President Trump shakes hands with a nun of the Little Sisters of the Poor during a National Day of Prayer event at the Rose Garden of the White House on May 4, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Carlos Barria

Why religious liberty trumps free birth control

(RNS) For years, we have witnessed a legal battle over the Affordable Care Act’s so-called contraceptive mandate. It seems odd to have nuns and government lawyers fighting each other in court. But that’s how this culture-war flare-up played out.

And now the nuns stand on the precipice of victory.

On Monday (May 29), The New York Times reported that the Trump administration is finalizing a rule that would exempt many religious institutions from a requirement that employers provide coverage for contraceptives in their group health insurance plans.

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The rule fulfills a promise President Trump made four weeks ago when he signed an executive order in a bizarre show of solidarity with religious conservatives.

“With this executive order,” Trump said, “we are ending the attacks on your religious liberty.” That was not exactly true, but the administration began taking steps “to address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate.”

President Trump displays the Executive Order on Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty during a National Day of Prayer event at the Rose Garden of the White House on May 4, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Carlos Barria

The Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious order that cares for the impoverished elderly, manage a large network of health care facilities and services. When the contraceptive mandate emerged in President Obama’s first term with no meaningful religious exemption, the Little Sisters sued the government.

Arguing that religious employers should not be forced to provide drugs they believe are sinful, the Little Sisters of the Poor became the public face of religious-liberty challenges to the mandate.

In short order, some other religious employers, including many conservative evangelical institutions, sued the government as well.

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At the same time, the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft stores owned by evangelical Protestants, could not be forced to cover emergency contraceptives it considered to cause miscarriages or abortions.

The political and public relations debates over the contraceptive mandate were generally self-serving to the combatants and unhelpful to the general public.

Rhetoric on both sides was dishonest. Conservatives said the mandate was an unprecedented attack on their right to freely exercise their religion. Donations flowed to the burgeoning Christian legal-defense industry, which seemingly takes every religious-liberty plaintiff it can find, no matter how outlandish its claim.

Liberals tried to paint opposition to the mandate as nothing more than irrational misogyny. Just this week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the Trump administration’s “sickening” rule to “roll back women’s access to contraception” would deny “millions of women access to basic, preventive health care.”

Pelosi linked this rule to a broader “campaign against women,” echoing the Democrats’ overblown “war on women” rhetoric from recent election cycles.

It is true that Trump has a long history of dishonoring women and the Republican Party has pursued policies regarding workplace discrimination and prosecution of criminal violence against women that do harm them.

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Ironically, Trump’s rule will undoubtedly lead to more abortions, as some women who lose contraceptive coverage will face unintended pregnancies. Every honest conservative must acknowledge this fact.

This debate forces us to prioritize one value over another. More is lost when we compel our fellow citizens against their consciences than when we accept that a few people may not get free birth control from their employers.

To the greatest extent possible, people should not be compelled by the state to violate their consciences. That’s what religious freedom means, and it is a foundational American value.

The Obama administration failed to anticipate the inevitable and legitimate religious-liberty challenge to the mandate. Even after offering up a series of sensible accommodations, it became clear that the two sides were talking past each other.

I hesitate to support Trump’s rule because the government has compromised and the religious-liberty litigants have not.

And I remind birth control opponents that they are free to fight contraception on the demand side.

But neither I, nor any bureaucrat, should be the ultimate judge over other people’s consciences.

Birth control is almost universally accepted in the United States today, but it was largely frowned upon for 19 and a half Christian centuries.

The belief that contraception is a sin that facilitates further sin and distorts relations between men and women may be unpopular. But it is legitimate and sincerely held.

Recall that Pope Francis visited the Little Sisters of the Poor in Washington during his 2015 trip.

My advice to government lawyers is this: If you ever find yourself in federal court against an order of nuns, be prepared to lose. Also, please reconsider the series of events that led to your being sued by nuns in the first place.

(Jacob Lupfer is a contributing editor at RNS and a doctoral candidate in political science at Georgetown University)


  1. Violating WHAT conscience?

    Providing birth control is a medical decision, a health decision, a family decision. It is not a religious decision, except for those who use birth control.

    hese so called conscience stricken people are not compelled to use the birth control themselves. To claim that they are somehow participating in something they find religiously objectionable because they cannot control the actions of others is ludicrous. What if they find alcohol or tobacco or eating too much of the wrong foods morally objectionable? Because they certainly have in the past. gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins. Can they then say that the health insurance they will offer will not offer rehab or treatment for lung cancer or treatments arising from the obesity?

    WHere does this right to control other people based upon YOUR religion stop?

    If they want to control other people’s health and family planning decisions, then they should not be offering health insurance at all. Of course, that might mean that no one will want to work for them.

  2. “Trump’s rule will undoubtedly lead to more abortions, as some women who lose contraceptive coverage will face unintended pregnancies. Every honest conservative must acknowledge this fact.”

    It will be interesting to see how many “honest conservatives” admit the blindingly obvious – that their claimed desire to reduce abortions is harmed by Trump’s rule.

  3. “Even after offering up a series of sensible accommodations…” – A SERIES of SENSIBLE accommodations is the key here. The Obama admin bent, bent a little more, bent a little more, and the Little Sisters of Perpetual Petulant Exemption wouldn’t budge. It’s sinful to even fill out a form!

  4. “”Trump’s rule will undoubtedly lead to more abortions, as some women who lose contraceptive coverage will face unintended pregnancies. Every honest conservative must acknowledge this fact.”

    Oh, undoubtedly!!!!

    A few more dead fetuses are a suitable sacrifice to pay for the moral satisfaction of being able to control them uppity women and force hyper-conservative religious beliefs on people who don’t share them. After all, those fetuses would just go get themselves born, and then no one would have to care about them at all.

  5. Correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t there been an exemption for religious non-profits all along? They didn’t have to pay for birth control in their health insurance coverage if they filled out a form stating as such. The cause of this lawsuit was that the LSOTP thought that even filling out a form was something that they didn’t want to do.

  6. Way to miss the point.

    There is is no issue of religious freedom in letting people make personal choices you had no business being involved in from the start. Your faith doesn’t grant you a right to decide for the lives of others.

    BTW only American Christians labor under such delusions of what religious freedom means. If they were ever subjected to similar treatment by employers of another faith, they would scream bloody murder.

  7. Most people do not get “free birth control” under their insurance but rather discounted prescription rate. So we can correct that right-wing misrepresentation (there is still a commandment against lying for Christians right? Just checking. It has been 30 years since my catechism classes.).

    The article’s title is interesting. Apparently religious liberty trumps personal liberty. Good to know.

  8. This begs the question as to people opposing abortion because they claim to believe a fetus is a person. If they truly believed that they would support birth control. The fact that they do not proves it is not about the fetus but about S-E-X.

  9. The claim the original policy forces employers to pay for birth control is patently false. They don’t pay a nickel; the insurance pays.

  10. I think myself it is more about uppity women, especially uppity women having sex without being punished for it.

    But S-E-X will also work. There seems to be nothing else in their moral universe except whatever people are doing with their naughty bits.

  11. There was a reasonable accommodation made that removed those with religious objections from direct involvement in providing contraceptives. The argument made by the Sisters and the Catholic Church was moronic and without any consideration for the free will and conscience of those who work for them. It is a direct attempt to control the moral choices of others – treating those who work for them as serfs, not free people and certainly not adults. This is an attitude that harks back to rights of kings and rulers and does not belong in the world of free, democratic people.

    The thing people can do is simply not support Catholic hospitals, nursing homes, or other organizations that limit the ability of those who work for them to make their own decisions about the health care they think is right for them. I have a choice of hospitals because of the metropolitan area I live in. I will not use any Catholic health care institution because if competition drives any out of the market, I don’t want the Catholic hospital to be the last one standing.

    I am also Catholic and think this is not the way that people of one religion respect people of other faiths or even other Catholics who do not accept this teaching. We cannot give employers this power. Catholic organizations employ over 1 million citizens of many different faiths who are hired for their job skills and not their faith. We should not give this power to an employer, even a religious one.

    And don’t give me the guff about contraceptives being cheap and people can buy them with their wages. Many can’t afford effective contraceptives.

  12. Since the definition of life and its beginning is a matter of religious conviction, how can “religious liberty” top a religious conviction?

    From a political perspective, on what basis does a government make laws which decide whether a couple has or has not children?

    Given these differently impossible to answer questions, can we not see that the entire abortion issue has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with politics and will of some people to use power to impose their beliefs on others? The Catholic Church–no surprise. Southern Baptists and other Christian fundamentalists–no surprise. They are, always have been, and will remain totalitarians and anti-democratic.

  13. and who pays the insurance (hint: the employer.)

  14. And even if they can afford them, it is healthcare, not religion.

  15. Single payer would make this issue go away.

  16. No is forcing you to use contraceptives but you have NO right to prevent its use by anyone else! You let one religious belief control others, what’s to stop any more. Religious freedom is not the right to discriminate!

  17. “This debate forces us to prioritize one value over another. More is lost when we compel our fellow citizens against their consciences than when we accept that a few people may not get free birth control from their employers.”

    How do you arrive at this conclusion? What are you weighing and on what basis can you say “more is lost”? This is incomplete reasoning, at best, especially in light of your dismissive views of “the war on women” and your baseless support for the claim that seeing birth control as a “sin” is “legitimate.” Your editorial merely asserts that “freedom” is a higher value than “the good,” but does not even try to explain why beyond some lame appeals to “fundamental American values” as if those were unqualified and unquestionable, even from a supposedly Christian point of view.

    You won’t address these questions, but everyone who agrees with you should answer another: do you think the Civil Rights Act of 1964 violates the “sincerely held beliefs” of people who would refuse service to African-Americans?

  18. Religious freedom is for individual women in regards to birth control and not the biggest and wealthiest franchise/corporation on the planet. Women need and want health care that includes birth control, just as many men want viagra. One if to be forbidden and the other allowed. Why? Sheer perversity and misogyny on the part of the Catholic Church as a way to keep women in second class status and servants men they will never meet. The Catholic hierarchy in many countries has suborned democracy and is worming its way deeper into the US government, via the GOP and its ideology of dominate and control women.
    The nuns are no different than Mother Teresa who opposed everything the Catholic Church opposed and propped up dictators and tyrants worldwide. The nuns are extremists and ill suited to be part of this having no stake in the outcome. Their master, the hierarchy of the church, men like Cardinal Timothy Dolan of NYC owe their loyalty to the Vatican and Catholic doctrine. We are headed toward a theocracy and this is one more step.

  19. Many people live where Catholic hospitals are the only recourse they have. In such cases secular birth control clinics should provide reproductive healthcare. Women are being lifted onto a Cross of suffering by this ascendant ideology which is bizarre if you think of it.

  20. I think it’s also a punish women tactic. Women are not supposed to enjoy sex, just endure it and accept any pregnancies. Look around. We don’t have families with 13, 15, 17 children any more (I’ve encountered people from these breeder families and “half of them are crazy” said one member of such a family. These are not family values. Forcing women to breed and bear, birth and raise children in excess is cruel. But that’s the Catholic way, such sadism in pursuit of Christian purity of the sex act No wonder SO many people are leaving religion behind. This will cause a huge backlash.

  21. Religious liberty is for the individual as over and against massive political and religious authority and power to control the lives of said individuals. This is nothing short of tyranny, a tyrannical abuse of power over women separately and as a class. But that’s what the GOP’s laundry list of policies which was handed to Trump. He’s just going along to curry favor with them so he can follow his own vile agenda of ripping off the whole country for his and Putin’s benefit.

    In that sense, not just our ‘religious liberty’ is at stake.

  22. Yes, that was Obama’s mistake, not taking a principled stand at the beginning. He should have made NO accommodation. Yet the political climate was that half of Republicans thought him a Muslim and Trump has never disavowed his promotion of this lie. When even Obama had to make compromises with bullies and thugs, we see the power of the religious right to worm its way into government policy making. We need Complete (!) Separation of Church and State.

  23. they are such busybodies. Too bad they don’t look to their own house, in the form of ongoing sexual abuse of children in churches, scapegoating of LGBT persons as ‘bad’ people, raking in trillions in the USA and it going to fund more politicking, legal and political interventions into the US government, and dominating their laity’s brains.

  24. But in this instance, saying “no” means saying yes!

  25. The author conveniently left out that all the nuns had to do to obtain an exemption from the ACA birth control mandate was to submit a request for a waiver, and they wouldn’t even do that.

  26. Some cost comparisons to show that birth control and STD protection on a daily basis are very inexpensive and basically affordable without any insurance coverage.

    The Condom: (the only protection against STD transfer for the sexually active)

    Amazon’s Choice “Trojan Condom ENZ Lubricated, 36 Count by Trojan $ 13.27 ( 37 cents /each)

    From :

    The Pill

    “As of 2013, the Pill remained one of women’s top contraceptive choices, with a 16% usage among women on birth control. For those covered by health insurance, co-pay on the Pill can range from “$5 to $15” on “generic medication” and “$30 to $40 for non-preferred brands,” each month. However, for those who do not have health insurance, birth control pills can ring in between “$20 to $50 a month,” based on healthcare provider and brand of the Pill.” (or 0.66 cents to $1.67 cents/day).

    The IUD

    “Another common form of birth control is the intrauterine device, or IUD. In fact, 6.4% of women on birth control between 2011 and 2013 reported using the IUD, making it the most popular form of “long-acting reversible contraception.” With insurance, the IUD can come free or for very low-cost. Without insurance, there are still (limited) opportunities to obtain a free or inexpensive IUD at clinics such as Planned Parenthood. Those who are uninsured and do not qualify for free or low-cost IUDS at clinics, or don’t have access to these clinics, can pay anywhere between $500 to $800+.” (life expectancy of an IUD is 3-12 years, assume average of 7.5 years and average cost of $650 comes to 24 cents/day).

    The Implant

    “Implanon and Nexplanon are two brands of the implant, another method of long-term reversible birth control. Health insurance, and programs like Medicaid, make it so that the implant can be available for free or low-cost. For the uninsured, however, getting an implant inserted can cost up to $800 at Planned Parenthood.” (Three year lifespan, 80000 cents/1095 days= 73 cents/day)

    The Shot

    “Depo-Provera, or the shot, is a slightly less long-term birth control method than the IUD or the implant (both of which last for several years), but is still more long-lasting than the Pill since it only needs to be injected every three months. Again, those with insurance can qualify for the shot for free or at a low-cost. Those without insurance may have to pay up to $250 for their first injection, and $150 for follow-up injections.”

    The Vaginal Ring

    The vaginal ring, or NuvaRing, is again free of charge or low-cost with health insurance. Without insurance, insertion of the ring can cost up to $250 if an accompanying medical exam is needed, or $80 a month without an exam. While open enrollment for Obamacare ended on January 31, 2017, there are still other options left, all of which are listed here.”

    As compared to:

    A cup of coffee at Starbucks: “White Chocolate Mocha Venti $4.75/day, $142.50/month Freshly Brewed Coffee Tall $1.85, $55.50/month, Freshly Brewed Coffee Grande $2.10 Freshly Brewed Coffee Venti $2.45 ”

    A Big Mac: “Big Mac $3.99 Big Mac – Meal $5.99 ”

    A pack of Cigarettes: “Meanwhile, the national average price for a pack of cigarettes—including state taxes and the federal excise tax of $1.01 per pack—is also $6.16. Apr 20, 2017”

    Should we also have health insurance companies (i.e. the premium payers i.e. us) pay for the cost of toothpaste, tooth brushes, bandages, sunscreens and over-the-counter pain relievers?

  27. Fertility is not a medical problem. Birth control IS a family decision, but not a medical decision or a health decision. And yes it is a decision for the family to make by themselves and noone else should stick their nose in. That is not being argued. What is being argued is whether pretending birth control is a health issue is enough of an excuse to force other people to pay for it. This is the same logic as saying that health insurance should pay for condoms. (And don’t use the silly argument that says if estrogen is being used for a medical purpose it should still be considered birth control.)
    The argument should have nothing to do with anyone else’s religious opinions because if people want to have sex and don’t want a pregnancy to occur then they should obtain birth control for themselves and not pretend other people should pay for it.

  28. “The belief that contraception is a sin that facilitates further sin and distorts relations between men and women may be unpopular. But it is legitimate and sincerely held.”

    So is the belief that contraception is NOT a sin. Both sides hold legitimate and sincerely held beliefs. Why does the Little Sisters’ side trump that of their employees? All they had to do is sign a form saying they were unwilling to provide BC. What you are arguing is that their religious liberty is more worthy than that of the women who work for them.

  29. No, signing the form simply allows someone else to step and and give the employees the chance to say “yes” or “no” to contraceptives. For the Sisters, this was about controlling the ability of people to make choices. It is about dominance of others.

  30. This problem could be solved by getting the federal government out of the business of deciding what health care needs and wants should be covered by every health care plan. We’d end up with more diverse plans that meet the diverse needs and desires of the people. Freedom baby.

  31. The good sisters, in all their holiness, want to make other people’s choices.

  32. Not an argument. by this reasoning, an employer who is a Christian Scientist’s company insurance is not obligated to pay for care for a cancer patient.

  33. Not that you don’t have a point but by extension then birth control should be available without prescription in drug stores and pharmacy sections of supermarkets. IVF and other similar procedures (vasectomies, tubal ligations) should also then similarly not be covered by health insurance.

  34. Totally agree. There is an article in America Magazine about this. Catholic hospitals are expanding in a dangerous way and more and more women are being left without choices they should have.

    I think we have to live through this wave, this time when we have turned away from real support of women’s health care needs and back toward the way things were in the 1950s. But this tide will turn.

    If Catholic hospitals keep expanding, it will be important to elect those who support government rules that require hospitals to follow good medicine and not rules laid down by celibate men who wear dresses.

    I am Catholic but do not want Catholic bishops involved in civil matters that affect individuals ability to make health care choices those individuals think are right for them. And I am a big believer in the benefits of contraceptives and sterilizations for women who don’t want or shouldn’t have any more children.

  35. The tide will turn on this. Right now the power is in the hands of the bosses, those who own businesses or those who control businesses, such as bishops. But “religious liberty” must also apply to the workers, who should not be manipulated by their bosses into having to live by dictates of a religious beliefs they don’t believe are right. The tide will also turn because too much of health care in this country is being controlled by Catholic run organizations – and women’s ability to make health care choices based on medical advice rather than religious dictates is being restricted more and more.

  36. Your insistence that birth control is not a medical matter is simply your very convenient opinion. It is a medication, it is prescribed by doctors, it has effects on the human body.

    Why should you have to pay for it? WHy not? WHy should I have to pay for the bad decisions of smokers, over eaters, people who don’t exercise, alcoholics, and drug addicts? In fact, why should we have insurance at all? you’re having to pay for all sorts of things that you probably don’t approve of.

    Except that you are NOT paying for it. you are paying for YOUR health insurance. JUst like the rest of us. What you want to be able to do is control the lives of other people because of your hang ups about sex.

    But let’s go a bit further. we shouldnt have to pay taxes, either. I don’t want to pay for guns or the salary of idiot congressmen or arm sales to Muslim countries that would just as soon see us dead.

    That’s not how this irks. That’s not how any of this works.

  37. The employer should be able to design the insurance benefit in whatever manner best suits the company. The employee can choose to select the benefit or not, or choose another employer. If an employer wants an insurance contract that doesn’t cover cancer treatment, they should be able to do so. Let the market decide if that’s a wise choice. Do you want the state to decide everything?

  38. “Ironically, Trump’s rule will undoubtedly lead to more abortions, as some women who lose contraceptive coverage will face unintended pregnancies. Every honest conservative must acknowledge this fact.”

    As a honest conservative, this is only an assumption with implicit evidence that is actually inconclusive, I argue. The reason is that, for one, some contraceptives are abortifacient. For two, some abortions occur precisely because a contraceptive isn’t 100% successful.

    Now, even if more abortions result, here is why it is the moral choice for Catholics like me anyway. First off, morality isn’t based on results, but by intention. Then, Trump doesn’t cause/intend, from and by the nature of his act, more people to abort, but intends that fewer abort, by the clear nature of his act. This means he isn’t morally responsible, in this context, for those who do choose to abort. Those who choose to abort are responsible.

    This idea is rather hard to explain clearly, but I gave it my best effort. It relies on the Principle of Double Effect. Needless to say, if you disagree with some of the premises, then the argument probably won’t work.

    “This debate forces us to prioritize one value over another. More is lost when we compel our fellow citizens against their consciences than when we accept that a few people may not get free birth control from their employers.”

    Spoken like a honest conservative.

    “But neither I, nor any bureaucrat, should be the ultimate judge over other people’s consciences.”

    First off, this occurs on the left with global warming. Second, it is true that one isn’t supposed to judge people’s consciences. However, your sentence misses the point. The point is to judge a person’s action, to discourage them from bad acts like killing and encourage them to good acts like giving food to the poor and helping people find work. Some say that contraception and abortion are bad (including me, though I think contraception seems morally allowable in the case of rape, so long as it doesn’t lead to abortion).

  39. No, I don’t want the state to decide everything, but even if it did, it’d be better than the employer deciding everything. I do not believe an employer has any particular rights as such or deserves any. Those who kill their workers through their malfeasance, like that Murray whose miners died in Utah due to the company neglecting safety standards, deserve public execution. They should have a right to become employers only after adhering to standards, and having insurance which doesn’t offer birth control should result in seizure of all their assets.

  40. Why should employers be forced to provide birth control (a prescription drug) in their health insurance plans in the first place. Many employer plans have no prescription drug coverage at all. Don’t get me wrong, if I were an employer, I would provide birth control coverage; hopefully to reduce time off for female employees. It would make economic sense. But what is the logic of a government mandate that an employer must provide this one particular prescription drug coverage.

  41. No Spuddie, you are missing the point. People are still free to make personal choices, it is just that their employers, particularly religiously based employers, should not be forced to be complicit in those choices if they find them to be morally objectionable.

    “Get out of my bedroom”

    “Okay, just let me get my wallet…”

    “The wallet stays, bigot”

    That is essentially what you are arguing for.

  42. The good sisters, in all their holiness, don’t want to be complicit in them. If you don’t like it you can either:

    1. Choose not to work for the good sisters
    2. Purchase birth control on your own

    This is a good example of the problems we get when the government gets too big and intrusive. In a free society the state would not be mandating exactly what type of health care an employer must provide anyway.

  43. No they shouldn’t and no they don’t. Insurance requires state mandated minimum coverages in order to make policies worth their premiums. Not covering expensive and grave issues creates economic hardship for all and defeats the purpose of insurance for policy holders.

    Employers have no business whatsoever micromanaging the private and personal healthcare choices of their workers.Health care information for individuals is protected from the public (see HIPAA).

    Moreover, employers can simply sign a form and let employees choose their own coverage. There is no reasonable argument against letting employees out out of a company health plan.

  44. Because it’s none of their business. An employer has no legitimate say in how employees use the compensation provided in exchange for work.

    Insurance is a creature of state regulation. An entirely free market for it leads to wide scale defrauding of policy holders. Government sets minimum coverages to ensure healthcare insurance is worth the premium paid.

  45. As I understand “basic human rights,” they represent fundamental standards of behavior to which every human is entitled, regardless of where they live and who they are. They are entitled for no other reason than they are a human being. Historically, these have been associated with such lofty ideals as right to life, liberty, freedom of speech and association, etc. But birth control pills . . . as an universal inalienable and legal right, hmm.

  46. There is no rational or even moral argument against contraception. You oppose contraception because of arbitrary rules of your sect. Something which nobody else is bound by. Your religious beliefs are not an excuse to intrude upon the beliefs and lived of others.

    There is less moral issues when it’s not your legitimate choice to make. To ignore personal boundaries of others is a far greater immorality than whatever your sectarian beliefs claim for such things.

    It’s not your body, it’s none of your business. You have no right to force others to conform to your sectarian beliefs.

  47. Libertarians are fools. A free market healthcare system means nobody gets decent treatment and what little is available costs too much. People don’t choose what healthcare to receive. They get it when the need arises. Under duress.

  48. No they aren’t.

    Employers want to force workers to do as they say. They are even objecting to letting employees out out and make their own choices.

    You missed that part. I made a big deal of the fact that all the employer has to do is sign a form and not pay for it at all. By omission of that point you prove yourself either to be dishonest or too dim to go off your script.

    There is still no rational or moral argument against contraception, nor in failing to respect the lives of others who may choose to use it. It is an arbitrary rule if your faith and nothing more. This is,merely about being a control freak.

  49. I respect your dogmatic belief that there is no rational or moral argument against contraception. I do believe that my argument has some sense of rationality in it, and that both sides have reasoning, though only one side is correct.

    Also, I have a religious belief that murder is wrong. Is it bad because it’s religious? I say no, that I can reason about morality with things such as murder. Also, my argument from the previous comment doesn’t rely on my religion (except maybe in the way of that I believe there are consequences from this life into the next life). My argument is a sort of humanism whereby what is best for humans is to promote and incentivize what is best for them. Then, I believe the government is to support the common good.

    Lastly, if it is harmful to one’s own person to use contraception or abortion, I am not pro-human in the sense of promoting what is best for them if I say they should be able to do these freely. If there is a definitive, proven answer that abortion and contraception in certain circumstances or in general are always harmful and never optimal about as often as 2 + 2 = 4, and this is clearly knowable and known, then I would rightly not be pro-human in supporting, encouraging, or allowing such a thing in any reasonable way. Of course, there are wrong ways to enforce such an issue to where one does more harm than good in trying to enforce such an issue. The government doesn’t “force” people to not murder, but strongly disincentivizes it. The same idea can apply here, though the disincentive may not be as strong compared with murder at all, just the idea of a governmental disincentive that is within due reason and careful consideration.

    Let me think of this another way. I want to care for other people, and I want them to care for me (out of their own free will). I would much rather have this than every man for himself. Persons are some of the most valuable things ever, so why not take advantage to be with people? If they are harmed, say, by drugs, then one can’t really have a beautiful relationship with them as one could because the drugs will get in the way.

    One other point. Your use of the word “sectarian” is improper here, as I am a part of the main Catholic Church, not some branch of it. I believe what I have said is in line with said Church, though I could be wrong. If so, I prefer to reconsider my argument and agree with said Church, as I believe they have it right on things which are good. Also, there are a lot of experts within there that look at the topic of morality, so I would default to trusting their expertize over myself if the case arises. That is why it is relatively easy for me to rely on them and renounce my own argument if it contradicts them in a way that prevents me from being a Catholic in their sense.

  50. In the free states of the rest of the world, healthcare is a useful, functioning government service. Without nuns.

  51. “I respect your dogmatic beliefs…”

    You do not respect the beliefs of anyone else if you think you have a right to make such personal decisions for others.

    One does not need a religious basis to believe murder is wrong.
    There are rational reasons why it is. As well as a clear and unambiguous harm done to others. There is no such rationale to oppose contraception.

    You simply rely on religion for such things to cover up the purely arbitrary and sectarian nature of such rules. You have argued that whatever you think is best for others must be compelled. That is not humanism, nor pro-human. You simply are self aggrandizing and showing an indifference to the lives of others. Very sociopathic.

    You have not made any moral arguments. Merely engaged in circular reasoning and begging the question. Clearly you have nothing substantial to say. I find nothing sane in such a stance as yours. The fact that you think you can and have to force people to consider sexual relations for purely procreation shows just how unnatural and nonsensical the notion is. Moreover it is borne entirely by purely arbitrary religious dictates. It has zero to do with morality.

    Sectarian is entirely correct here. You are applying the tenets of specific sect/faith which are neither widely accepted nor even close to universal across all religious beliefs.

    “I want to care for other people, and I want them to care for me (out of their own free will)”

    No you don’t. Care for other people implies respect for them. It involves understanding personal boundaries and issues of consent. You are simply trying to excuse arrogant, controlling behavior and an indifference to the lives and concerns of others.

    Frankly the whole, “I am doing this against their will for their own good” argument is one of the most immoral and pernicious ones coming out of Christians in general. Besides being completely false in its motivations, it denotes a complete and utter hostility to others. That their beliefs, rights and lives are of less concern than your arbitrary wishes.

    Overall, I think you are dishonest, immoral and have an utter contempt for the lives of others.

  52. “But birth control pills . . . as an universal inalienable and legal right, hmm.”

    Yup. A woman has a right not to have her healthcare decisions determined by the arbitrary dictates of her employer.

  53. “2. Purchase birth control on your own”

    You ignoramus, the sisters are trying to prevent employees from doing that as well. Somehow signing a form to let employees make their own choices and pay for their own insurance is some grave imposition on then,

    Your remark is a good example of what happens when people make comments without a basic knowledge of the facts.

    Government intrusion is not the problem here. The voters demanded the contraception mandate from the ACA. The government is on the side of workers here. The problem being religious types who want to believe their religion gives them excuses not to respect others or the laws.

  54. The anti-birth control crowd are so on the rightwing fringe, ordinary Catholics disown them.
    For decades women activists on this issue have said that the anti-abortionists were really against all birth control, too. You see this play out with Trump, GOP, and the Religious Right. Meanwhile numbers of abortions are down as are teen pregnancies, though less than the European countries.

    Mr. Lammers, no one has their hand on your wallet. But these thugs have their hands on the family income of the women who need birth control and reproductive healthcare. It’s now just women who lose out, while Uncle Sam sees no problem in using Medicare for your EFFING viagra.

    No, it’s whole families. First in having to pay for birth care out of often scarce funds, but also being further impoverished if they get pregnant and are forced to bring another child into the world. That the Right doesn’t want to pay for single mothers and their offspring shows what hypocrites the extremist Right is.

  55. They are intruding. They are celibate prunes and want to control how others live their lives. They are a bunch of sanctimonious rightwing extremists. They are no holier than anyone else and they have NO compassion or understanding of others.

  56. We are talking about privileges accorded to the religious that they do not earn or deserve. When they start playing politics and propping up their hoary old church doctrines straight from Rome and the pope, they are violating the US separation of church and state. I’d like to tell them: “Keep your nose out of my bedroom you bunch of pecksniffian virgins.”

  57. These Catholic hospitals are just as bullying and high handed as DJT.

  58. “You ignoramus, the sisters are trying to prevent employees from doing that as well. Somehow signing a form to let employees make their own choices and pay for their own insurance is some grave imposition on then,”

    They are refusing to sign the document, which the government then uses to get them insurance. There is nothing that prevents them from privately buying birth control or insurance.

    Just to let you know, the Little Sisters of the Poor are a Catholic religious organization. One of the moral teachings of the Catholic church is that contraception is intrinsically evil. I don’t think it is too much of a stretch for potential employees of theirs to be cognizant of this fact.

    “Government intrusion is not the problem here. The voters demanded the contraception mandate from the ACA.”

    Yes, it is. The voters didn’t demand a contraception mandate (it’s not even in the ACA as passed) President Obama demanded it with an executive order.

    “You ignoramus”

    Ad hominem attacks are an old, and dishonorable, debating tactic. Duly noted.

  59. “No they aren’t.

    Employers want to force workers to do as they say. They are even objecting to letting employees out out and make their own choices.

    You missed that part. I made a big deal of the fact that all the employer has to do is sign a form and not pay for it at all. By omission of that point you prove yourself either to be dishonest or too dim to go off your script.”

    No I didn’t miss it. For the Sisters this would still be material cooperation with something that is evil. They should be free to run their organization in accordance with their moral principles.

    “By omission of that point you prove yourself either to be dishonest or too dim to go off your script.”

    The ad hominems are coming fast and thick today. Duly noted.

    “There is still no rational or moral argument against contraception, nor in failing to respect the lives of others who may choose to use it. It is an arbitrary rule if your faith and nothing more. This is,merely about being a control freak”

    There are, but it is not my intent to make them here. This is very much a religious freedom issue. The Little Sisters of the Poor are a religious organization, it shouldn’t be too hard to figure this out. Present or potential employees should be able to discern this.

  60. No, the sisters are wrong there. There is no moral argument against contraception. You have none other than “my religion says so”. It is a sectarian rule, one not accepted by all of society or even all Christianity. Moreover an employee is not automatically an unwilling adherent to the faith of their employer, nor their property. It is not the business of an employer to make such private choices for others. It shows a lack of respect for the lives of workers. there is nothing moral about such coercive actions. The whole thing was simply a politicized attack on the ACA on behalf of conservative wingnuts.

    If an employer can’t respect the lives and choices of employers (which they have no business being involved in), there is no valid legal or moral argument to be made. There is no valid argument they are paying for it here. There is no right to remove the choice of people who do not feel like being bound by their boss’s personal, arbitrary and sectarian belief.

  61. They are refusing to let employees make their own decision. They are binding workers to their own personal beliefs by coercive action. If the job required strict adherence to such sectarian beliefs then it should only be open to members of the clergy. Barring that, it is an unwarranted attack on the lives and beliefs of workers. Religious freedom does not entail forcing others to abide by your beliefs and making private decisions for them. Christian privilege is the belief that all things must be bent to allow Christians to control others.

    Btw, you are wrong on the facts. By refusing to sign the waiver, workers can’t seek their own insurance privately. You can’t be covered twice for health coverage,simultaneously. So you can’t even get that correct either. Your script is faulty here. Also, voters demanded the contraception mandate in overwhelming numbers. Executive orders can’t change text of a statute. You cannot get facts straight because your argument was nonsense from the beginning. It has all to do with an attack on the ACA and nothing to do with religious freedom.

  62. There is no sane argument against birth control. Even insurance companies support it as a net value to them. Employers who aren’t control freaks support it as well. Prior to the ACA, many these religious employers had insurance plans which covered contraception. This is simply politicized theatre. There s no moral or legal argument against signing a form and letting people find their own coverage.

  63. By the way, for the reader, this is a continuation of a previous comment-discussion.

    Shame on you for smearing my argument. I have told you my argument, and you are pretending I have a different, straw-man argument, including the idea that I have no argument. Some of it is that you have no argument, at least not expressed here explicitly. A few of your statements here are inaccurate to what I have previously said.

    You obviously aren’t distinguishing between the idea of religion, religions, and branches of a religion, which frankly insults most religions. Many religions are contradictory with other religions, so making a statement about religion is much harder to accurately do than making a statement about, say, Christianity, which is in turn much harder to do than to make a statement about a specific denomination of Christianity.

    If you want to know how I defined “sect”, I am using Google’s definition. Your use of the word “sectarian” is improper by Google’s definition, which also assumes for my side the idea that Catholicism claims to be the main Church of Christianity.

    Also, it is truly shameful for you to call people who have a honest disagreement with you, “dishonest, immoral, sociopathic, self-aggrandizing, and indifferent about the lives of others”. You clearly don’t seem interested in the truth, but interested in “winning” by unjust ad hominem attacks.

    I believe that one doesn’t have a right to do evil, period. Of course, it has to be done in such a way to not deny people the free will to do good, which they have a right to do. To prevent a person from doing anything (which is the only solution to truly prevent people from doing evil) clearly violates a person’s right to do good.

    Next, it is good to penalize and discourage evil, so people have a right to penalize evil. Of course, the penalty should be proportionate to the evil done.

    You tell me how promoting good and penalizing evil, including discouraging penalizing good and promoting evil, is “dishonest, immoral, sociopathic, self-aggrandizing, and indifferent about the lives of others”.

    My argument on contraception and abortion stands because you are saying that people should be free to penalize good and promote evil within their own lives, and I am against that. In fact, I think your own attacks on me regarding immoral and indifferent about the lives of others apply more to you than to me, it seems, as you have completely ignored that point.

    Lastly, you say you are against religious dogmatism. If you hate it so much, why are you imitating it?

  64. Your argument was self serving, dishonest and sociopathic in nature. It has nothing to do with making moral choices and everything to do with dominance over others.

    You have no cogent or sane argument against contraception. Just a hazy feeling about how others should live. Nothing based in moral thinking.

    I call you sociopathic because of your argument depends on indifference to the personal lives of others in favor of your opinion as to how they must live. Who the hell gave you the authority to intervene in the choices of others? Nobody. Even worse, you lack the empathy and basic connection to people to figure out that you would not want others to act in a similar fashion against your private life.

    Another point is religion doesn’t define morality. Your sectarian beliefs do not define how others must live. Your view of contraception is entirely based on arbitrary rules of your sect, not moral thinking. Plus one does not make a moral decision by denying decisions to others.

    You don’t like that people do things your religion forbids? Get over it. We live in a free society which is not subject to your will or your religious beliefs.

  65. Clearly a smear of my arguments. Also, my arguments aren’t based on what I like, though I do like my arguments, as I suppose you like yours as well, but on a claim to objective truth.

    I ask you to consider your own words in whether they are sociopathic or not, incoherent or not, based on “a hazy feeling about how others should live” or not, before accusing someone else of the same.

  66. Shorter Matt, “You use do as I say because I am your moral superior”.

    My argument, “No I don’t. No you aren’t”.

    The stance against contraception is foolish, irrational and based on arbitrary authority which makes no sense. You don’t want to use it, fine. But you can stop pretending everyone has an obligation to follow suit, or worse not use it because you want it

    Ultimately it is just a matter of demanding people to do something on no other reason than, “because I say so”.

    A free society must respond to your demands by telling you to stuff it.

  67. But why is this one drug (birth control pill) mandated as must be covered and without cost. Pregnancy is not a disease condition. From a health perspective, mandating high blood pressure medication coverage without cost, would literally save thousands of lives. So, again, why the government’s heavy hand for a drug that has nothing to do with illness.

  68. I think I agree about birth control being available without prescription… I have read that it is often available at clinics no questions asked so I don’t see the issue for not having it available without. On the second statement I would distinguish between fertility and infertility. Infertility may be a medical issue. But there is a second portion to that statement about health insurance coverage which is probably more of a difference. I think the issue has to do with government using force without justification, not what insurance companies should or shouldn’t pay for.

  69. Mostly because insurance companies love it! Contraception is a net gain for them. It is effective as birth control and a cost effective treatment for certain ailments having nothing to do with its contraceptive effect. Family planning is a medical issue and a workplace issue. Although not a disease or injury, having children is a condition requiring medical care and future care for the child once borne.

    Health insurance isn’t in the business of saving lives. Its about spreading and socializing medical risks to ensure the most premiums collected for the least payout, while still providing the service people pay their premiums for.

    ” From a health perspective, mandating high blood pressure medication coverage without cost, would literally save thousands of lives. ”

    Except insurance companies do not consider it such. It is a negative for them. Women don’t take birth control pills or use implantable contraception for their rest of their lives, nor does it lead to other conditions requiring treatment. Once someone is prescribed heart medication, they must take it until they die. A heart condition usually grows to other medical issues as well. You become a source of high value benefits paid out by an insurer as opposed to saving them premiums in the long run.

    Single payer is the most moral form healthcare insurance of all. 🙂

  70. Absolutely. If other medical procedures apply, so do these.

  71. If I am intentionally promoting evil, as you seem to say I am in a previous comment, then why would I be hiding it as opposed to just saying it?

  72. Your whole attitude is an evil which is common among the self righteous / sociopathic. That your beliefs entitle you to intrude upon lives of others and attack them out of some sense of moral superiority.

    People use your excuse to pretend hateful malicious actions are “concern for the souls of others”. You use it to pretend all must be subject to your arbitrary sectarian beliefs. Beliefs which have zero to do with moral issues and everything to do with trying to control those who do not share your views.

    Sorry Matt, your attempt to make this into a great moral crusade is just preening and exaggeration. Contraception is not evil. Neither is standing aside to respect the lives of others.

  73. Since you’re not answering my question, I will take it that you agree with me, that if I was intentionally promoting evil, I would say so. However, I have said only the opposite, it seems. Therefore, your argument that I am intentionally promoting evil falls apart. So, you have to admit that either of us could be right, and that the only way to resolve this is to look at the best argument from each side and compare them.

    Your argument is that contraception is not evil. By logic, you are saying that contraception is never bad to use. You therefore then have to say that contraception is good, as if something is neither good nor evil, then it is nothing. But, if contraception is good, aren’t you saying that everyone should use contraception all the time?

  74. I refuse to discuss this subject in such ridiculous generalities. Contraception is not evil. It is not your business whether others use it. You have no duty to force others to comply with your decision beliefs.

    Replace “contraception” with “eating meat on Friday” and you will have a sane perspective here.

  75. So you don’t want to say that contraception is good? If contraception isn’t evil and it isn’t good, then you’re talking about nothing. But I’m not talking about nothing, I’m talking about contraception.

    If you’re saying that “nothing is not evil”, then I can agree with you in that nothing in and of itself isn’t evil. Of course, maybe you should define for me what the definition of good and evil are.

  76. You are over reading my response.

    OK, I support easy, cheap and unfettered access to effective contraception. I think one has to be an absolute fool to oppose it. There is no rational argument against it. Contraception frees people up to have the children they can support and the lived they want to lead. You rely on religion to justify your position because it is so nonsensical in its face without the unquestioned and arbitrary authority of faith behind it.

    “If you’re saying that “nothing is not evil”, ”

    I am not. I am saying religion and sectarian beliefs don’t define evil. Evil has an objective standard of definition. I believe a component of evil is malice and indifference to the lives of others. I believe a lot of people try to justify evil acts with your rationale. I see it here too often.

    You brought evil into the discussion because you want to pretend a sectarian and arbitrary rule has a moral underpinning. It never did.

  77. You are finally giving a reasoning for why you support contraception.

    So you’re saying that people are in “chains” until they have contraception, eh? Sounds pessimistic of humanity, if you ask me. I finally am coming to see why you think contraception is so valuable. Are you really saying that nobody can live their lives “they want to lead” without contraception? These are serious questions, I’m not trying to be funny here. Perhaps I shall do so in the next two paragraphs.

    On the definition of evil, well, if you define malice as the intention or desire to do evil (Bing Dictionary), then you are basically using a circular reference in defining evil, so you haven’t really defined evil at all based on the word “malice”.

    If you define evil as being indifferent in the lives of others, then what is more indifferent within their lives than letting people do whatever they want? Thank you for agreeing with me on this (I think you have previously said that people should do whatever they want, at least with regards to contraception). I see you have now admitted that your own argument you are advocating for is evil. Thanks!

    Of course, if you believe that everyone should use contraceptives, then this isn’t indifferent but pushing it into other people’s lives. In that case, my argument above doesn’t work as well.

  78. Plastic surgery is a medical procedure done by doctors and yet we are able to distinguish between cases where it is elective/cosmetic and when it is medically necessary. That is not a matter of opinion. The question is whether it addresses a medical issue.
    Second, it is not me paying for my health insurance rather my employer paying most of it. If it were me paying for it there would be no issue in that I could choose the coverage I want. The issue is forcing someone else to pay for what I want. The government applying force to a third party is the issue to me as I mentioned above.
    If you are interested in philosophical discussion the stuff about smoking is interesting but my guess is you are more interested in holding a political opinion or you would not have tried to personalize the comment. If I am wrong let me know.

  79. You are arguing for freedom of choice for the individual to practice contraception. I agree totally. A Catholic has the same freedom of choice not to practice contraception and believe it is sinful. The problem is the govt is now taking sides and restricting the freedom of choice as expressed by Catholic beliefs. Again why the govt coercion for the birth control pill which treats no medical illness. Because it is seen as a progressive women’s issue and everyone must conform inaction and thought. For us men who believe in contraception why doesn’t the govt mandate insurance coverage for condoms. Not only is it a contraceptive, but it reduces spread of venereal disease.

  80. A Catholic does not have the freedom to make decisions for others in such a way. Much like they have no right to coerce patients of hospitals into following their dogma by refusing to discuss medical options they oppose.

    This isn’t even the nonsense of choosing not to pay for state mandated minimum coverage of contraception.

    This is choosing not to sign a form and let people make their own decision and use their own money. The complete and utter contempt you and Catholic employers show for the lives of others is apparent here. No respect for the privacy or choice of others. There is no imposition in signing a waiver and opting out of a decision one had no business making in the first place.

    Just because you do not believe in using contraception doesn’t mean you get to keep others from using it. That is not religious freedom. That is attacking others for your faith.

    BTW Catholic beliefs about contraception are beyond stupid. There is no rational or sane argument to be made here. All you have is the arbitrary sectarian belief it is prohibited. There is no moral issue here. Only whether you have such disregard and disrespect for others that you must coerce them to following your sectarian directives.

  81. Please re-read what I wrote. I didn’t say I wanted a completely free market (i.e. completely unregulated) health care system. I just don’t want the federal government to mandate what health insurance has to cover in order to be sold.

  82. Why does the Little Sisters’ side trump that of their employees?

    Because the federal government is not trying to ban contraception. If it were, the belief that it’s not a sin might come into play.

  83. I don’t think the employees have a religious liberty claim in this situation. If certain employees were being discriminated against because of their faith, then they might.

  84. Then why does the belief that it is a sin come into play? The Federal government developed a quite reasonable accommodation to the religious beliefs of both sides. Unfortunately the Little Sisters didn’t accept it. So instead of having a 3rd party pay for the BC, the LS’s are more closely involved because it is the wages they directly pay their employees that buys the BC.

  85. Insurance is a beast of regulation at state and federal levels by its nature. It always made mandates to ensure a minimal level of coverage to exist. You are objecting to the nature of insurance in general.

  86. There is nothing inherent in insurance that requires federal minimum coverage mandates. Health insurance developed before government-mandated minimum coverage levels. In an ideal world, Insurance Company A should be able to offer varying levels of coverage depending on what people are interested in purchasing. Company B should be able to do the same and compete with Company A, and so on.

  87. Then why does the belief that it is a sin come into play?

    Because, in the opinion of the Little Sisters of the Poor, the federal government was attempting to force them to provide it to their employees against, which went against their religious beliefs.

  88. Of course there is. It keeps insurers from writing predatory garbage policies. Libertarian and federalist arguments make zero sense when discussing insurance due to its depressing blender on close regulation to function as intended.

    Moreover, the contraception mandate was something most Americans demanded and insurance companies as well. They support it. One of the few times the free market and public welfare intersected. The only people who do not are those with zero respect for personal boundaries and a partisan political axe to grind.

  89. I read you as arguing that regulation of mandatory minimum policy is good public policy, but that’s different than saying regulation of this sort is part of the nature of health insurance or inherent to it. Health insurance, as a product, developed independently of minimum coverage standards, which came later. Not to mention that health insurance existed for decades without federal minimum coverage standards.

    Regardless, sure, if all mandatory minimum standards went away tomorrow some insurance companies would try to sell garbage policies, just like some people sell garbage products of other sorts. But who wants to buy a garbage policy? Most people would be in the market for a policy that actually benefits them and companies would create policies to meet that demand.

    I agree that the contraception mandate is popular. I’ve heard that health insurance companies like it too. Though I wonder why, if covering contraception was supposedly so popular among health insurers (and supposedly saves them money in the long run) why they need to be required to cover it? Do you know why? I’m genuinely curious why they didn’t just cover it to begin with in most plans…

  90. IIMO, if you have to make a federalism argument primarily, it means one lacks a reasonable basis for arguing the merits of theories issue.

    I don’t hear you complaining about the federal mandate for covered annual checkups and most diagnostic testing.

    Health insurance existed for decades with scant federal mandated, not none at all. The result being a crisis of massive numbers of uninsured, underinsured and fraudulently insured.

    “But who wants to buy a garbage policy? ”
    Employers looking for the cheapest policies out there. Health insurance was not really an open market for the general public until recently. Before, it was at employers fiat. Concern for bottom line and personnel costs being more of consideration than providing adequate care.

    “why they need to be required to cover it? ”

    For women, family planning is as much a part of one’s healthcare as checkups, diagnostic testing and treatment of conditions. Since they best the entire physical burden of it

  91. But they wouldn’t have been providing it. Someone else was going to provide the ability to have it paid for. The LS were not willing to allow their employees the ability to make that religious decision. So, now rather than a 3rd party funding BC, the LS are directly through wages. The LS acted unreasonably and I suspect the author was right when he said they won partially because they were nuns.

  92. Came here for truth – found liberal propaganda. Won’t be back.

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