's interpretation of the law, you can't offer other preventative care coverage without offering birth control coverage, too.”
In fact, 26 states -- including Illinois and red states such as Arkansas, Georgia, and West Virginia -- have made contraceptive equity the law of the land and required insurance companies to provide it.
So this is a scandal, now?
In their most recent move, the GOP is upping the religious angle in their attacks on the Affordable Care Act. Missouri’s Sen. Roy Blunt has authored a coda to the law called the “Conscience Amendment” which would allow any employer -- not just religious or religiously affiliated employers but anyone -- to opt out on any part of the healthcare for any reason if it’s based on “moral grounds.”
In other words, Tom Cruise, as a Scientologist, could deny mental health benefits to anyone in his employ because Scientologists don’t believe in psychiatry. Anyone with an ax to grind about premarital sex could deny employees pre-natal care. A Christian Scientist could deny all healthcare to all employees.
Does that sound like the United States or some weird dystopian fiction?