If you have "no place to go," come here!

Look! Over there! Contraception!

If Obama hadn't decided to suck up to the Bishops and then "compromise," the Rs wouldn't have decided to up the ante by being even more assholes then they already are.

Neither side in this conflict is telling us anything that we don't already know, and both sides are behaving exactly as we would expect them to do.

So you have to ask yourself: What don't both parties want you talking about?

My guess would be the retroactive legalization of literally thousands of felonies in Obama's mortgage "settlement" (still not "signed," whatever that means these days). But YMMV.

No votes yet


cellocat's picture
Submitted by cellocat on

on women, however, is not just kabuki. Obama has flung the door wide open for even more horrendous moves against women, allowing the promulgation of the false equivalency between "religious freedom" which he has legitimized to the left, and women's rights to their own bodies and reproductive choices. I am starting to feel like I'm living in "The Handmaid's Tale". This is serious, even if they're using it as kabuki, and should not be trivialized.

Submitted by lambert on

It's like kabuki where members of the audience actually die.

UPDATE Ack, but what I mean isn't evident from what I wrote. It reminds me of a Bush v. Obama thing: We all thought how awful it was that Bush faked the WMDs for his Iraq War. And it was. But it looks to me like Obama's false flag operations actually kill people. So which kind of kabuki is worse?

I've been saying this other places after thinking them here, but now you remind me to say them here. Sorry!

tom allen's picture
Submitted by tom allen on

Kabuki was prostitution at first, as well as theater. As has been the case throughout history. Not too different from politics, except that prostitutes are more honest.

From the kabuki wiki: "In the wake of such success, rival troupes quickly formed, and kabuki was born as ensemble dance and drama performed by women—a form very different from its modern incarnation. Much of its appeal in this era was due to the ribald, suggestive themes featured by many troupes; this appeal was further augmented by the fact that the performers were often also available for prostitution."

upyernoz's picture
Submitted by upyernoz on

i mean, other than the fact than its a compromise.

when word first leaked out that the administration was going to compromise on this, i was howling too, until i saw what the substance of the "compromise" was and realized that it actually was a pretty good move. that's because it doesn't take away contraception coverage from anyone, and satisfies the bishops' objections--at least as those objections were originally phrased back before the compromise was announced.

and politically it has played out pretty well. it forced the bishops to switch positions from "we don't want to pay for birth control because it is against our religion" to "no one should be required to get for birth control coverage no matter who is paying for it", which is a lot less defensible position to take.

while i've gotten pretty sick obama's other compromises, i don't see the problem with this one. compromise per se isn't a bad thing. it can sometimes be a good thing if you get something in return. in this case, the president has taken all the air out of the other side while still preserving contraception coverage for everyone. what's the down side with that?

Submitted by lambert on

Just like Social Security, the Catfood Commission, these are issues Obama didn't have to raise. He raises them, the Rs up the ante, then there's "compromise" and we're worse off than before.

Good to see somebody's been assigned to this, though. Now we know it's misdirection.

upyernoz's picture
Submitted by upyernoz on

his administration issued a regulation, which means publishing the proposed rule to be issued in the federal register. the right noticed and started to make hay over it.

they brought it up, Obama didn't do anything to raise the issue other than go through the usual process for making a rule that contraception must be covered,

cellocat's picture
Submitted by cellocat on

that the insurance companies will go along and offer "free" contraception to women? That's never going to happen. And making women jump through more hoops for coverage that will never really be free further entrenches the priority of conciliating patriarchal religious structures over the rights of women. It's a compromise in name only. He has not taken the air out; he has given further legitimacy to the whole idea of religious freedom as applied to removing people's rights. This is in no way a good thing.

upyernoz's picture
Submitted by upyernoz on

covering birth control is a lot cheaper than covering maternity costs, and additional dependents. that's one of the reasons why so many plans covered contraception already. it's also why opposition to the compromise is coming from catholic bishops and not the health insurance industry.

i am a lawyer who represents labor unions. part of that work involves going to meetings for union health plans, so I have met a lot of people in the health insurance industry. for years, they have been telling me about the cost-control benefits of covering contraception. in the early oughts, when the big news was the EEOC's ruling that plans that covered Viagra had to cover birth control to avoid violating the law against sex discrimination, an administrator of a health plan i represented told me that he couldn't believe any health plan was fighting birth control coverage just because there was such a financial benefit to the plan if they made sure their participants had easy access to birth control.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

Violet's got it, here:

Let me just re-emphasize the point I was trying to make in that penultimate paragraph. The principle that birth control pills are a normal part of women’s healthcare was established many years ago. The principle that refusal to cover such normal healthcare constitutes sexist discrimination was established many years ago. The principle that “religious liberty” does not provide an exemption from laws governing nondiscrimination in the public square was established many years ago. There have been legal challenges to these principles, but the precedents (including at the Supreme Court level) are extremely strong.

In other words, the Obama Administration had rock solid grounds to include female contraception as part of the healthcare mandate. Indeed, it would have constituted serious sexist discrimination for them not to include it.

So the question is: why cave in to the bishops at all? Because they’re making noise? Because they’re whining? So what? The public doesn’t agree with them. Their own parishioners don’t agree with them. Nobody who would ever in a million years vote for Obama agrees with them. They don’t control the purse strings for Obama’s reelection campaign. They have nothing.

On the other hand, there were all kinds of outstandingly good reasons not to cave in. First, the fact that there was absolutely no legal reason to do so. Second, because caving in would lend credence to the specious wingnut argument that “religious liberty” or “conscience” is a valid reason to violate people’s civil rights or ignore parts of the healthcare mandate. And finally, because caving in would legitimize the poisonous notion that women’s rights are negotiable, that sexist discrimination isn’t “real” discrimination, that the question of whether to treat women as human is purely an option that you check on or off depending on your philosophical persuasion.
So what did Obama do? He caved.

His fans are impressed that he caved in such a way as to preserve women’s access to birth control pills. And yes, that is definitely a good thing. But he still caved. On the principles.

Put it this way: before Obama caved, women were going to get free contraception. After Obama caved, women were going to get free contraception, plus the Administration had acknowledged that “religious liberty” is a valid reason to discriminate against women in the public square and to reject whatever aspects of the healthcare mandate you find icky.

How in god’s name is that a “win”?

The fangirls and boys seem entranced by their vision of Obama as the savior of American women. I find this powerfully unfeminist. I want women’s rights to be a matter of basic law, not something the President holds in his gift. I don’t want the President to swoop in with a rescue while simultaneously acknowledging that the godbags have a precious right to discriminate against women. I liked it better when the EEOC was just enforcing the Civil Rights Act.

The fans are also thrilled by the way in which Obama has “exposed” the bishops and other godbags. Exposed them to who? Who, exactly, is the audience? Whose vote will be affected by this? Whose mind will be changed? What new information was revealed? Is there really a swing-vote horde of young contraceptive-using women who, up until now, thought the Catholic Church and/or the GOP was their friend, and who now realize (the shock!) that these people don’t want them to have birth control and abortions and sex?

And even if there is such a horde (which I doubt), Obama could have achieved the same result simply by standing his ground. Simply by saying to the bishops, “Sorry, sexist discrimination is prohibited by law, and contraception is part of a woman’s normal healthcare.”

As for the practical politics of the thing, Obama’s cave-in doesn’t seem to have helped. The Republicans instantly seized on Obama’s admission that “religious liberty” is a valid reason to ignore aspects of the healthcare mandate, drafting an amendment that would permit employers to opt out of providing any healthcare coverage they find personally objectionable. This was entirely predictable, and Obama himself opened the door. It will be interesting to see how the Administration responds.

Meanwhile, the bishops have announced that they are unsatisfied with Obama’s workaround solution. This was also entirely predictable. The bishops will never be satisfied, not until contraception itself is unavailable and preferably outlawed. Obama’s cave-in did nothing to appease them. If anything, his capitulation to the “religious liberty” frame has possibly emboldened them. Again, where is the win?

(emphasis added)

upyernoz's picture
Submitted by upyernoz on

The principle that birth control pills are a normal part of women’s healthcare was established many years ago. The principle that refusal to cover such normal healthcare constitutes sexist discrimination was established many years ago.

that's not quite true. the EEOC ruling, later upheld by courts, was that if is sex discrimination for a health insurer to cover viagra but not birth control. to my knowledge there has never been a ruling that not covering birth control itself is sex discrimination.

The principle that “religious liberty” does not provide an exemption from laws governing nondiscrimination in the public square was established many years ago.

also not quite true. the civil rights act of 1964 (which created the EEOC, and still governs most discrimination claims in this country, including sex discrimination), contains an exemptions for religious organizations. so they are allowed to discriminate on the basis of sex. that's been in the law for almost a half century.

once you take away those two premises, violet's entire argument pretty much falls apart. he didn't have the option of saying to the bishops that they already had to cover contraception under existing federal law because that wasn't true (so long as they didn't also cover viagra). the compromise was effective because it didn't give up anything on coverage and satisfied what the bishops originally claimed they wanted (to not pay for contraception). in my mind, that's a world of difference from most of the compromises that have come out of this administration in that this time his policy (making sure that women have access to contraception) is just as effective under the compromise than it is without it.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

The EEOC decision was not about Viagra (although I can see how that became the popular interpretation, it makes for a much better headline). The EEOC ruled that an employer's refusal to cover contraception violated both the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Title VII:

The PDA requires that expenses related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions be treated the same as expenses related to other medical conditions.(10) Because Respondents have failed to provide such equal treatment in this case, they are liable for discrimination under the PDA.

Contraception is a means to prevent, and to control the timing of, the medical condition of pregnancy. In evaluating whether Respondents have provided equal insurance coverage for prescription contraceptives, therefore, the Commission looks to Respondents' coverage of other prescription drugs and devices, or other types of services, that are used to prevent the occurrence of other medical conditions. In Respondents' plan, such drugs, devices, and services include:

drugs to prevent development of medical conditions, such as those to lower or maintain blood pressure or cholesterol levels;
anorectics (weight loss drugs) for those 18 years of age and under;
preventive care for children and adults, including physical examinations; laboratory services in connection with such examinations; x-rays; and other screening tests, like pap smears and routine mammograms; and
preventive dental care (including oral examinations, tooth cleaning, bite wing x-rays, and fluoride treatments).(11)

In other words, if you provide coverage for prevention of other medical conditions, then you have to provide coverage for contraception under the PDA.

Viagra is mentioned in a footnote (fn14), but only in response to the employer's allegation that they could exclude contraception because they never covered other preventative health care, they only covered where "there is something abnormal about [the employee's] mental or physical health." The EEOC most certainly did not rule that if an insurer covers Viagra it has to cover prescription contraception.

Addressing Title VII, the EEOC said:

Respondents assert that their exclusion does not constitute sex discrimination because it does not explicitly distinguish between men and women.(20) However, prescription contraceptives are available only for women. As a result, Respondents' explicit refusal to offer insurance coverage for them is, by definition, a sex-based exclusion. Because 100 percent of the people affected by Respondent's policy are members of the same protected group - here, women -- Respondent's policy need not specifically refer to that group in order to be facially discriminatory.(21)

Further, the Title VII exemption for religious institutions applies only to religion itself. That is, a religious institution can hire only members of its own religion, without running afoul of Title VII's bar to discrimination based on religion. It is not immunity from the other types of prohibited discrimination included in Title VII:

SEC. 2000e-1. [Section 702]
(a) Inapplicability of subchapter to certain aliens and employees of religious entities
This subchapter shall not apply to an employer with respect to the employment of aliens outside any State, or to a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution, or society of its activities.

From the EEOC:

This exception is not limited to religious activities of the organization. However, it only allows religious organizations to prefer to employ individuals who share their religion. The exception does not allow religious organizations otherwise to discriminate in employment on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. Thus, a religious organization is not permitted to engage in racially discriminatory hiring by asserting that a tenet of its religious beliefs is not associating with people of other races.

The Courts of Appeal have long recognized a "ministerial" exception to Title VII anti-discrimination requirements -- because of the conflict between Title VII and the First Amendment's protections -- in cases that "concern[] government interference with an internal church decision that affects the faith and mission of the church itself." In a very recent case, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (No. 10-553), the Supreme Court affirmed the "ministerial" exception.

That exception -- allowing religious institutions to discriminate on the basis of sex (or other Title VII provisions) in choosing their ministers (interpreted broadly) -- is what allows the Catholic Church and most other religions to employ only men as their religious officials. Note that this is an exception. Neither Title VII nor the First Amendment gives religious institutions a free pass on sex discrimination. In Hosanna-Tabor, the Court reiterated the rule that outside decisions of whom a religious organization can employ as its leaders, religious institutions must follow laws of general applicability (ie, the famous peyote case):

We held that this did not violate the Free Exercise Clause, even though the peyote had been ingested for sacramental purposes, because the “right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribes (or proscribes).” Id., at 879 (internal quotation marks omitted).


IOW, it's simply not true that churches "are allowed to discriminate on the basis of sex. that's been in the law for almost a half century."

The exemption of abortion from any mandatory coverage or federal-funding provisions is long standing law. However, the increasingly successful drive to frame birth control as somehow a matter of religious conscience and not law is a new and substantial (and horrifying) departure from settled law and settled principles. Violet is correct that Obama was not legally required to make his compromise. I'm sure he was depending on (mostly correctly, as it turns out) his endless hordes of fans to spin whatever he did as a great victory, regardless of reality.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

I'm bookmarking it, because its not the first time I've seen upyurnoz's argument in favor of this crap.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

Primarily, privacy. When the employers had no say over the coverage offered by the insurance company, your privacy was assured. But since some employer don't have to offer the same blanket coverage, no the employer will know who is using BC or not. And if your employer objects to it, well that puts your job at risk. Or if your employer feels that your non-use of BC puts you at a higher risk for pregnancy, and all the attendant costs to an employer that causes, puts your job at risk.

Second, the optics. The president has yielded ground, ground he didn't have to yield. I got into a screaming match with my boss over the initial decision, defending Obama, something I am always loathe to do, and finally got my boss to concede that this decision doesn't mean that Obama can interfere with what a chirch teaches(which is how this was being spun to the FoxNewsers), and after all my work on that, the next day he fucking caves, disproving my point that he was right in the first place. Because he was. 98% of sexually active Catholic women use contraception, the bishops have no moral authority on this issue, a large majority of the population supports the use of contraception, and he fucking caved! Why? In an attempt to look "bipartisan" and "reasonable" to the most partisan and unreasonable of shitheads? Because he is really uncomfortable with women's sexuality(This is my vote, see repeated references to protecting daughters' purity with violence)?

His motives being impossible to determine, his actions are all we can judge. And his actions here were shitty. He bargained away women's right to bodily autonomy, AGAIN, for an ephemeral gain.

cellocat's picture
Submitted by cellocat on

has a long history of charging women more. They do not have a long history of giving away services for free, even if it's in their best interest. Regardless, making women jump through hoops for something that is their right to have is not a distraction, not a small issue, especially when the government is making a concession without consultation with the people who will be affected by it. The administration is caving to the very people who will never be affected by it.

upyernoz's picture
Submitted by upyernoz on

I agree that the insurance industry has a history of charging women more for various services. but when it comes to birth control, for the past decade most of the industry has included coverage for birth control. as I noted above, the insurance industry is not the ones who are protesting this compromise, even though the compromise was for insurance companies to pay for the coverage rather than religious employers. in any other context, they would have screamed bloody murder, but not this time because this is what they want to do so they can increase their bottom line. the only thing that was stopping them was that there was a small market for policies without coverage.

and what is this extra hoop you're referring to? the compromise doesn't mention anything extra that women have to do. I think you're just assuming that women will have to fill out some paperwork to opt-in to coverage. but it's more likely that religious employers will have to do the paperwork to opt-out, as the default rule is still that employers pay for contraception coverage.

as for "not consulting with the people who will affected by it", what exactly did you want? a referendum of women who get health insurance through a catholic employer to be held before the president announces his compromise publicly? you realize that has never been done for any policy in American politics before. (seniors were "not consulted" about social security when it was first proposed). it seems like you're the one who wants to throw up extra hoops, and not very realistic ones at that.

cellocat's picture
Submitted by cellocat on

of "experts" called by Issa on the issue of contraception? A politician can choose with whom he/she wants to consult. Giving way to the opinions of bishops without talking with people involved in women's healthcare is certainly not a value-free exercise. I'm not talking referendum with all available women who'd be impacted by this.

Perhaps I am totally misinformed, but I thought the whole point of this was so that the organizations in question would NOT pay for coverage for women; they'd have to go through the insurance companies.

Edited to add, from a CNN article:
"Under the new plan announced by Obama, religiously affiliated universities and hospitals will not be forced to offer contraception coverage to their employees. Insurers will be required, however, to offer complete coverage free of charge to any women who work at such institutions. Women who work at churches, though, will have no guarantee of such contraception coverage -- a continuation of current law."

Submitted by jawbone on

more attention from Obama than stopping wars with their massive killings.

People whose ethics and/or religious beliefs are against such killings don't get any special consideration.

Just those who want to control women's lives and sexuality.

Submitted by lambert on

Exactly so.

cellocat's picture
Submitted by cellocat on

When justifying such incursions. Whereas there's never any mention of the morality of killing so many people, including bystanders and people who show up to care for the wounded.

Submitted by lambert on

Quoted by Riverdaughter:

And guess what? As Digby points out, it’s working. What just a few weeks ago was considered so mainstream as to an afterthought (providing contraception) is now seen as some sort of controversial touchstone, even as “religious freedom” has become a buzzword in the press.

Democrats can high-five one another about Republican overreach and laugh hysterically at the increased number of votes Barack Obama will receive in 2012 over Mitt Santorum. But ultimately the joke’s on us. It’s been on us ever since the Obama Administration decided to concede an inch to the misogynist conspiracy of extremist fanatics that are the Bishops, rather than mock them immediately for being out of touch with their own flock, to say nothing of the mainstream American public.

The political ground on contraception has suddenly shifted to the right faster than I have seen on any social issue in my lifetime. It’s incredible.

At some point, as these issues keep blowing up, people figure out Obama doesn't just have butterfingers. The damage to what used to be the base isn't any more accidental than a drone strike. Even TINS, who's drunk deep of the Kool-Aid, gets this. Of course, there are always some hold outs prepared to die in the last ditch, bless their hearts....