Friday, January 20, 2012

What is the real issue?

Effective 1 August 2012, most healthcare plans will be required to provide coverage for contraceptives without co-pay or deductible expenses; in other words, “free” birth control for all who are covered under a health plan.  The idea is about “liberty”, according to DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius who believes “this proposal strikes a balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.”

Churches, synagogues, and other houses of worship are exempt from this requirement, according to “”, but religious-affiliated hospitals and universities will only have a one-year delay in implementation before they will also be required to either provide this benefit or shut down altogether.

The question stands as to what “balance” between respecting religious denominations that stand opposed to artificial birth control and one’s inferred “right” to birth control will actually look like, and whether the rights of one group may supersede the rights of another.  The US Constitution directly and specifically addresses the protection of religious liberty in prohibiting the US government from “infringing” upon these rights while the matter of health care is not addressed at all.  There is also another standing question that would ask how, in a society in which birth control is readily available, this proposal somehow “protects” or enhances a right which evidently already exists. 

This new regulation is only a small part of what will incrementally roll down from so-called “Obamacare” that seeks to address a genuine health care crisis in this country, but there is a significant element of health care that still does not seem to have been sufficiently addressed: how to define “adequate” care.  More to the specific point and coverage of birth control pills, is this a component of health care that cannot be addressed in a more responsible and cost-effective way like, say, abstinence and focusing one’s attention on something a little more pressing like, say, getting a job or an education or otherwise living a fulfilling life? 

The tired argument has stood for quite some time that easier access to birth control will diminish the need for abortion services (a fight, incidentally, that remains to be settled in this debate!), but we must understand there will be a reduction in services once hospitals and universities withdraw from such programs altogether.  Whether these or any others will actually close their doors rather than submit to enforcement of such overbearing regulations remains to be seen.

Artificial birth control is itself an issue that has been addressed by the Roman Catholic Church; which stands consistently and officially opposed to the use of such contraceptives, believing and teaching that procreation is as much a matter of natural law as of religious doctrine.  However, the issue at hand is not birth control itself but whether entities, regardless of religious affiliation, should be expected or forced to provide birth control pills “free” of any charge. 

Subsequent to this issue, then, is the reality that insurance is a pool of funds into which members contribute to the pool to cover extraordinary expenses related to claims; meaning each participant will be paying for something they may find socially questionable or morally objectionable.  The point becomes even more acute if the courts decide the federal government can force everyone to purchase health insurance, a matter pending before the US Supreme Court.

So the issue at hand cannot be a matter of whether or not one is ok with birth control.  It certainly cannot be a matter of whether married persons are more entitled to birth control than single persons.  The issue at hand is a conflict between a perceived right and an enumerated right; that which may or may not be inferred by the Constitution and that which is spelled out.  The issue is whether the government is overreaching, trampling on an enumerated right in favor of a social or political demand.

Access to birth control is determined and hindered only by one’s personal preferences and choices.  Whether one’s right to such access is hindered by one’s inability or unwillingness to pay seems a matter of government regulation, forcing “me” to pay for “your” questionable claim.  Pity.

1 comment:

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