During a special announcement this afternoon, President Barack Obama didn’t actually alter the effect of his previous decision that religious employers with health plans must offer birth control coverage. He just kind of changed the phrasing of it. Which is fine—hey, compromise, we dig it. But let’s be honest about how utterly absurd this all is.
Under the new plan, religiously affiliated hospitals and universities wouldn’t—as Obama previously supported—be required to offer health insurance with full contraception coverage to female employees. This is what religious (mainly Catholic) institutions and some social conservatives have been hooting and hollering about—religious hospitals and universities that provide health insurance having to offer the same minimum benefits to employees as other companies around the country do. House Speaker John Boehner called it “an attack on religious freedom.”
The new plan preserves religious employer’s alleged right to not support contraceptive coverage. But if a woman on one of these plans wants contraception, the insurance company has to cover it, free of charge. So women employed by contraceptive-averse employers will still get full contraceptive coverage.
Obama’s developed a magic new way of negotiating where everybody wins!
I guess that works. Religious employers might still be upset that they can’t deprive employees of birth control coverage altogether, but at least they don’t have to condone it. And what difference should it make to employees how it’s covered, so long as its covered? It would seem all sides get what they want.
But let’s just note that the President just called a special mid-day press conference, to much anticipation, to talk about birth control, and not even to announce anything new about it. To announce that everything in effect was going to remain the exact same but we were all going to talk about it differently. Let’s just note that we live in a climate where a President feels that’s a reasonable and even necessary thing to do.