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January 26, 2015

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A wife’s wisdom on D.C. fight

I asked my wife, Myra, her opinion about this latest dust-up about contraceptives and religious freedom.

I was interested in what she believed was the right policy for women in America. After all, she is a woman. Her daughter is a woman and her granddaughter will be quite a woman one day. Who better to ask about women’s health than a woman?

Her answer was not what I was expecting, but it represented the best of what this country is about. It also was a portent, without her realizing it, of President Barack Obama’s announcement Friday morning of a responsible and, frankly, quite reasonable compromise.

Myra started with all the reasons why people should be supporting all aspects of a woman’s health because it just makes good sense, both socially and economically. Of course, a woman’s economic status should not affect her ability to get the health care available to other Americans. While she didn’t say it, it was clear, as most would agree, that it is the people at the lowest rungs of the financial ladder who need access to all forms of health care the most. Those with money can always manage!

I specifically avoided engaging my bride in the political aspects of the controversy because she has very little patience for anyone who thinks they are better able to decide what is best for her than she is. That includes the government and anyone else who would use the government to enforce their will on her and her body. For that matter, I suppose, that would include me, too!

She then pivoted to the issue raised legitimately by some that it would infringe on deeply held religious convictions. The Catholic Church, for example, is knee-deep into providing health care through a hospital system that is one of the best in the country, and the issue seemed to pit its ability to provide health care against its obligation to provide contraceptive health care to its employees, regardless of their religious affiliation or beliefs.

For Myra, it was a conflict between a strong, responsible national health policy — affordable contraception for all women — and the right to believe as we wish without government interference.

Here is what we didn’t discuss but what caused the brouhaha in the first place: Most Americans will agree, and have for a long time agreed, that it is in our country’s best interests that the female members of society — that is pretty close to half by numbers and approximately 90 percent by political clout, both at home and at the ballot box — have access to the best health care available. We actually believe the same thing for the weaker sex, too!

Most Americans also believe the First Amendment principle of the separation of church and state is sacred — even though listening to the Republican candidates for president at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week caused more than a little concern that the separation will soon be non-existent — and that we should do nothing to narrow the space that provides such separation.

Taken together, most Americans believe in the First Amendment and a woman’s right to health care.

That is where Myra came down — not for one side or the other, but with the clear understanding that these two issues were not mutually exclusive. Rather, they were capable of being reconciled in a way that shouldn’t do violence to either principle.

Her wisdom was inescapable — yes, I am mindful that Valentine’s Day is approaching — and, I would suggest, universal in its simplicity. And that ended our discussion.

What has prompted this column is President Obama’s announcement Friday morning that he had found a way to strike the right balance between the two principles. It is as if he had been listening to my wife!

More to the point, he was listening to responsible voices on each side of the argument, which allowed him to come up with a solution that works.

I realize there will be many people involved in the political wars of 2012 who will be disappointed that the president managed to do what presidents are supposed to do — find solutions to problems that move us forward — and they will continue to thump him about the head and shoulders to gain some political advantage. I understand that because this is the kind of politics the voters have become accustomed to and, frankly, have encouraged by their response to such negativity.

Far more important, though, is the result.

Women across the country will have access to the kind of health care that will enhance their lives and the lives of their loved ones, regardless of their financial circumstances. And religious organizations will be free to conduct their business without interference from government in those matters which define their faith.

The way I see it, everybody wins — except those on the fringes who would rather divide this country than help it come together.

Thank God!

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  1. Mr. Greenspun,

    I must respectfully disagree with you.

    The compromise proposed by President Obama changes nothing in the debate at all. At best it merely shifts the costs onto a different group of people.

    Saying that insurance companies must provide the coverage at no extra charge means that the cost for such coverage will be passed on to all other subscribers without being disclosed. Obviously many of those subscribers will in fact be Catholics and others who have objections to such coverage. The end result is that the Church (in the broadest sense) is receiving preferential treatment at the expense of everyone else, both individuals and other organizations.

    Also, although the cost would appear to be borne by the private sector, it is still the government that is mandating it. So in reality, the fundamental conflict has not been addressed at all.

    I strongly support the separation of Church and State. I believe that Wesley Clark was correct when he said that the doctrine is meant not so much to protect the Church from the State, but to protect the State from the Church.

    Also, I should point out that the precedent of the government being able to overrule a religious belief was set long ago, just ask the Mormons.

  2. By the way, I am not opposed to easy access to contraception. The economic benefits to society as a whole far outweighs the cost of providing it.

    If anything, such access should be completely gender neutral by including condoms and vasectomies as well. What's sauce for goose, etc.

    It is the fact that the far right has elevated religious concerns above fiscal concerns that alienates so many moderates from the Republican Party as it exists today.

  3. Obama did not compromise. Obama did not consult with insurance companies, Obama did not consult with people of faith.

    Obama just told people that this my decision - deal with it


    Obama told the religious folks that their rights do not count.

    Obama said that faith and beliefs are second class to the liberal agenda.

    Obama has said that insurance companies must give free sterilization, and abortion pills to those of faith. The is population control by the federal government.

    This means that against their faith the premiums cost of everybody must go up to cover these free services.

  4. Future,

    Simply put, religious beliefs *do* come second, or not count at all. The evidence for this lies in the fact that it is explicitly stated not only once, but twice in the Constitution that there shall be no test of faith to hold office.

    Your statement that insurance companies must provide certain services for free with the implication that doing so violates a person's faith is a straw man argument. People of faith are free to reject accepting such services.

    It is the argument that people of faith must pay for such benefits through premiums that has merit. That is the reason that in theory that abortions are not funded by tax dollars.

  5. "It is the argument that people of faith must pay for such benefits through premiums that has merit. That is the reason that in theory that abortions are not funded by tax dollars."
    And there is the point - the Federal Government is mandating that insurance companies provide the coverage for the abortion pill to be paid for against the will of people of faith.

    Again there can not be an accommodation or compromise if only one position the Obama position is allowed.

  6. Most of the problem here comes from the fact that the English language has changed in the 225 years since the Bill of Rights was written. The First Amendment does not refer to an "establishment of religion" as a building or a church, but rather to Congress establishing an official State religion.

    When viewed in that light, and coupled with the "no test of faith" clauses in the Constitution, this debate can be seen in an entirely different (and more correct) context.

  7. "I specifically avoided engaging my bride in the political aspects of the controversy because she has very little patience for anyone who thinks they are better able to decide what is best for her than she is. That includes the government and anyone else who would use the government to enforce their will on her and her body."

    Greenspun -- right there is what the late Frank Zappa used to call "the crux of the biscuit." Her kind of attitude is sorely lacking among our elected. Can we get your bride to run for office?

    "It is the fact that the far right has elevated religious concerns above fiscal concerns that alienates so many moderates from the Republican Party as it exists today."

    boftx -- amen to that

    "In Roe v. Wade, the Court held that the "right of privacy, * * * founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action * * * is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy." ... Central among these protected liberties is an individual's "freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life." ... The decision in Roe was based firmly on this long-recognized and essential element of personal liberty." -- Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, 462 U.S. 416, 427 (1983)

  8. Enjoyed the article.

    One thing is for sure. Tea/Republicans in power, every damn one of them, don't think like Mr. Greenspuns' better half.

    Their mandate is to be in complete charge of every facet of womens' health. Especially when it focuses on the area between the bellybutton and the knees.

    Tea/Republican politicians, by the way they act, must feel that deep down in their very souls women are not capable of making decision regarding their own bodies.

    Well, another main reason is they want it reduced to purely party politics too. They want it continually pounded out there that Democrats hate women, they hate religion, they're all abortionists, President Obama isn't one of us, he will never be one of us, blah blah blah blah.

    Their pure hatred has clouded their vision.

    It is now to the point that it's getting ridiculous. I expect to see right wing propaganda come out that President Obama is at war with Valentine's Day next.

    Anyways, I predict the Tea/Republicans are going to change their name to the Party of Feminine Hygene Sanitary Napkins or something. Maybe that's their next focus issue: Kotex. Seeing as they spend so much time fixated on womens' crotches all the time. I mean, c'mon, it defies belief that President Obama tries to do something for womens' health, they're against it. Then he fine tunes it, then they scramble to find something else wrong with it. But then again, Tea/Republicans are like that. They don't care what's right. They only care for the politics of it, that it must focus on hating this President to get back into power; power they clearly don't deserve because of their childish behavior on issues like this.

  9. As an American woman and mother, I strongly believe that any religious healthcare provider has the right to decide to NOT provide contraceptives at their facilities. People are free to go elsewhere if they desire such goods and services. So in effect, the government has no say on that aspect of their running their style of healthcare service.

    Full service contraceptive healthcare should also be equally available for both women and men by public domain healthcare providers. It makes sense to allow citizens equal access and choice. The morning after pill should be for just that, with time restrictions. Abortion should be a choice for cases of rape, incest, or saving the life of the mother.

    As an educator of Alternative Education, having worked Pregnant Minor Programs within school districts, teen pregnancy continues to be an issue. Effective education and making available contraceptives for sexually active youth should be a priority. Parents can object and have their young adult excluded, that right does exist. Sex education is never forced upon students. They are given a choice. They assume that responsibility. Some programs are better than others, having the opportunity to observe various programs.

    Being proactive is a far better choice than being reactive.

    Blessings and Peace,

  10. He had no power to do what he did. It is not reasonable to take what is not your's and then give some of it back. This is an attempted trampling of rights pure and simple. Sad that people who trumpet their defense of liberty bend over so easily when "their" guy needs support in his illegal actions.

  11. Amazing how their own facts keep alluding the Obama media whores like Mr Greenspun.

    You mention how the Republicans want to do away with separation of church and state, yet your own Messiah is the one telling the church and every American "Its My Way. End of discussion."

    If that isn't wiping out the separation of church and state, (not to mention ending any chance of bi-partisanship and comprimise) I don't know what is...

  12. The reality is that even though logical and sane individuals hopefully would like to resolve all issues amicably there are those people who don't find any solution acceptable. They will not be happy until they drive this country to the brink of a civil war. If enough decent people would vote they could stop this nonsense once and for all. However I am concerned that with all the self interested money in politics these days I see no hope for reconciliation.
    I believe that we have to call people out by asking them point blank whether they are calling for the overthrow of our system. Force them to realize that if they refuse to compromise and negotiate issues honestly all of us will be forced to fight for our principles.
    Lets all understand thats how the Civil War started in this country because people developed hard headed ideas and refused to even think about compromising.
    Being fearful and not raising this issue and just mulling along will in the end cause tremendous damage to our society.

  13. This comment is for Boftx
    Thank you for bringing to our attention the fact that Congress in 1860 outlawed Polygamy as they felt it was an affront to Christian Values.
    The Supreme court didn't challenge the law so it was never declared unconstitutional.
    Also your statement that that including comments on religion in the constitution was to protect the state from religion rather then religion being protected from the state. That makes sense given the fact that the Congress outlawed Polygamy.
    Your post was extremely enlightening. I can only hope that the Sun picks up on it and gives it the exposure that it deserves.

  14. "Thank you for bringing to our attention the fact that Congress in 1860 outlawed Polygamy as they felt it was an affront to Christian Values. The Supreme court didn't challenge the law so it was never declared unconstitutional."

    janmara -- what? boftx didn't say anything close to all that. And it wasn't up to the court to challenge the Congressional act, only rule on it when brought within that court's jurisdiction. As to what boftx intended I can't speak, but as a descendant of Mormon polygamists, I can speculate he could very well have meant Missouri Governor Boggs' 1839 executive order to exterminate all Mormons within that state.

    The U.S. Supreme's explained it in its first major decision on the issue in 1947's Everson v. Board of Education: "the Establishment Clause forbids not only practices that aid one religion or prefer one religion over another, but also those that aid all religions."

    "What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient allies." -- James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, addressed to the Virginia General Assembly, June 20, 1785

  15. I see some comments that tend to say: (paraphrase) We had to do something about this problem so he did something.

    Removal of rights by any elected official is NOT something that is ever a solution and especially removal of rights that occur when a President recklessly oversteps his authority. This type of cavalier attitude produced the internment camps in WW-II and now that "wartime emergency" action has been decried as illegal.

    Once again, he had no right to do it and what he did was illegal.

  16. 1. This MANDATE is similar to the government's requirement that all citizens have ObamaCare "Health insurance"; but this MANDATE is masquerading as a prescription drug COST to Health Insurance Corporations, and adding a resultant (and hidden) insurance-policy COST to citizens.

    2. The Constitution applies to ALL THE PEOPLE. In Article VI. of the U.S. Constitution it says: "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States" ... "shall be the supreme Law of the Land." Thus, the contraception MANDATE conflicts with the U.S. Constitution. In implementing any Law, the President must act within the confines of the language of the Law. Obama CANNOT MANDATE things "as he sees fit."

    To: Mr. Greenspun. As a newspaper-man, who enjoys the Constitutional "Freedom of the press" - I would think you would AGREE that this MANDATE - forced on the Catholic Church - is a violation of the 1st Amendment "Free Exercise of religion" clause. These rights are written in plain English.

    3. Politicians, reporters, lobbyists, et al, get attention to a cause by using "children" to suggest benefits they will reap. In similar fashion, your article shows great concern about "...the kind of Health Care, and lives of their loved ones" (which includes CHILDREN).

    Don't you think that 68 million Catholics, Church Leaders, (and people of other faiths) care about THEIR "loved ones" too? Certainly God did - and the Catholic Church (among others) is doing the work that Jesus prescribed.

    Another concern for "loved ones" is when contraception DOES NOT WORK. ABORTION then is available as an option (by CHOICE) for women to rid themselves of an "inconvenient pregnancy." Abortion has only been acceptable to some people in our society because it was written into LAW as a legal "remedy" - a EXPEDIENT SOLUTION - under the concept of "a woman's right to CHOOSE."

    But beyond the mother's alleged "rights," where is our concern for the life of the unborn?

    I do not see this matter of contraception or insurance for it - especially giving it out for "free" - as having anything to do with "HEALTH CARE" - for women or otherwise. Contraception just PREVENTS pro-creation, which means that the act is performed just for pleasure. Is the government a "pleasure center" now?

    Thinking about where we are headed, this subject has become a slippery-slope toward the acceptance of other things that may so INSULATE our feelings concerning OLDER "loved ones" that we may, eventually, MANDATE EUTHANASIA as an expedient "solution" to the sick and aging "problem."

    Remember the guy who, during World War II, killed over 20 million people as HIS "Ultimate SOLUTION" to an undesirable population?

    If we are to remain a FREE nation, we MUST abide by the supreme Law of the Land - the Constitution - and that includes NOT ALLOWING whimsical MANDATES that violate our Constitution, our sense of ethics, our morality, or cause unreasonable disruption to our lives.

  17. The federal government turned a new page in implementing Obamacare with its HHS ruling that religious institutions must furnish contraceptive medications and services as part of the health insurance it provides to its employees. This outrageous deprivation of First Amendment guaranteed religious liberties was immediately challenged by the Catholic Church and other religious institutions. The President,being entirely tone deaf by implementing this ruling, immediately attempted to make peace with these religious institutions through an "accommodation" that would force insurance companies to furnish contraceptives for free. This is plainly not a womens' rights issue.

    So president Obama thinks that he has found the perfect "accommodation" for his health care mandate that all women working for religious institutions shall receive contraceptive and birth control medications and services under their employers' health insurance plans. This left wing ideologue president now seems to think that the rest of us are no longer capable of thinking. By literally forcing health insurance plans to furnish "free' contraceptive and birth control medication and services, it is elementary that the insurance companies are certain to pass through the cost of these agents and services in their insurance premiums, and that these same religious institutions will end up paying for these costs--contrary to some of their most deeply held religious convictions.

    There is no end to which this president and this administration will go to bow down to the ideologies that drive them, and the pandering that will be done to the leftist base for strictly political gain. These actions are an egregious abuse of power and must be reversed.

    The ability of religious organizations to practice their deeply held religious beliefs without government intrusion is a right that all religious institutions possess. . Women who find it a personal requirement to receive these benefits from their employers, should find employment in places that do not hold these religious convictions.

  18. To Socratic Inkwell--very fine post!!