Last week’s all-consuming outrage was spurred by a new rule issued by the Obama administration requiring that all employers’ health insurance plans cover birth control without a copay. Religious employers – especially Catholic groups – had asked for an exemption, and thought there was a wink-and-nod agreement that they’d get the exemption, but then they didn’t. They didn’t want to have to pay for birth control, even though many of these groups employ people outside their denomination (and thus aren’t bound by outdated papal bans on birth control) or people who are part of the denomination but don’t care about outdated papal bans on birth control.
This morning, rumors swirled of a forthcoming “accommodation” from the administration, and some were prepared to declare it a loss, sight unseen.
But the actual policy announced seems satisfying to nearly everyone. ThinkProgress explains:
Under the new policy, “all women will still have access to free preventive care, including contraception,” no matter where they work.” However, if a nonprofit religiously affiliated organization like a Catholic college or hospital objects to offering birth control, the insurance company will be required to provide the coverage free of charge and the employer will not pay for it. Sister Carol Keehan, President of the US Catholic Health Association and Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards support the compromise, the administration officials said.
…Insurance companies will be able to deliver birth control at no additional charge because the cost of contraception is far less than the costs associated with an unwanted pregnancy, the administration official explained. Therefore, “there is no extra premium” associated with the service.
The new rule will also eliminate the one year implementation delay that was included in the original regulation, meaning that contraception without cost sharing will be available starting Aug. 1.
Planned Parenthood and the nun who runs the Catholic hospitals’ lobbying group probably don’t agree on much, but they are both satisfied with this resolution. About the only people who aren’t: wingnuts like Bryan Fischer, who declared on twitter:
WH “compromise” totally bogus. Now just tramples on religious liberty of insurance companies instead. It’s a travesty.
Now I know corporations are people, my friend, but in what sense does a corporation have religion, let alone religious liberty? If he has to work that hard to find a problem with this policy, I think we can safely say that the President’s skills at 11-dimensional chess are still sharp.
But I understand why there was so much angst on progressive blogs and Twitter feeds this morning. So often, the White House has a habit of opening negotiations by giving away the store, or accepting a compromise that’s too weak, or that fails to advance a progressive vision, or lay the foundation for future progressive victories. In many cases, I can see why those compromises were probably the best deal to be had, but it still leaves a bitter taste in progressive voters.
In this case, they negotiated the politics cleverly by staking out a strong position to begin with, letting the conservative noise machine work itself into a tizzy, then announcing a compromise that takes nothing away from the people being insured, acknowledges the concerns of religious groups, and forces the conservatives to either make clear that they simply object to anyone having birth control at all, or to make arguments so absurd they can be ignored. I hope there’s a broader political lesson here.