So as I sat there at Price Chopper, with my arm in the automatic blood pressure machine, I looked across the Pharmacy Department to the display of “intimacy products,” which included home pregnancy tests, lubricants…and a huge selection of condoms. And as I thought about that last set of items, I thought for a moment about conscience clauses.
I mean really…people have been making a big deal about the pharmacist who doesn’t want to dispense birth control pills against his beliefs, but what about the cashier on aisle 10 who’s not only scanning condoms that she doesn’t believe in, but is scanning them in for a person she knows isn’t married?
And what about the poor Jewish kid over on aisle 18 who has ring out someone who’s buying bacon?
Seems to me that if we don’t allow it to be an issue for the cashier, then it shouldn’t be one for the pharmacist. These conscience clauses can be part of an extremely slippery slope where we allow anyone to not do anything simply because they don’t believe in it. And that becomes very dangerous.
And then there’s that bit about the Catholic Church not wanting to pay for medical insurance that includes benefits for birth control…again because of the conscience issue. A lot of conservatives and people on the religious right have jumped on this bandwagon as a way of not being forced to pay for insurance that might cover abortions. But what about an organization whose beliefs might cause it to want to opt out of paying for something that most of us think is absolutely essential?
Like blood transfusions.
Suppose the national organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses didn’t want to pay for medical insurance for its non-member employees that covered blood transfusions? Should a Lutheran who just happened to work as a secretary in one of their offices be denied coverage for blood because the organization doesn’t believe in it? Would the conservatives and members of the religious right be quite as eager to jump on this particular “conscience clause” bandwagon, or would they finally draw a line in the sand here?
The thing is, it’s the same bloody bandwagon. And once you allow the Catholics to provide medical insurance that doesn’t cover birth control, you allow the Jehovah’s Witnesses to provide insurance that doesn’t cover any kind of blood work.
But there is a way out of this. It’s called money laundering. At least, that’s what it practically works out to be.
Let’s face it, when you get right down to it, if the Catholic Church was really serious about not paying for birth control, they’d have to follow all of their employees around 24/7 to make sure that they didn’t go to the local Price Chopper and spend any of their hard-earned pay on something from that rather large selection of condoms I gazed at.
In other words, as long as the Catholic Church is employing people who can spend their pay any way they see fit, they’re paying for birth control. The difference is that they’re not doing it directly. The money’s going to the employee, who then makes the personal decision to spend that money on a box of Trojans. And once the money is in the account of the employee, the Catholic Church can wash their hands of any responsibility for what happens with it.
So my solution is for the Catholic Church to just give everyone a health care stipend, which they can spend on any provider that they want. One that provides birth control benefits or one that doesn’t. But once that money is in the employee’s account, it’s no longer the responsibility of the church. There’s no more conscience issue because the Church isn’t directly spending the money. It’s being “laundered” through an intermediary.
But these questions open up a much bigger can of worms and raise more questions than I can try to answer right now. The big question, however, is Do we all get to opt out of paying for things we don’t believe in?
I think you know the answer to that one, but as I said, I’ll tackle that one some other time.