KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Contraception Opinions: We’re All Catholics Now, A Sex Tax? And The ‘Safe, Legal, Rare’ Illusion

The Washington Post: Why We Are All Catholics Now
Because when the state comes against the Catholics, or the Jews, or the Muslims, or the Pentecostals, or the Mormons or those of any other faith – exotic or familiar – we must all stand up as one: We are all Catholics now. ... Perhaps this is a hard line. But when it comes to the separation of church and state, we need absolutes (Glenn Beck, 2/20). 

McClatchy/Lexington Herald Leader: Dust-Up Over Contraceptive Rule Ignores Rights Of Employees
[DePaul University's] president, the Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, told the newspaper, "DePaul fully supports the bishops' stance, but has offered (contraceptive) benefits ever since both Illinois and the federal government required us to do so several years ago." No one accused Illinois of trampling on religious freedoms. Why are Republicans trying to make hay now? (Merlene Davis, 2/19).

McClatchy/Miami Herald: As A Compromise, How About A Federal Sex Tax?
Here's a modest proposal: Let's tax sex and use the proceeds to fund birth control for women whose health plans don't cover it. ... The Catholic bishops and other protesters are making precisely the same argument as would arise against my proposal for a sex tax: that it violates a fundamental right. And, unlike the right to sex (which I take it most of us hold dear) the right to religion is actually mentioned in the Constitution (Stephen L. Carter, 2/19).

Miami Herald: On Birth Control, GOP Shoots Itself In The Foot
Republican strategists see the controversy as another opportunity to bash Obama's health care reforms, and also to rile up white Christian evangelicals who don't like the president anyway. As political miscalculations go, this one could be epic (Carl Hiaasen, 2/18).

The New York Times: The 'Safe, Legal, Rare' Illusion
[A]bortion rates are frequently higher in more liberal states, where access is often largely unrestricted, than in more conservative states, which are more likely to have parental consent laws, waiting periods, and so on. "Safe, legal and rare" is a nice slogan, but liberal policies don’t always seem to deliver the "rare" part (Ross Douthat, 2/18).

Los Angeles Times: Darrell Issa's Political Theater
When Rep. Darrell Issa, the California Republican who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, convened a hearing Thursday on religious freedom and the mandate that health insurers cover contraception, he ignited a firestorm of protest before he even started (2/19). 

Los Angeles Times: Republican Hearing On Contraceptives Was Dumb Politics
Fairly or not, the spin coming out of the hearing was not about how religious institutions might be threatened by a federal requirement that employees be provided insurance coverage for contraceptives, which is what the committee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, intended. Instead, the story became how women were left out of a discussion about birth control (David Horsey, 2/20).

Houston Chronicle: Health Law A Threat To Our Religious Freedom
It is distressing to realize the government is creating its own definitions of which ministries are religious enough to qualify for an exemption to a policy that violates a church's teachings. Even more, the updated mandate would pass the objectionable coverage on to the insurer; the insurer would be compensated through premiums paid by the religious employer. The coverage of these services would therefore still be provided through the objecting religious employer's plan. And the "accommodation" does not offer any clarity on exemptions for entities that have self-funded health plans or for business employers that are Catholic (DiNardo, 2/17).

Boston Globe: Obama's Compromise Respects Rights Of Church And Of Women
The administration was right to make a good-faith effort to respect the religious beliefs of those signing the checks, ensuring they don't pay for contraception, but now the administration must stand against efforts to weaken the coverage of individual employees (2/21).

Boston Globe: Birth Control And Church's Power Grab
Here's a book title suited to recent headlines: "The Time Has Come: A Catholic Doctor's Proposals to End the Battle Over Birth Control." Alas, the battle over birth control has been reignited, with Catholic doctors (and nurses, professors, social workers, and others whose health insurance is at issue) finding themselves in the thick of conflict, whether they want to be or not. Catholic bishops, having a generation ago squandered the treasure of moral leadership, have lately been offered a pulpit from which to bully. They're back (James Carroll, 2/20).

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