Borgia Catholics

Borgia Catholics

by digby

Uhm. I hate to bring this up, but it seems to be relevant:

October 1, 2007

The U.S. Supreme Court today turned down a request by Catholic Charities of New York to review a state court decision requiring insurance companies to include contraceptive coverage in drug benefit packages. The Court's refusal to hear the case leaves in place a law that promotes women's health and addresses gender discrimination while appropriately protecting religious freedom.

"Religiously affiliated organizations, such as Catholic Charities, that employ and serve people of diverse beliefs should not be able to discriminate against their female employees by refusing to cover basic health services," said Louise Melling, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project. "Religiously affiliated organizations that provide nonreligious services to the public must play by public rules."

The law at issue, the Women's Health and Wellness Act, requires insurance companies to cover women's preventive health care, including mandating that insurance plans that cover prescription drugs do not exclude contraceptives from that coverage. The law exempts religious employers such as churches, mosques, and temples, whose main purpose is to promote a particular religious faith and who primarily employ and serve people who share their religious beliefs.

"This law ended the practice of treating birth control, which only women use, differently than other commonly used prescription drugs — a practice that contributed to disproportionately high health costs for women," said Galen Sherwin, Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Rights Project. "The Supreme Court's decision not to review the case ensures that the state of New York can continue to protect women from this form of discrimination."

Catholic Charities appealed a 2006 decision by the Court of Appeals for the State of New York, New York's highest court, that concluded that the Women's Health and Wellness Act was a neutral law designed to advance both women's health and the equal treatment of men and women. That court also held that "when a religious organization chooses to hire non-believers it must, at least to some degree, be prepared to accept neutral regulations imposed to protect those employees' legitimate interests in doing what their own beliefs permit."

Ten religiously affiliated organizations brought the challenge against the Women's Health and Wellness Act. The organizations included Catholic Charities of Albany and Ogdensburg and other Catholic and Baptist social service organizations. The ACLU and the NYCLU filed friend-of-the-court briefs at every step of the state court proceedings in support of the Act.

In October 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down a request by Catholic Charities to review a similar law, the California Women's Contraceptive Equity Act. The ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in that case, Catholic Charities v. Superior Court, as well.

Catholic institutions all over the country have been providing birth control coverage and the Supreme Court declined to hear their objections. Repeatedly. Maybe that will change now that it's federal, but the fact is that Catholic organizations are already providing birth control coverage to their employees and have been for years:

Twenty-eight states already require organizations that offer prescription insurance to cover contraception and since 98 percent of Catholic women use birth control, many Catholic institutions offer the benefit to their employees. For instance, a Georgetown University spokesperson told ThinkProgress yesterday that employees “have access to health insurance plans offered and designed by national providers to a national pool. These plans include coverage for birth control.”

Similarly, an informal survey conducted by Our Sunday Visitor found that many Catholic colleges have purchased insurance plans that provide contraception benefits:

University of Scranton, for example, appears to specifically cover contraception. The University of San Francisco offers employees two health plans, both of which cover abortion, contraception and sterilization…Also problematic is the Jesuit University of Scranton. One of its health insurance plans, the First Priority HMO, lists a benefit of “contraceptives when used for the purpose of birth control.”

DePaul University in Chicago covers birth control in both its fully insured HMO plan and its self-insured PPO plan and excludes “elective abortion,” said spokesman John Holden, adding that the 1,800 employee-university responded to a complaint from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission several years ago and added artificial contraception as a benefit to its Blue Cross PPO.

Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tenn., offers employee health insurance via the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, a consortium of Christian Bible and other private college and universities. Its plan excludes abortion, but probably covers artificial contraception as a prescription drug, said C. Gregg Conroy, the executive director of the TICUA Benefit Consortium.

Boston College, the six former Caritas Christi Catholic hospitals in Massachusetts, and other Catholic organizations that are located in one of the 28 states that already require employers to provide contraception benefits could have self-insured or stopped offering prescription drug coverage to avoid the mandate — but didn’t do so. Instead, they — like many Catholic hospitals and health care insurers around the country — chose to meet the needs of the overwhelming majority of Catholic women and offer these much needed services.

What this proves is that this is yet another partisan political move on the part of the very partisan Catholic Bishops. We saw how they tried to derail the health care bill on behalf of the Republicans --- using Catholic Democrats in congress to do it. Similarly, they are trumping up this controversy on behalf of the GOP. Otherwise, we would have seen a similar rending of garments across the land over these 28 states making the same requirements. And the threats of closing Universities and hospitals rather than violate the "Church's conscience" are obviously phony. If they were going to do that, they already would have.

No, this is not about conscience. It's about the Bishops doing a solid for their Republican allies in an election year. It's not about religion or morality either. It's about politics.

Update: I should amend that to also say that the War on Birth Control is very real and heating up and the Catholic Bishops would love to make it a political hot potato like abortion. It gives them more political power. Here's how they explain it:

"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."

Considering the Church's history with celibacy and sexual deviancy, they may want to rethink that argument.

Update II: Good Lord:

Catholic leaders are furious and determined to harness the voting power of the nation’s 70 million Catholic voters to stop a provision of President Barack Obama’s new heath car reform bill that will force Catholic schools, hospitals and charities to buy birth control pills, abortion-producing drugs and sterilization coverage for their employees.

“Never before, unprecedented in American history, for the federal government to line up against the Roman Catholic Church,” said Catholic League head Bill Donohue.

Already Archbishop Timothy Dolan has spoken out against the law and priests around the country have mobilized, reading letters from the pulpit. Donohue said Catholic officials will stop at nothing to put a stop to it.

“This is going to be fought out with lawsuits, with court decisions, and, dare I say it, maybe even in the streets,” Donohue said.

I'll let Tbogg take this one:

But how will this war be fought, besides Donohue being invited onto gasbag shows where we will bluster and saber-rattle against the godless heathens who would defile his religion with the condoms and NuvaRings of Satan?

Sources told Kramer that American bishops are contemplating a massive march on Washington, using people and school kids bused in from all over to protest the law.

Bus loads full of school kids handed over to the tender ministrations of Catholic Bishops. What could possibly go wrong?