As far as I can tell, and I admit it’s an early read, the administration’s “compromise” on its policy of forcing Catholic Institutions to provide free birth control is meaningless. Because while it may disconnect the institution’s money from the requirement, it does not disconnect the institution from it.
Here’s what Obama did in his announcement today at the White House.
The original Obama administration regulation said that Catholic institutions, like Catholic hospitals and others similar concerns, must provide health insurance for their employees that covers birth control for free. Today, Obama said that the Catholic institutions no longer have to pay to provide a plan that offers this coverage, but that the insurers the instituions are using will be forced to reach out separately to employees and offer it the birth control coverage directly to them at no charge.
The employees could then effectively contract directly with the insurer to get the contraceptives for free.
Here’s the problem. It’s all still part of the package being offered by the institution. Catholic groups must still offer a plan that gives employees a chance to get free birth control coverage. The employees get it as a result of their insurance from their Catholic employer, even if they are dealing directly with the insurer. They don’t get it if they work for an employer who does not provide insurance.
Let me put it this way. Say the Obama administration originally mandated that you must invite a drug dealer into your home and required that you must pay him to provide your family with free heroin. But then say he changed the mandate and said, okay, you still have to invite the drug dealer into your home, but instead of you paying him, your individual family members can freely choose to have him give them free heroin.
You see? You’re still being forced to have a drug dealer in your home handing out heroin.
Obama is not providing a concession. He’s providing a fig leaf. The Catholic Bishops will never take it, nor should they.