So far all I've heard in this case (anyone know the name?) is the argument that employers shouldn't have the right to deny women birth control coverage in their health care plans, and I've been wondering, why the hell not? Here is my reasoning:
First there is the question of whether businesses should be allowed to hire people based on their convictions. I fully support businesses being able to not hire smokers, for example. Personally, cigarette smoke makes me violently ill, and just smelling it on someone's clothes even long after they had their fix has this effect. I wouldn't be able to work with smokers (and I've had to leave some jobs for this very reason), so I would want to work somewhere that didn't allow smokers to work alongside me, and if I owned a business I wouldn't want to have to hire anyone who was going to make me sick through their actions. But perhaps this is a special case.
On the other hand, there are other ways to be discriminating about whom one would or would not hire. What about being allowed not to hire people based on skin color, or gender, or sexual orientation, or age, etc? This area remains pretty grey to me, because on the one hand there should be plenty of opportunities for people of all stripes to find work, but since we can't seem to figure out how to make employment available to everyone, it is not fair to discriminate on such criteria. Still, in a world where competition takes place on a level playing field, I think there is merit to allow any kind of discrimination one wants. My belief is that the businesses that discriminated according to such criteria would simply fail because they would be less competitive than those that did not.
Which brings me to the Catholics. If they want to deny birth control coverage in their health plans to their employees, ideally the employees would just leave and find work elsewhere, which would make the Catholic businesses less competitive, and I think would also make Catholicism less competitive in the marketplace of ideas. The only objection I can find to this line of reasoning is that it is just too hard to find work these days, and allowing businesses to stand up for their convictions would only exacerbate a difficult job market. Do you see things differently or the same?
There are places where the only hospital for many miles is Catholic. In some cities Catholic hospitals have taken over other hospitals, complete with employees. You argument is like the voter ID -- it sounds good but has applications that are grossly unfair. But I also disagree in principle: Churches should, even must, be able to restrict employment of, say, ministers, to persons who agree with their tenets. But their other businesses, often in competition with commercial enterprises, should be forced (if necessary) to treat their employees fairly. For young women, this requires availability of contraceptives. (It's also good business for the insurance companies; birth control is far cheaper and safer than unwanted pregnancy or birth.)
I don't deny that the applications of my suggestion would be uncomfortable or even downright bad and immoral for present circumstances. My argument still holds up in theory though. If there are only Catholic hospitals for many miles, then women who respect themselves would move away, and eventually the land occupied by Catholics would become dominated by hospitals with more humanistic values. Or so I hope.
Jessica, first I would direct you to the responses I made to Susan, Michael, and Pat, wherein I greatly qualify my position. As to the point that women should just "move away", that was addressed repeatedly where I said that if this wasn't a problem, e.g. if the economy was strong and there were jobs all over the place, then it might make sense to allow for this exemption (a position I pretty much backed off from), but since the realities of our economy make this highly impractical, my original argument doesn't hold water.
I entirely agree with you that universal healthcare would be such a good thing for everyone, and not having it works only to line the pockets of special interests. As far as "promoting the general welfare", well certainly I think this is a good thing. However, given the fact that people do not always agree on what is in the interests of promoting the general welfare, the only way to find agreement (which doesn't involve forced participation) is to allow for some competition. I'm basically tinkering with the idea, seeing where it works and where it doesn't, under which circumstances, etc. Apparently it doesn't work here. But I think one of the only ways we are going to demonstrate which strategies and philosophies are best is to give more power to individual states or even cities and such, depending on which powers we are talking about of course. It should not be left up to individual states to decide for themselves whether violence against women is ok - it isn't, case closed, and this should be upheld at the federal level. But when it comes to some aspects of how businesses should be allowed/forced to run, economic policies, and many more, perhaps even including some way to get faith and reason into some kind of competition, we should look for ways to foster this as a strategy for making the truth evident. Who among us wouldn't put reason up against faith in any fair competition? And certainly the theists would put their money where their mouth is and elevate faith above anything else. Well, let's duke it out then! I'm just looking for the opportunity to test my theory.
Once a entity - partnership, corporation, or church - decides to enter into the general marketplace and engage in commerce, they should be governed under the same rules and regulations as everyone else. No exceptions. Health care is a great example. Would you allow a religiously affiliated hospital to ignore: 1) safety regulations of bio hazardous material, 2) protocol on the handling of nuclear material in a cancer treatment ward, or 3) minimum wage for the janitorial staff - all because they screamed their religion is special? At what point do you give them a pass? How about a church annex that is rented out to the public for wedding receptions? Allow them to ignore fire safety capacity? Allow them to rent to the public, except for blacks or gays, because their religion says so? If they're strictly engaged in church activity, and have no paid employees or other for-profit type activities, then fine. Let them do what they want. The second they pay someone a wage, lease property, or engage in any other commercial activity, then they should be required to adhere to the same rules as everyone else. Period.
I'm inclined to agree with you almost to the letter. My only point is that the only reason we seem to want this particular "regulation" is because it is too hard for those non-Catholics to find work elsewhere. All the regulations you mention, as well as the anti-discrimination policies, are there because they cause harm. But simply not providing birth control coverage as a part of the health care program doesn't have anything like the adverse effects as does institutionalized racism, for example. So why should this be a rule which applies to all equally, whereas similar prohibitions, like not permitting smokers to work for businesses which don't wish to allow it, do not fall under the same auspices? You haven't shown that birth control is anywhere near being in the same league with, say, dumping poisonous toxins into the environment.
You are assuming that there is only one reason why women take birth control. There are medical reasons as well.
Good point Susan, I hadn't thought of that. This is why I opened the discussion, to see what I was missing. In this case, restrictions to birth control do place a "clear and present danger" to the health and lives of certain individuals. I'll have to rethink my entire premise now!
Employees have to put up with all sorts of indignities and infringement of their rights from employers. Such is the nature of the market. I personally deplore an employer's "choice" to deny employees health coverage for this or that reason, but unfortunately it's the law of the market. An employee is in principle free to seek employment elsewhere, with better health coverage.
But that's the employer-employee principle. The provider-patient principle is entirely different, and should NOT be based on market forces. A medical provider should be obligated to provide all legally sanctioned services, whether or not the provider is a conscientious objector. If the provider objects, he/she is free to entire a different line of business - THAT is according to market principles.
The point I would make here addresses both of your points. I do not believe employers should be in the business of providing health benefits or retirement benefits to employees at all. Why should this be left up to the private sector, who will either be unnecessarily burdened by these obligations or will abuse their power over what should be social issues, or both? Society should take into their own hands whether a person gets to stop working, kick back and take the rest of their life off, and it would likely take a far more compassionate view than an employer who just cares about his bottom line. And it certainly should provide a public option for health care, at the very least. Then we wouldn't have so much to worry about as far as employees suffering indignities and infringements of their rights at the hands of their employers. Employers would greatly benefit from being relieved of the burden of supplying health care and retirement benefits to their employees, employees would greatly benefit from answering to the public rather than a single greedy person or small group of greedy people, and society would benefit by being forced to come together in deciding just how people should be treated as human beings and not as commodities.