A few weeks ago the Executive Council of the AFL-CIO stated, “We commit to ensuring that women have the right to quality health care, including equal access to contraception, and have the ability to exercise that right regardless of where they work.” Is America’s labor movement picking a fight with the Bishops?

Not exactly. Delegates to the AFL-CIO convention staked out this position on this issue in 2001. The Affordable Care Act was still a decade away, and Catholic institutions were not the issue. At that time many women workers called on employers and insurers who covered drugs like Viagra for men to cover birth control pills for women. While Catholic teaching does not recognize these as equivalent, much of the public did, and the AFL-CIO took up the cause of the employees.

Meanwhile, the workforce at Catholic hospitals continued to evolve. Catholic hospitals were created and long staffed largely by women religious. Because of their commitment to the faith, the sisters wouldn’t have sought access to contraception (and of course, because of their vows would have had no use for it in any event). But as the years passed the Catholic ministry in healthcare changed. What was once all about Catholics expressing their faith by caring for the sick is now largely about Catholics hiring others to care for the sick on their behalf, creating a latent conflict brought to the surface by the unfortunate mandate.

Catholic health care administrators object to providing employees insurance coverage for contraception methods violating church teaching. Employees of Catholic hospitals – who may not share the faith of the hospitals’ founders and administrators – contend that their access to a widely enjoyed health benefit shouldn’t be contingent on the religious beliefs of their boss. The AFL-CIO and the USCCB, which often work side by side on issues like immigration and the workers’ rights, find themselves on opposite sides of an important policy debate.

Clayton Sinyai

Comments

Vince Killoran | 4/14/2012 - 10:34am
Regina's analogy is not spot on. As most Nazi analogies do, Regina's doesn't make sense-unless the real issue is the existence of contraception.  Thta's what it is about really, isn't it, i.e.,trying to parlay a mandate that doesn't require the Catholic institution employer to cover, fund, or refer this particular coverage into a sweeping claim that the mere existence of these things violates my (and unborn, yet to be born, & theoretically possibly born children's) rights?

Tim's screed against labor unions is a howler.
Tim O'Leary | 4/14/2012 - 7:59am
Regina #7
Your analogy is spot on. Oppression always begins with baby steps and 'small' compromises. But I am confident that the unanimous opposition of all the Catholic Bishops and their more alert and honest Protestant, Jewish and Muslim allies will win the day. The bishops just released a great statement on religious liberty that I recommend to all. It can be found at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/our-first-most-cherished-liberty.cfm and deals with not only the HHS mandate but other recent attacks on the Church’s charitable work, including its outreach to undocumented immigrants and its adoption and foster care work.
I am not surprised that the AFL-CIO has taken this stand against their workers' moral objections. They have long wanted to intimidate workers into paying dues that are then used against their members’ political wishes, supporting anti-Catholic politicians in every cause imaginable. Like in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, most unions in America now play the same role that greedy capitalists once played in the late 19th and early 20th century - they put their profits and their politics above the rights of workers.
Katherine Schlaerth | 4/13/2012 - 3:25pm
Will I as a Catholic health care provider, now be forced to contribute to what I consider an evil act, the perscribing of an abortifacient? If the mandate for contraceptives/abortifacients embedded in obamacare stands, probabyl yes. And by the way, yes the low dose OCP's DO sometimes cause abortion by disallowing implantation of a fertilized ovum.

Lets pretend we are back in the Germany of WW2. An SS agent comes to my door and asks me to identify the Jewish family on my block. I tell him that morally I cannot do so but my next door neighbor, a fervent Nazi, can. Am I blaimless in the deaths of the Jewish family?  I don't think so.I and many other health care providers have been denied positions or terminated over the abortifacient issue. Do we  have any rights? Or is it just other women, those who want the BCP's and "morning after" stuff, who do?
Katherine McEwen | 4/13/2012 - 10:27am
''As has often been stated, contraceptives have other uses beyond preventing conception. They are used to treat endometriosis as well as polycystic ovarian disease. They can treat severe acne. Neither faith nor vows act as vaccinations for either condition. Religious women have in the past used such medication to treat such conditions. They have used contraceptives but not contraception.'' 

I quote Mary Sweeney here because she states very succinctly what my concerns are.  And my concern is that when contraceptive coverage is proscribed, women will NOT be able to get the medications they need for the above-mentioned conditions as well as other pertinent medical conditions.  HERE is where the no-contraceptives policy needs to be VERY clearly and pointedly explicated. Women NEED access to needed medications, no matter if these medications also prevent conception.  This means doctors/nurse practitioners/physicians assistants will need to be VERY careful how they code the prescription of certain medications so they will be covered under a woman's health insurance coverage.  This is where the Church needs to back off and stay out of the doctor's office!
Alfred Chavez | 4/13/2012 - 9:56am
This blog post leaves the impression that the diagreement with the AFL-CIO (and by extension the Obama administration) on the issue of using contraceptives to prevent a healthy conception is merely unfortunate.  

Why not take a position?  Qui tacet consentit.
Carlos Orozco | 4/12/2012 - 9:52am
Who cares what the AFL-CIO thinks?  They are part of a campaign by the Administration to continue the narrative (don't you just hate that political term? It's how politicians call a lie or propaganda) that the Catholic Church is on a "War on women". Since the President  must seem to be above it all, others must do his dirty work, and if these proxies have agreements with the American bishops in other issues, all the better.

It seems that the failed presidency of Barack Obama has no good arguments for its reelection, so it resorts to politics of division and shamelessly exploit topics such as this one and the Treyvon Martin case. Game politics at its best.
Mary Sweeney | 4/12/2012 - 8:05pm
For the sake of clarity and accuracy it is necessary to distinguish between contraception and contraceptives:

''Catholic hospitals were created and long staffed largely by women religious. Because of their commitment to the faith, the sisters wouldn’t have sought access to contraception (and of course, because of their vows would have had no use for it in any event).

The sentences above are correct as they are written. It is also true that the reader may perceive something other than what has been said. As has often been stated, contraceptives have other uses beyond preventing conception. They are used to treat endometriosis as well as polycystic ovarian disease. They can treat severe acne. Neither faith nor vows act as vaccinations for either condition. Religious women have in the past used such medication to treat such conditions. They have used contraceptives but not contraception.
David Pasinski | 4/12/2012 - 11:39am
I disagree with you, Carlos, on both counts, but especially on the Trayvon Martin case. I don't think the President's remarks were exploitatiative and now that it is to be tried in court- where it belongs - let's hope that our process can play out with minimal news-puffing from either side.