Catholics’ protest against HHS contraceptive rules completely misfires

So Catholic officials are up in arms about the US Department of Health and Human Services’ new regulation requiring all employers to provide contraceptives to insured employees with no co-pay. The very idea that people who use contraceptives to prevent pregnancy might actually not have to pay for those contraceptives is evidently so anathema to the very foundational dogmas of the Catholic church, that the leaders of said church must absolutely take a stand for their parishioners. To wit:

In a letter read to congregants in the Atlanta Archdiocese, Archbishop Wilton Gregory called the policy “a matter of grave moral concern.”

“In so ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty,” the letter continued and was read at all English and Spanish language Masses, the diocese said in a statement.
“In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” said New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan in a statement.

“To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their health care is literally unconscionable. It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom. Historically this represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty,” said Dolan who is also the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the public policy arm of the church in the United States.

And yet…

And yet I wonder.

I wonder if, perhaps, these bishops and archbishops and uberbishops and adjunct second-string pope-in-trainings are perhaps overstating their case. I wonder if, perhaps, American Catholics don’t already use these methods of contraception. I wonder even whether there might be evidence of this fact.

The study, conducted by reproductive health institute Guttmacher, finds that 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women use or have used birth control other than church-approved natural family planning. Only 2 percent of Catholic women have used natural family planning, which involves tracking the menstrual cycle to avoid sex during fertile periods.
Even Catholic women who attend services more than once a month use natural family planning at a rate of only 2 percent, the researchers found.

But surely the rhythm method is a reasonable alternative, right? I mean, since every embryo is a sacred gift from God?

Oh. Wait.

The “rhythm method” may kill off more embryos than other contraceptive methods, such as coils, morning after pills, and oral contraceptives, suggests an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics.
It is believed that the method works because it prevents conception from occurring. But says Professor Bovens, it may owe much of its success to the fact that embryos conceived on the fringes of the fertile period are less viable than those conceived towards the middle.

So… by using the rhythm method, you’re creating more souls to populate limbo.

Oh, wait, right, Catholics don’t believe in Limbo any more, as of 2007.

Seriously. Just leave the church already. Make this obstinate and backward dogma with its obstinate and backward leaders who are more concerned with keeping women barefoot and pregnant than, say, stopping its priests from molesting your children, simply wither and die. Starve it of your tithings. Find your piety elsewhere — perhaps somewhere that actually cares about humankind.

Catholics’ protest against HHS contraceptive rules completely misfires

25 thoughts on “Catholics’ protest against HHS contraceptive rules completely misfires

  1. 2

    Is there any US employer that actually “provides” health care directly? I guess maybe some hospitals, but I have to think that the overwhelming majority subcontract it out. What HHS is really doing is saying that Kaiser Permanente, Blue Cross, etc. have to provide contraception coverage in their plans. Their argument is analogous to saying a (hypothetical) law requiring Safeway to carry condoms violates their freedom of religion. Its just absurd.

  2. 3

    So these poor catholics are not only being forced to accept contraceptives but also to use them?? How the hell does this sort of thing become legal? OH THE HUMANITY!!!! Etc…

    Also if it were a real job, what kind of person would want the job of forcibly installing condoms onto catholic men?

  3. 4

    Totally. And, just being liable to pay for something for your employees doesn’t mean everyone in your health plan is going to start doing it. I mean, I’m sure they cover melanoma screening, too–TO THE BEACH, EVERYONE!!!!!!!

    Besides, if their religion is so true and inspiring and people really did devote their free will to make all their sexual choices as God would want, and something like 98% of the relevant half of their followers weren’t already disobeying this tenet anyway, clearly none of these Catholic institutions would have to pay a dime toward contraception, because all of their pious followers would never, ever, want to use such a Jesus-disappointing thing, and would freely choose to live pure, recreational-sex-free lives!

  4. 5

    God never said there shouldn’t be recreational sex, he just sends “gifts” as a result of some of those activities.

    While I was on the road to atheism but still a practicing (more-or-less) Catholic, I damn well was on the pill. Boyfriend/fiance was in my plans for life, but children certainly weren’t, at least until I got my degree. (The goalposts for that kept shifting, and we ended up childfree, but by then we were both atheists.)

    As far as I was concerned, no celibate priest/bishop/pope had any business telling me what to do with my body. I suspect most Catholic women feel the same.

  5. 6

    eric – it depends on what you mean by “provides”. My employer self-funds it’s insurance – they pay most of it and the employees pay some of it. Of course they also screw the part time/hourly employees because they force them to pay a bigger % of their paycheck for said insurance. Birth control isn’t part of the insurance plan – it’s one of those “catholic” employers bitching about the new rules. My employer has already publically stated they will just drop insurance for everyone rather than comply with the new rules. Great how many people they’re going to “save” by dropping affordable healthcare for their employees, isn’t it?

  6. HFM

    And yet, I’m fairly sure those health plans cover all sorts of shenanigans the Catholic church doesn’t approve of. If you go skiing on a Sunday and break your leg, they’ll pay to get it fixed, no matter how creatively you took the lord’s name in vain as you were carried down the hill. But contraception? No, that’s not something people need, it’s just a lady thing, so you can’t have it.

    Nitwits. The only good thing about this is how pathetic these guys look when 98% of their followers give them the roll-eyes-and-ignore.

  7. 9

    Even if every employee of every Catholic-owned/-run enterprise were Catholic, would this give the employers the right to deprive its employees of legally protected rights? I used to work for a company owned by a Catholic family and I vividly remember a co-worker proudly showing off her brand new contraceptive implant obtained on the company plan (she was also Catholic, as was her husband). The bishops need to get over their sad obsession with other people’s wee-wees!

  8. 11

    It’s amazing how a bunch of professional virgins* get all excited about other peoples’ sexual habits.

    *Members of the Catholic clergy may not be actual virgins but they’re professional virgins, since virginity and chastity are official requirements to be in the Catholic clergy.

  9. 12

    Many Catholic dioceses/schools/organizations use a Catholic-specific insurance company, Christian Brothers Services: . (Surprisingly not all of them; I see Diocese of Columbus uses United Healthcare, for example.) They’ve been able to get out of complying with lots of ‘requirements’ thus far due to being a “church plan”, even requirements which Catholicism has no position on: . If the new laws actually include them and will eliminate their exemptions on everything else they don’t want to do (except abortion, of course 🙁 ) in addition to contraception, that would be great.

  10. 13

    Wait.. am I not understanding something here? Insurance is something you use when you need it, not something that gets shoved down your throat. You don’t get medical insurance if you’re healthy, or dental insurance if you’re walking the dog, or death insurance if you’re still alive. How could having contraceptives be a part of your insurance be a problem if you can choose to not use them?

    I could possibly see the argument that it would increase the premium for the insurance, and some people don’t want their money going toward that. That’s fine. But these people are making it sound like it’s being forced upon them.

  11. 14

    The Catholic church doesn’t have much faith in its followers, does it? If the Catholic hierarchy believed that the general consensus among Catholics was that birth control was bad, they’d just shrug and say, “Yeah, whatever. We’ll also cover cosmetic surgery to reposition the nose to the right axilla-they’ll both get used about equally.” It’s because they know that most people, even most Catholics don’t follow the official teaching, because they know the official position is impractical and no one actually believes it, that they get excited. Because if Catholics aren’t following the Pope’s teaching on birth control, who knows what else they’re into…

  12. 15

    @The Lorax

    I think the employers (Catholic hospitals, universities, etc.) are complaining because they know their employees will use it. Not only do most sexually active Catholic women use hormonal birth control, but these organizations will normally have a lot of non-Catholic employees who also use it. So they feel like they’re paying for it through the employer paid part of the premiums.

    Up to now, they’ve been able to get packages that don’t cover birth control, even when women are prescribed it for a reason other than contraception (like for PCOS).

    Quite frankly, I don’t think it should be any of the employer’s business what kind of medical services you get, as long as there’s no fraud. They’re not paying for the health care itself; they’re paying for the health insurance, and it’s absurd that they can refuse to cover one of the most widely used prescriptions out there.

  13. 18

    Amazing how willing you free-thinking First Amendment patriots are to put the government in charge of the Catholic Church. Next I suppose you will you will have the White House ordering the bishops to provide free abortions? Maybe you want Kathleen Sibelius to approve who can be appointed Pope, as the communist dictators in China try to do in their country. Oh, well. “Free-thinking” doesn’t mean “clear-thinking,” obviously.

    And for those of you who complain that the church denies peoples’ rights by not providing birth control coverage, can you tell us in what universe every person has the right to have someone else pay for their “free” condoms and birth control pills?

  14. 19

    Is James a Poe?

    Although, seriously, providing basic health care to employees is kinda fundamental to the American health care system–rather inefficient, in my view, but as long as that’s what we’re stuck with, no institution, religious or otherwise, should be able to deny its employees basic health care. And, James, I hate to break it to you, but birth control and STD prevention are in fact essential preventive health care for which there are immense public health benefits when they are provided free. So deal with it.

  15. 20


    Your views about your “right” to demand free contraceptives from your employer is infantile, selfish, irrational and immoral as far as I’m concerned. If that’s the universe you live in, you’re welcome to it. Pity you’re not grown up enough to take responsibility for your own life and buy your own rubbers. Do you expect your employer to provide you with a sex partner, too? You remind me of a baby bird with your eyes bulging, your beak wide open, crying for a mommy bird to drop a worm down your gullet. But here’s the thing: your weakness doesn’t mean that the rest of the world is obligated to make up for it.

  16. 21

    James, it’s not “weakness” to have a sex life. It’s a good and important part of a fulfilled human existence. Moreover, why should I, as a woman, have about $60/month less in earnings just because biology has saddled me with the risks of pregnancy that my male coworkers don’t have?

    I would urge you to remember that the idea of telling people not to have sex and then expecting them to follow your words has failed for ALL OF RECORDED HUMAN HISTORY. You’re the one who needs to grow up and realize that, yes, people have sex. People from your religion, people from different religions, people of your gender and orientation, people of different genders and orientations, people with more money than you, people with less, people you like, people you don’t–in short, the vast majority of humankind and one time or another. It would behoove you to understand that a civilized society includes reproductive healthcare in its consideration for public health and prosperity, instead of just engaging in wishful thinking that people will simply do as you want them to do (and not as most moralizing people like you ACTUALLY do, which is have sex at almost exactly the same rates as the rest of us!).

  17. 22


    I didn’t say I there is anything wrong with having a sex life. You are attributing that thought to me but it’s not a thought that I have. Actually I think sex is great. I like it. I just don’t think it’s someone else’s responsibility to handle the consequences of my sexual behavior, as you seem to.

    As for why you should have $60/month less than male co-workers “because biology has saddled [you] with the risks of pregnancy,” well, I know it must be hard for you to accept, but gosh darn it, life can be unfair sometimes. I know this is true, because as it happens biology and genes have made lots of other guys taller and better looking than me, and gosh-darn it, those tall, handsome men have an unfair advantage in getting good jobs, making more money, and attracting more friends and prettier women! And because of biology I don’t play football as well as Eli Manning-so I can’t win MVP in the Super Bowl and I’m not a millionaire and I don’t get a new corvette- that’s just so unfair, isn’t it!!

    Tell you what though– if you want to make things a little more balanced and fair in the sex and contraception department, ask your sex partners to take some adult responsibility and buy their own condoms before you have sex with them. Or just ask them to split the costs of your birth control pills. Make them shell out a little money for the privilege of having sex with you and pay their fair share. Makes more sense than asking your boss or the local Catholic bishop to pay for your sex life, doesn’t it?

  18. 23

    Holy shit, you’re an embittered person!

    Why do you try to trot out the “life’s not fair” canard when there is a perfectly simple solution to this problem? I hate to break it to you, but systematic gender inequality in health care costs is a little more of a big deal than, “I imagine some very lucky people get more breaks than my privileged male self.” ( I might this solution add still does not ENTIRELY even things out regarding the risk and costs of pregnancy prevention, so you can still relish the idea that you’re the teensiest bit ahead of the ladies!)

    This isn’t about me and my personal life, thank you very much. This is about the millions of people who have trouble affording birth control or having reliable access to it. This even includes married couples trying to make ends meet (often with responsibilities to existing children). This is about everyone’s personal lives being a little bit different, with some people not in a position to ask things of their partners, for various reasons that are none of your business. It’s not a moral issue, it’s not a “personal responsibility” issue–it’s a public health issue. This is about the fact that ready access to free or affordable birth control increases population-wide use. This is about half the pregnancies in this country being unplanned, a fact that you will not change by harping on freethoughtblogs. This is about the extraordinary expenditures of prenatal care foisted on Medicaid. This is about the cost of feeding, clothing, and educating millions of additional children who came at a time when their families weren’t ready for them. This is about the appalling rates of STDs in this country. Snidely telling people to just “pay for it yourself!” is not going to address the fact that as a society, we will be healthier and wealthier if we make it easier and more affordable for people to get the care they need, and stop being selfish, penny-wise/pound-foolish assholes like you.

  19. 24


    Amazing how willing you free-thinking First Amendment patriots are to put the government in charge of the Catholic Church.

    The RCC has to obey the law, just as everyone else does. When religious demands come into conflict with civil law, civil law wins. Its always been this way, and it always will be this way.

    If your book says ‘marry multiple women at the same time,’ you don’t get to do that. If it says ‘kill witches and unruly children,’ you don’t get to do that. If it says ‘smoke pot,’ you don’t get to do that. And if, in your opinion, it says ‘never provide an employee health insurance plan that includes free birth control,’ you don’t get to do that either.

    can you tell us in what universe every person has the right to have someone else pay for their “free” condoms and birth control pills?

    Every person doesn’t. First, RCC businesses can drop health care. Second, the RCC was already granted an exception for businesses where the employees are overwhelmingly Catholic. It is only their businesses which employ significant numbers of non-catholics that have to obey this rule.

    It is standard practice for the government to put regulations on the quality of goods. Saying ‘anyone who provides health care, must include birth control’ is not really much different from saying ‘anyone who provides milk must pasturize it.’

  20. 25

    “When religious demands come into conflict with civil law, civil law wins. Its always been this way, and it always will be this way.”

    No, when religious demands conflict with civil law, the government has to decide if it has a compelling interest and if it has chosen the least restrictive means to further that interest. That’s the The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (42 U.S.C. § 2000bb et seq.).

    The state of Oregon said you couldn’t smoke peyote for religious reasons, the Supreme Court affirmed it in the Smith decision, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed, and now Oregon law lets you smoke peyote for religious purposes.

    It’s against the law not to pay into Social Security – unless you’re Amish. (The exception doesn’t say Amish, but the terms were built around them.)

    It’s against the law not serve in combat if you’re a male and you’re drafted. Unless you’re a Quaker (or you are a conscientious objector). I remember that one from the Vietnam War.

    The law against polygamy used to be considered a compelling interest that couldn’t be furthered in any other way, but now that homosexual marriages are going through, that’s sure to be raised by the Mormons again.

    To quote The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (42 U.S.C. § 2000bb et seq.):

    “Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person—
    “(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
    “(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

    “First, RCC businesses can drop health care.”
    No they can’t. The mandate requires all businesses that employ 50 or more employees to provide the health care or pay a fine per employee for breaking the law.

    “Second, the RCC was already granted an exception for businesses where the employees are overwhelmingly Catholic. It is only their businesses which employ significant numbers of non-catholics that have to obey this rule.”
    No, that’s not enough. Besides requiring their employees to be overwhelmingly Catholic, the institution also needs to meet several other requirements, including this one, as well:

    3. The organization serves primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the organization.

    This requirement will automatically mean that all Catholic charities that employ over 50 people will not be exempt. At least, I’m not aware of any Catholic charity that doesn’t serve non-Catholics. At a minimum, it would certainly not exempt Catholic hospitals or the St Vincent de Paul Society, because I doubt very much they serve primarily Catholics.

    You might want to read the exemption requirements: 45 CFR Part 147.130(a)(1)(iv) (promulgated August 3, 2011)

    “Saying ‘anyone who provides health care, must include birth control’ is not really much different from saying ‘anyone who provides milk must pasturize it.’”
    Well, no. It’s more like saying “anyone who operates a grocery store has to provide milk.” Or that “anyone who operates a deli must sell pork.”

    Even if we assume that providing free contraception
    “(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmouental interest;”
    it is clear that you still cannot say it
    “(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

    There are other ways to provide free contraceptives without requiring Catholic institutions to directly pay for them.

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