The Debate Over Obama's Birth Control Mandate

Thursday, February 16, 2012

President Obama stands with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelious as he announces compromise on contraceptive coverage. (Getty)

Since Obama announced his birth control mandate that requires faith-based employers to pay for contraceptive coverage, church officials have waged against the controversial bill. Last Friday, President Obama put forth a compromise that would allow churches and their religious employees to shift the cost of birth control to their insurance companies. Pastor Bob Stec and James Salt discuss the debate within the religious community over the federal ruling.

Father Bob Stec is the pastor of St. Ambrose Church in Brunswick, Ohio. James Salt is the executive director of Catholics United


James Salt and Father Bob Stec

Produced by:

Hsi-Chang Lin

Comments [30]

Listener from Brunswick, Ohio

Father Bob makes no sense at all... in fact everything he says is pure boilerplate jargon. A Catholic institution should not say to one of its non-Catholic employees "you can not have access to birth control because we are against birth control, so you must be also." And it also sounds like they don't trust the Catholics to not accept it either.
This government was created to give religious freedom so that people can worship in any way they see fit.
It was also created with the idea that church and state be separate. For the Catholic church to come back and say that they don't like what the government is saying shows that the Catholic church wants to dictate what the government can do. The church does not pay taxes because they have been granted tax exempt. So why do they think they should have so much direct input into the government. Trust me, I know Fr. Bob and he runs his church like a big business, and with the amount of money that he has control over that is far outside the practice of worship, he SHOULD be taxed.

Jan. 11 2014 06:47 PM
Harlan Marks

As a listener of the Takeaway, I am accustomed to John having a mastery of the subject matter discussed with the result that the guest and John reveal the guts of a story. Today’s interview with Rep. Chabot was an exception to that rule. John, the issue with contraception, the new healthcare law and the Catholic Church is not an issue of conscience. The issue is simply – can a large employer deny an employee access to healthcare that is guaranteed by law?
You could have asked him “Rep Chabot – what about the nurse, a catholic nurse, who is an employee of Mercy Hospital in Ohio, maybe she lives in your district, who wants access to contraception through her health plan, which is guaranteed by the healthcare law – what about her rights? Doesn’t she count in this debate?” Don’t you represent her as well?

Feb. 17 2012 01:39 PM
A.T. from NYC

I think this a great bill to be passed

Feb. 17 2012 11:10 AM
PM from NY, NY

I don't seem to be hearing much about the root problem in this issue- the fact that health insurance is tied to the employer. If there were a single payer option, women who work for religious institutions could opt for a policy that covered contraception, and the Church wouldn't be involved. Why should all women not have the option for the same basic coverage- no matter who employs them?

Feb. 17 2012 09:46 AM
MB from New York

Steve Chabot's erroneous reference to abortion-style drugs on the show this morning exposed his cause as politically-motivated and inflammatory. There are plenty of Christians being persecuted and truly prevented from expressing their religion in the world today; American Catholic employers are not among them. As a Catholic, I feel a burning sense of shame and sadness that the Bishops' protest is inconsistent, and therefore, not based in true concern for religious freedom: where are the Bishops' protest of Catholic tax dollars funding of capital punishment?

Feb. 17 2012 08:31 AM
Kay Ryan

As a catholic my question is Since the catholic church says that the reason for sex is for procreation and therefore it will not permit insurance overage for women of childbearing age who want birth control pills, are they also prohibiting the insurance coverage of drugs for erectile dysfunction to be paid for to men whose wives or partners are past the childbearing age?

Feb. 17 2012 07:44 AM
jim from MN

Hmm, very few people objected when the Govt PROHIBITED the use of peyote by the Native American Church. It's kinda hypocritical to think that the Catholic church is above Govt edicts. Either ALL churches are exempt, or NONE of them are!

Feb. 17 2012 07:38 AM

People making the religious liberty argument based in the First Amendment are basing their argument on a faulty premise. Institutions are not people and do not have a conscience.

Feb. 17 2012 12:07 AM
George Lucas from Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

Let the church step up to the plate, smell the coffee, or whatever. Over 90% of Catholics already use contraceptives. Why aren't they just excommunicated? Why doesn’t the church trust that its teachings would have its parishioners "just say no"?

And, if the Catholic Church, evangelicals, and conservatives, don't want any obligations or ties between church and government, then why is it not a problem accepting exemptions from billions of dollars in property taxes? These billions of dollars are certainly needed for debt payment, education, healthcare, infrastructure repair and maintenance.

Their beliefs in contraception, abortion, divorce, and marriage should be imposed on the people inside their walls, not on those outside their walls.

Contraceptives help reduce unwanted children, abortions, and disease. What is it about this that they hate?

Feb. 16 2012 05:01 PM
Dan from Massachusetts

The original, pre-compromise law is not the government infringing on Catholics' right to practice their religion. This is simply protecting those people employed by catholic organizations from having Catholicism forced upon them. If Catholic organizations (such as hospitals and schools) did not have to provide coverage for birth control to their employees, both Catholic and non-Catholic, then, by the same logic, Muslim organizations of the same type should be allowed to prohibit their employees from, say, eating pork, or a Jewish organization should be allowed to require all male employees to get circumcised.

Feb. 16 2012 03:24 PM
Ryan from New York

These people are crying out "First Amendment Rights!" and they clearly don't understand the First Amendment. Yes, it provides for your right to your religion, but it foremost protects the nation from laws that are religiously motivated. That's why this country exists, after all - to escape places (like 16th century England, Spain, France, etc.) where those in power were enforcing laws dictated by religious dogma. I quote: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." This contraceptive care bill DEFENDS our First Amendment rights from religiously motivated laws. What the right is proposing is that we violate those rights, force religion on our citizens through law, creating bigger government and lesser power to the citizens.

Feb. 16 2012 12:14 PM

The HHS Secretary has far too much power. The only way to cause the left to realize this is for President Romney to appoint Rick Santorum as HHS Secretary and then suddenly the unconstitutionally of the power or the poetic justice of the politics will be glowingly apparent to all.

Feb. 16 2012 10:50 AM

"Take churches and employers out of that debate and shift it to insurance companies"

How about taking the government out of the debate since they Constitutionally should not be involved.

Feb. 16 2012 10:12 AM
Elizabeth from Newburgh NY

Catholic hospitals accept money from insurance plans that provide birth control don't they?

Feb. 16 2012 09:56 AM
David from Detroit

I, perhaps naievely, have always interpreted the First Amendment to be a constraint upon the ability of the Govenerment to retaliate (either preemptly or post hoc) against those who speak publically against the stated positions of the Government.

Individuals and organizations are not however the Government, they can retaliate against those who speak publically or act civilly against their stated positions. This retaliation is, however, constrained by the applicable Federal, State and Local Laws and Governmental Regulations.

The question of concern is not whether the Catholic Church can be forced to pay for something which it finds morally reprehensible. Rather it is whether they can use coersive methods to further their religious beliefs. Here the element of coersion is to deny a health benifit which all other employeers must offer.

The verdict is in the Bishops wish to coerce. (ie you can work elsewhere)

Feb. 16 2012 09:55 AM
Oskar Back from Denver, CO

Whoever postulated that the reason that the Catholic Church opposes birth control because it doesn't have enough members is woefully misinformed. The Catholic Church is the second largest in the world. Our Islamic brothers lead in membership.
Contraception is an issue where Catholicism embraces Darwin. Ideally, if people choose contraception, they are skewing natural selection. Econimically successful people who can afford to raise more children tend to use contraception, where poorer families tend to have more kids, widening the economic disparities we liberals decry.
Finally, the issue here is whether a religious institution can choose. As a Pro-choice person and a Catholic, I don't feel we should legislate a woman's right to choose whether she becomes a mom, or a church's right to choose whether they provide contraception, morning-after pills, and abortions. This freedom seperates us from our current mortgager, Communist China, where reproductive imperatives are mandated.

Feb. 16 2012 09:48 AM
CGates from West palm beach, FL

The actions of the congregation shouldn't alter the doctrine of the church. The church does not bribe in contraception and therefore should not be forced to pay for it. That is a breach of religious freedom. Period.

Feb. 16 2012 09:45 AM

This is not a contraception issue as you make this discussion out to be. It is about the first ammendment freedom of religion right. It about the government telling the Catholic church to violate its teachings. Cathlolic hospitals are 1/4 of the health system, catholic charities (the largest charity inthe nation) helps those of all faiths based upon its teaching of helping the poor formed by teachings of the church. Why make a big issue about people paying for their own birth control? And why should the Catholic church be forced by the government to pay for abortion drugs and proceedures? This goes against our first and most charished right to freedom of religion. Thank you

Feb. 16 2012 09:45 AM
Michael Henderson from Pittsbutgh

As a Catholic I think that the Bishops saw this as one of the few issues that they all could agree upon and show the Pope that the American Bishops support him. The Bishops are doing this for political reasons, but they are international church politics, not American national politics.

Feb. 16 2012 09:38 AM

The issue is not about contraception. It is about the constitutionally protected right of religious freedom. I am not a Catholic, nor do I practice any religion in particular. However, based on my study of consitutional law, any government mandate that would force any religious institution to contravene a basic tenet of that religion is simply unconstitutional. Ms. Sebelious admitted to Congress yesterday that her department never had this mandate analyzed by the Justice Dept. for constitutinality.

Feb. 16 2012 09:21 AM

Please stop reporting that the birth control pill can cause "spontaneous abortions." That's not how the pill works and it is so irresponsible of reporters to say so without presenting the facts. The pill works by preventing ovulation. No egg=no pregnancy=no "spontaneous abortion." The pill also thickens cervical mucus to inhibit sperm motility. This prevents sperm from reaching an egg on the very off-chance that one is released. No sperm + egg=no pregnancy=no "spontaneous abortion." Finally, theoretically, the pill thins the uterine lining, which would prevent implantation of a fertilized egg on the very, very, very off-chance that these first two lines of defense do not work. Preventing implantation is NOT the same as abortion. Get your facts straight--ESPECIALLY those of you who are reporting on this issue. This is not a "both sides have equally valid opinions" type of debate. The anti-science, anti-birth control, anti-women's autonomy side is spreading lies and misinformation.

Feb. 16 2012 09:07 AM

Stan Chaz is right on the beam correct. I support everything you said. I am currently a 60 year old student at a Catholic University and almost everyone in my cohort is catholic. They all use contraceptives. The Catholic church is afraid because their populationb is not growing and they are closing schools left right and center. This is about money not contraception.

Feb. 16 2012 09:02 AM
Ed from Larchmont

A school girl who is an atheist doesn't have to pray in school nor put up with a religious wall design. That's fair. But why as a Catholic do I have to pay for intrinsically evil procedures that harm people and are against my conscience to provide?

Feb. 16 2012 08:22 AM

Can we please stop pretending that by Obama saying insurance companies have to provide birth control coverage to employees of Catholic Institutions for free - that magically makes cost disappear. This is absurd - the cost will be shared by all insureds. If anyone truly believed this would result in this group getting a free service there would be loud protests. Why should Catholics be favored over Jewish, Hindu & Muslim religions? Don't they all deserve free birth control too? Of course there are no protests because NO ONE believes this absurd statement by Obama truly will result in Catholic institutions not paying for birth control.
I am against all these mandates regarding coverage. However, if they exist I would probably agree that religious institutions should not be exempt. But have a legitimate debate. Waving a pen and declaring coverage free is an insult to common sense.

Feb. 16 2012 08:13 AM
George Finnin from Pennsylvania

Contraceptive Mandate - Follow the money
One thing hardly mentioned in news articles is that the Catholic Church does support natural methods of birth regulation. Natural methods of birth regulations are called Natural Family Planning. You can find additional information from:
Philadelphia Natural Family Planning Network

The president's mandate states that many Catholic institutions must pay for birth regulations which use chemicals which can cause spontaneous abortions. Thus, Catholics would be forced to support methods that cause abortions. His latest attempt at "compromise" is to push the issue to insurance companies who would provide benefits at no cost to the insured. That's like taking profits from stockholders to give to the insured. I don't think that is a good business model.

Natural methods, when well understood and practiced can be as effective as the pill in avoiding pregnancy. It's so sad that most reporters have no clue about the Church's teaching on the "birth control" issues. People should be aware that no method of birth "control" is 100% effective. In fact, natural methods are more effective than condoms.

A second issue is the expense of birth control. Natural methods cost a couple nothing after learning the techniques. On the other hand, one of the most ardent supporters of the Contraceptive Mandate is Planned Parenthood who will be able to have the government pay them up to $600 a year per woman to provide chemicals. So, is this issue about compassion for women or to help support organizations like Planned Parenthood? I think it is the latter.

Feb. 16 2012 07:51 AM

Whenever the federal government gets involved it is a one-size fits all proposal - which doesn't work with the freedom and liberties guaranteed by the US Constitution. I don't understand how the same people who fight for pro-choice with respect to abortion and contraception can be against pro-mandate on every other issue of choice. Each time choice is taken from the individual, American freedoms are taken from all of us. Employees have an opportunity not to work for a church organization if they feel so strongly about getting free birth control. The church doesn't mandate that their employees cannot use birth control. The government shouldn't mandate that the church or the insurance company or all the rest of us who pay for insurance pay for it either. If you're pro-choice, just don't mandate that everyone choose what you choose - because, after all, that's not pro-choice at all, is it.

Feb. 16 2012 07:38 AM
stan chaz from New York

One of the legitimate functions of government is to promote equality and fairness for ALL, to have everyone play by the same rules. No one is coming into our Churches and trying to tell parishioners what to believe...or forcing them to use contraception. BUT If the Bishops want to start businesses that employ millions of people of varying faiths -or no "faith" at all- THEN they must play by the rules...ESPECIALLY if they use our tax dollars in the process.  Just because a religious group in America claims to believe something, we cannot excuse them from obeying the law in the PUBLIC arena, based on that belief. They can legally attempt to change the law, not to deny it outright. And if they want to plunge overtly into politics from the pulpit, then they should give up their tax-exempt status. Did I miss something, or when it comes to the "sanctity of life", is every single righteous Catholic still a card carrying conscientious objector, still refusing to take up arms,  still totally against the death penalty, and still against contraception and birth-control in all its forms? Oh well, hypocrisy is at the heart of politics, and politics masquerading as religion even more so. This country is an invigorating mixture of all the diversity that life has to offer, drawing its strength FROM that diversity. We need to work together to preserve, enrich, and strengthen this unique experiment - NOT to tear it down with poisonous, paralyzing, and un-Christian demonization of each other.

Feb. 16 2012 07:01 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Many Catholics use contraception, which is sad. The compromise doesn't solve anything. It must give people joy to see Catholics arguing, but it's not an argument: the hierarchy directs us.

The Church is concerned about all moral issues, and works on them, but this one - abortion, contraception - is what is called intrinsic evil. Can't be justified in any situation, it's not a matter of strategy or judgement.

Feb. 16 2012 06:17 AM
Ed from Larchmont

A few weeks ago we protested that the business of Planned Parenthood is abortion, and we were told that they really just were in the contraception business. This is not true, but if they are giving out contraception, why does the Catholic Church have to provide it?

See Robert George from Princeton on this issue.

Feb. 16 2012 06:12 AM
Ed from Larchmont

It's not a question about Catholics against Catholics: the Catholic Church is hierarchical, what the hierarchy (bishops) teaches is what counts.

The issue in general is not about contraception or even abortion, it's about religious freedom, which affects other Christians and those of other religions. The pope recently prayed for the protection of religious freedom in the U.S.

Feb. 16 2012 06:05 AM

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