The Corpus Callosum

The href="http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060821/UPDATE/608210400">Michigan
Civil Rights Commission ruled recently that small insurance
companies that cover prescription drugs must also cover the cost of href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oral_contraceptives"
rel="tag">oral contraceptives.  

Firms with more than 15 employees are already under the jurisdiction of
federal law, so the ruling affects only small companies.  But
the ruling will have a wide impact: 60% of firms in Michigan are
affected.

This ruling is consistent with recommendations from major medical
organizations, such as the href="http://www.acog.org/acog_sections/dist_notice.cfm?recno=49&bulletin=1446"
rel="tag">American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

I first heard about this on NPR, as href="http://www.umich.edu/news/index.html?Releases/2003/Dec03/r121003c"
rel="tag">Charity Nebbe read about it on the news.
 She mentioned one objection that had been raised: that the
directive would raise the cost of providing insurance, which might
cause some employers to drop insurance coverage for their employees.
 I was happy to hear Ms. Nebbe follow that up with a comment,
that studies have shown it saves money for insurance companies to cover
oral contraceptives.  The decrease in childbirth more than
offsets the cost of the prescriptions.

In the Detroit News article (linked above), another
objeciton was mentioned:

But the Michigan Catholic Conference — the major
opponent, since the church is opposed to the use of birth control –
testified in May that a sex discrimination ruling would trump religious
freedoms.

“Religious freedom is a key principle and a key civil right,” said Paul
Long, vice president of public policy. “We express deep concern this
was a violation of one right to the exclusion of another.”

Perhaps the Detroit News erred by not providing the
entire quote (there is no way to tell if something was left out.)
 However, the little snippet they provided does not seem like
much of an argument.  It is not at all clear how this ruling
is an infringement on anyone’s religious freedom.  (Unless
religious freedom is to be construed as the right to disobey laws that
one does not agree with.)

Comments

  1. #1 bob koepp
    August 30, 2006

    I haven’t checked the background of Long’s comment, but I suspect he was talking about how a ruling requiring coverage for contraceptives could put people who are morally opposed to contraception in a moral bind, being legally required to pay for something they think is morally objectionable.

    BTW, religious freedom, otherwise known as freedom of conscience, is supposed to kick in _before_ laws are passed. The standard liberal line is that in a society which respects freedom of conscience, laws that would require people to violate their religious beliefs can be justified only by showing that this course is necessary to the maintenance of a well-ordered society, that there is no other reasonable means to achieve the legitimate goals of social policy without compelling the participation of moral dissenters. I trust that you appreciate just how different this is from a “right to disobey laws that one does not agree with.”

  2. #2 Joseph j7uy5
    August 30, 2006

    I was not able to find any more about Mr. Long’s comment, although I admit that I did not try very hard. I looked at the Michigan Catholic Conference site. There is a lot of commentary there about legislation, but nothing (as of the day I posted this) on this particular issue.

    Although I do see the argument about not requiring someone to pay for something that they find morally objectionable, I find that argument unpersuasive. The reason is that any system of government is all too likely to be involved in some activity of another that some part of the population finds to be objectionable. War is a good example; there are many others.

    However, we all are legally required to pay taxes. Courts have found, consistently, that it is not permissible to withhold payment of taxes on the grounds that one objects to what the government is doing with the money.

    In the case of the US Federal Government, or the Michigan State Government, it clearly would lead to a breakdown of order to have people deciding on their own to stop paying taxes.

    In the case at hand, the law the Civil Rights Commission was ruling on was, of course, civil rights legislation. I suppose there might be some disagreement on this, but I believe I speak with the majority, when I saw that civil rights legislation clearly is needed to maintain a well-ordered society.

    Justa few days ago, there was a case of some African-American kids being ordered to sit in the back of the bus. So we have not surpassed the need for this legislation.

  3. #3 bob koepp
    August 31, 2006

    Again referring to traditional liberal thought, the standard line about war is that any well-ordered society must be able to resort to war, at least for self-defense (wars to spread the gosepel of democracy are another matter entirely…). But even in this case, though they are required to pay war taxes, conscientious objectors can opt out of actual hostilities. Nonetheless, if you remember the Vietnam war, more than a few people did refuse to pay taxes — and I have nothing but respect for their integrity.

    As for the civil rights angle, sure, civil rights are a good thing. But that doesn’t mean that every piece of legislation aimed at promoting civil rights gets a pass. If the proposed law violates freedom of conscience, without demonstrating the necessity of doing so, liberals should be praising the ends but condemning the means.

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