In debating the HHS contraception mandate at our affiliate Facebook page, I’ve noticed that there are many arguments floating around, some involving the financial funds used by some Catholic organizations, others involving the moral practices of the majority of those claiming to be Catholic.
I’m not going to re-invent the wheel in opposition to these arguments. They’ve already been handled masterfully by other bloggers. What I would like to do here is offer the three points the government would have to prove in order to make the claim that it has the authority to mandate what it has mandated. These three points take as their foundation the first amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The first amendment, as we know, protects the Church from government regulation. This mandate is government regulation. Obviously, any state must have some ability to regulate churches, so, for instance, we won’t end up with legal cults that practice genocide. The Nazis couldn’t call themselves a religion and then have freedom to kill the Jews in our country. On what basis could the state have such an ability to regulate religion? All true religion must comply with natural law, because religious bodies worship God, the Creator of nature. To the degree that a religion does not comply with the natural law, it is not truly a religion. All civil law is based in natural law, and therefore has the duty to enforce natural law, or at least to act consistently with it. Thus, states may regulate religions to the extent that they keep them consistent with natural law (I would argue that everything Catholic is consistent with natural law, even if super-natural, but that’s another post).
The three points I would like to share with you are based on this natural law foundation. Natural law is been well-established in the Western tradition. The three points the state must make are below, followed by their refutations:
- That all persons have a right to contraception under natural law. If the Church violates the natural right of some individual, then the Church is violating natural law. Thus, to force the Church to comply with a civil law or regulation, the state must prove the right from natural law.
- That all persons have a right to receive contraception free of charge. It is one thing to say that someone has a right to something, but another thing to say that he has the right to that thing without any cost to himself. This must also be proven.
- That employers have the duty to pay for the contraception of employees. Lastly, if the first two points are proven, it must also be proven that there is a real grounds for forcing the employer to pay for contraception, rather than forcing another third-party payer, such as the state.
- That all persons have a right to contraception under natural law. This one is pretty easy to prove wrong. Hormonal contraceptions stop the natural process of ovulation, or otherwise impede the natural process of implantation. Condoms, spermicides, and many contraceptives block the natural process of fertilization. Contraception is not in line with natural law; how could it be a right according to natural law? A common argument against my point here is that the same reasoning would oppose any medicine on the grounds that illness is a natural process, but this is not sound reasoning. It is natural for the body to be healthy, and illness violates nature on that account (one natural thing can oppose another). Medicine helps the body to retain its natural state.
- That all persons have a right to receive contraception free of charge. You have a natural right to food. It’s true – you need food to survive, and so you have a natural right to food. Nevertheless, if you go into a deli and demand a free sandwich, you can’t accuse the owner of violating your right to food when he throws you out. Just because you have a right to something doesn’t mean that you have a right to receive it for free.
- That employers have the duty to pay for the contraception of employees. This claim is my personal favorite, mostly because it’s so outlandish. As Marc Barnes put it, “I do not understand why employers are obligated to provide for drugs that grant people responsibility-free pleasure.” Health insurance comes from the employer by convention, stemming from the industrial revolution when the Church responded to a heartless liberal capitalism (think Scrooge) that objectified and refused to care for those harmed by their labors, and turned a blind-eye to the ongoing illnesses of workers. It is, after all, in the best interests of businesses for employers to promote health among workers. What is not in the best interests of businesses is to ensure that employees have a good, consequence-free time in their bedrooms. Some have argued that this is in the interests of employers, since fewer children means lower health premiums. They may have a point on a purely self-centered, short-term economic level (limiting the population will hurt business in the long run, as the workforce decreases), but even if some employers believe this to be the case, covering contraception cannot be called a duty.
If we as a Church are to make the case against this mandate, it must be with an argument that, at one and the same time, addresses this administration’s violation of religious liberty and argues that the doctrine of the Church on openness to life in sexuality does not oppose, but rather upholds, the natural law. I believe these three points do a good job of providing a framework for that argument. As the media continues to assault the Church and the Obama Administration claims that it has been reasonable and is finished negotiating, more and more side arguments, distractions from the real issue, are cropping up. When you find yourself defending the Church’s position, don’t forget to raise these three challenges and hold the line! Without an answer to these, the administration has no case.
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