Why the Right is Wrong about Separation of Church and State, Contraception and Health Care Insurance

The subject is not over regarding contraception, women’s rights, commerce and the U.S. Constitution.
It came up again yesterday on the April 8, 2012 hour long edition of Face the Nation.


Cardinal Dolan is wrong. The debate about contraception and the role of the Roman Catholic church in dictating policy was resolved long ago.

The Catholic church is experiencing the pangs of another ‘Galileo Controversy’ where they are having difficulty in admitting they are wrong, and difficulty because they are wrong. The  institution of the Roman Catholic church is stifling dissent and expressions of conscience within in an excessively authoritarian approach to their problems, and they are attempting to be every bit as dictatorial to Catholic people of faith outside the clergy.

What Cardinal Dolan fails to admit is that the chiefs may still toe the line about contraception and abortion, albeit not in the monlithic way the church likes to represent, but the subordinates do not.  Numerous clergy object and dissent on the doctrine, it has never had the support that is represented within the church.  When you have 98% of women using the control who self-describe themselves as Roman Catholic, you have a failure for that to be true, whatever the doctrinal position.

But where the real issue of separation of church and state lies is that it is well within the rights and enumerated powers of the Constitution to regulate commerce, as well as to provide for the general welfare.  That should encompass issues of public health; when we have millions of people ill or dying where it is avoidable, and where we have poor health care outcomes per dollar spent in comparison to other developed countries the issue of the general welfare is very real and pertinent.  It is a very urgent and serious problem which makes our nation weaker and which does a disservice to our citizens.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” 

To quote from the wikipedia entry on the United States Constitution:

The United States Supreme Court has interpreted the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause in Article One to allow Congress to enact legislation that is neither expressly listed in the enumerated power nor expressly denied in the limitations on Congress. In McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), the United States Supreme Court fell back on the strict construction of the necessary and proper clause to read that Congress had “[t]he foregoing powers and all other powers…”

The right wing blathers on and on and on and on, giving empty, ugly and worthless lipservice to the words freedom, liberty and patriotism.  Some of them mean well, some of them are just selling us out to wealthy individuals and the corporations which put more of our money into the pockets of the very wealthy, by funneling it through corporations.

We are not more free, we do not enjoy more liberty without health care reform.  We are more ill, we suffer, many of us die prematurely, and we are all of us far far more poor than we should be in the context of what we pay for health care – those of us who DO get health care and have health insurance coverage.  Again this is an issue of the public welfar in the sense of public health issues, this is an issue of domestic tranquility, and this is an issue of our national financial well being.

From the U.S. Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health:

The cost of unintended pregnancy in the United States.

Source  Office of Population Research, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA. trussell@princeton.edu

Abstract

INTRODUCTION: Despite the many contraceptive options available in the United States, nearly half (49%) of the 6.4 million pregnancies each year are unintended; these represent a significant cost to the health care system.

METHODS: The total number of unintended pregnancies and their outcomes were obtained from the literature. Direct medical costs were estimated for each unintended pregnancy outcome.

RESULTS: The direct medical costs of unintended pregnancies were US$5 billion in 2002. Direct medical cost savings due to contraceptive use were US$19 billion.

DISCUSSION: Unintended pregnancies are a costly problem in the United States. Contraceptive use can reduce direct and indirect costs; hence, payers may realize cost savings by providing coverage of contraceptive products.

The above defines why we have a national and not just an individual stake in health care, health coverage, and contraception.  That it is also an inssue of justice and equality is because women pay signficantly more than men for the same coverage, an estimated 35% more – IF they are even able to get health insurance.  Health events like pregnancy have been used as a disqualifying pre-existing condition to deny women health care coverage.  When you make contracpetion prohibitively expensive instead of recognizing it for what it is, preventive health care that should be covered, you make is far less available to women despite the variey of contraception that exists.  That results in more unintended pregnancies, leaving women in a Catch-22 situation.

I believe in the value of contraception.  I believe and support the broadly recognized right of people to autonomy, identity and integrity of their persons.  I believe emphatically in the freedom of PEOPLE to choose what religious belief they will follow. 

The Roman Catholic church – the institution, not the people who identify themselves as Catholic – wishes to avoid paying for health insurance for the people who work for them, or who attend their excellent academic institutions.  Those entities exist in part – in some cases in very large part – because of either a tax exemption from the United States and individual states, or because of money provided to them from the various state and federal government entities — TAX DOLLARS.

It is as arguable that my tax dollars are being used to support a religious belief with which I emphatically disagree – in much the same way that the anti-choice believers object to their tax dollars being spent on a legal medical procedure to which they object.  So, it is as reasonable and practical to insist that we stop funding any activity of the Roman Catholic church as it is that we give a special exemption to the Roman Catholic church to enforce their belifs on the choices available to the people who are – or should be – insured, including those who would obtain that insurance through employment or attendance at a Catholic institution.

What the Roman Catholic cardinal is attempting to do in his position above is to make the position of the Catholic Church the determining factor in the choices of people who disagree.  We should not allow that, we should not fund that.  It is a huge overreach by religion into government – a legitimate area of governemnt as defined by the Constitution and the previous interpretation by the Supreme Court of the United States.  It is a public health and general welfare issue, which should be determined secularly.  If Roman Catholics wish to observe the out of date and very wrong doctrinal position of the Roman Catholic church, they should by all means be free to NOT use contraception.  But so long as public money pays in any way towards the raising of the resulting children, planned or unplanned, they do NOT have the right to dictate to anyone else what health insuance provisions are offerred.

I believe that it would be as hurtful to our society and our public health to discontinue all fundng to religious institutions, be it tax exemption for churches, or funding or exemptions for schools, colleges and universities, and health care entities like hospitals, or charities.  It would be harmful as well to those entities.  We have an excellent but very carefully defined relationship, including financially, between our secular government institutions and the institutions of religion.  That relationship is designed to protect the individual, both from government intrusion and the intrusion and interference of any specific religion.

The good Cardinal Dolan is wrong, and Presidents Kennedy and Obama are correct.  Our Roman Catholic Vice President Joe Biden is correct, and Roman Catholic presidential candidate Rick Santorum is wrong in how they understand their faith to intersect with government on the issues of health care reform, insurance, contraception, abortion and the value of lives and the existence of our liberty.  We are less free when right wing extremists and cardinals dictate our national health care legislation.  The right are oppressive and they are wrong, and their positions are harmful to the strength, autonomy and freedom of the United States, both domestically and in the larger context of how we compare in the competitive larger world of other nations.  If we are to be truly free we need to be strong and healthy, if we are to be truly free we should not be dying prematurely, and if we are to remain truly free and competitive we cannot  as a nation sustain a sector of our economy that institutionalizes providing such poor value in the care to expense relationship.

We cannot allow a single denomination from one religion to dictate our health care policy or our commerce policy.  We cannot and should not allow a flawed poltiical ideology – conservativism – to so selectively deny reality and impose their bizarre notions of freedom on the rest of us, when what they define as freedom is limited to living and thinking only the way they do.