Letter to the Editor: April 23th, 2012
One last word
Regarding “Contraception compromise” (April 13th, 2012):
I write regarding Aaron Applbaum’s April 13 reply to my article, in which he argues that the Obama administration has offered a satisfactory compromise in altering the contraception mandate. While the compromise does distance some organizations from what they deem to be participation with evil, it fails to live up to Aaron’s principle that “no citizen should be coerced into performing actions they believe to be wrong or morally reprehensible.” If an employer believes contraception is wrong, she will object to using it, to supplying it, and to purchasing health plans which provide it to her employees for free.
Aaron, however, wants to weigh an employer’s rights against those of an employee who does not object to, and who “may perhaps deserve free contraception.” But the claim that someone deserves free contraception is necessarily a moral claim, based on the belief that living well may require the use of contraception. (There can be no “right” to free contraception unless access to contraception is a real good and prerequisite to living well in ways that access to other products is not.) Given Aaron’s claim that “morality is a difficult thing to debate,” if he wants the federal government to enforce the provision of free contraception as a moral norm, the onus is on him to show the moral imperative.
Aaron’s final argument, however, is not a moral, but a practical one. Requiring employers to buy health plans which provide free contraception will save the government money without costing anyone anything. But if this is the case, it’s unclear why states are not better equipped to implement such a mandate nor why insurance companies wouldn’t always provide free contraception. Indeed, there is something alarming in this justification, in its treatment of pregnancy as a disease (Aaron himself suggests that the contraception mandate “saves money by keeping women healthy”) and in its mechanism of providing poor Americans the tools to avoid reproducing before it provides them the ability to support their families.
Finally, Aaron’s admission that the Guttmacher Institute data is not entirely reliable is a serious understatement. The data excludes women who are abstinent, pregnant or not trying to avoid pregnancy, i.e., the vast majority of orthodox Catholics. But this is beside the point: In such a debate, the issue is not whether Catholics “really” oppose contraception but whether there are people, even a small minority, who have a conscientious objection to it.
Audrey Pollnow ’13