Feb

17

2012

Joe Carter|4:06 AM CT

The FAQs: The Contraceptive-Abortifacient Mandate

Note: The FAQs is TGCs new series in which we answer your questions about the latest news and current events.

What is this contraception mandate everyone keeps talking about?

As part of the universal health insurance reform passed in 2010 (often referred to as "Obamacare"), all group health plans must now provide---at no cost to the recipient---certain "preventive services." The list of services includes sterilization, contraceptives, and abortifacient drugs.

If this mandate is from 2010, why are we just now talking about it in 2012?

On January 20, 2012, the Obama Administration announced that that it would not expand the exemption for this mandate to include religious schools, colleges, hospitals, and charitable service organizations. Instead, the Administration merely extended the deadline for religious groups who do not already fall within the existing narrow exemption so that they will have one more year to comply or drop health care insurance coverage for their employees altogether and incur a hefty fine

Is there a religious exemption from the mandate? If so, who qualifies for the exemption?

According to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, there is a "religious employer" exemption from the mandate, but it is extremely narrow and will, in practice, cover very few religious employers. The exemption may cover certain churches and religious orders that inculcate religious values "as [their] purpose" and which primarily employ and serve those who share their faith.

Many religious organizations---including hospitals, charitable service organizations, and schools---cannot meet this definition. They will be forced to choose between covering drugs and services contrary to their religious beliefs or cease to offer health plans to their employees and incur substantial fines.

"Not even Jesus' ministry would qualify for this exemption," they note, "because He fed, healed, served, and taught non-Christians."

Doesn't the mandate only apply to religious organizations that receive federal funding?

No. The mandate applies to religious employers even if they receive no federal funding.

When did the government begin requiring employer-insurance programs to pay for contraceptives?

According to the Becket Fund, the trend toward state-mandated contraceptive coverage in employee health insurance plans began in the mid-1990s and was accelerated by the decision of Congress in 1998 to guarantee contraceptive coverage to employees of the federal government through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP).

After FEHBP---the largest employer-insurance benefits program in the country---set this precedent, the private sector followed suit, and state legislatures began to make such coverage mandatory.

Why is the federal government dictating that contraceptives should be covered by insurance?

In 2000, the EEOC issued an opinion stating that the refusal to cover contraceptives in an employee prescription health plan constituted gender discrimination in violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). That law was added by Congress in 1978 in response to a Supreme Court decision holding that an employer's selective refusal to cover pregnancy-related disability was not sex discrimination within the meaning of Title VII, the primary federal law addressing employment discrimination.

As the Beckett Fund notes, "Although this opinion is not binding on federal courts, it is influential, since the EEOC is the government body charged with enforcing Title VII. This opinion led to many lawsuits against non-religious employers who refused to cover prescription contraceptives." The federal district courts have split over the issue of whether the PDA requires employers to provide contraception, the only federal court of appeals to reach the issue held that the PDA did not include a contraceptive mandate.

But what about the First Amendment protections? Isn't such a requirement inherently unconstitutional?

In Employment Division v. Smith, the Supreme Court announced that the First Amendment's free exercise clause "does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a 'valid and neutral law of general applicability,'" simply because "the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribes (or proscribes)." According to the Becket Fund this means that the fact that an act infringes on the religious beliefs or regulates the religiously motivated policies of a religious institution does not necessarily make the law unconstitutional

Isn't this just a Catholic issue?

No. Although the Catholic Church has been the most vocal opponent of the mandate, many Protestant, Jewish, and Muslims also oppose the mandate. In fact, several evangelical leaders have called on evangelicals to stand with Catholics in civil disobedience to this law. Additionally, 300 academics and religious leaders---including TGC's D.A. Carson and Justin Taylor---signed a statement by the Beckett Fund explaining why the mandate is "unacceptable." 

What is the Catholic Church's position on contraception?

The Catholic Church has always opposed contraception. In response to the then newly invented birth control pill, Pope Paul VI issued the encyclical letter Humanae Vitae ("Human Life"), which reemphasizes the Catholic Church's teaching that it is always intrinsically wrong to use contraception to prevent new human beings from coming into existence.

What is the mainline Protestant and Evangelical position on contraception?

As on most issues related to the faith, opinions among Protestant denominations vary.

Historically, the church has viewed contraception as evil. The Church Fathers and early Reformers were consistent in their opposition to birth control. Martin Luther said that contraception was "far more atrocious than incest or adultery" and John Calvin considered it "doubly monstrous" because it "extinguish[es] the hope of the race" and acts "to kill before he is born the hoped-for offspring."

Most Protestant denominations shared this view until the 1930s. However today, few denominations---whether Mainline or Evangelical---actively oppose the practice.

I don't oppose contraceptives, so why should I care about this issue?

There are two reasons that all Christians, regardless of their view on contraceptives, should be concerned about this mandate.

The first is because it forces Christians to pay for abortion-inducing drugs. The policy currently requires coverage of Ulipristal ("Ella"), which is chemically similar to the abortion drug RU-486 (mifepristone) and has the same effect (to prevent embryos from being implanted or, if already implanted, to die from lack of nutrition). Additionally, RU-486 is also being tested for possible use as an "emergency contraceptive." If the FDA approves it for that purpose, it will automatically be included under the mandate.

The second is that it restricts religious liberty by forcing religious institutions to pay for contraceptives and abortifacients even if the employer has a religious or moral objection to such practices.

Okay, while it may be a pro-life concern, it isn't a religious liberty issue for me since I support the use of contraception, right?

If the mandate is allowed to stand it will set a precedent that the government can not only force citizens to violate their most deeply held beliefs but that we can be sanctioned for refusing to do so.

As John Leo notes, today it is contraceptives and abortifacients, but "down the road it will be about suicide pills, genetic engineering, abortion and mandatory abortion training, transgender operations, and a whole new series of morally problematic procedures about to come over the horizon."

Indeed, as Leo notes in his column, a Catholic-run California hospital was sued because it refused to perform breast-enlargement surgery on a transgendered patient. The state court ruled the hospital had violated  the state's anti-discrimination laws. (Caving under litigation, the hospital paid $200,000 to the transgendered man.)

Didn't the Obama administration offer a compromise? What was that about?

In response to the concerns of religious organizations, Obama offered a "compromise" in which he proposed that insurance companies, instead of religious institutions, be required to cover procedures and products that they find objectionable at no cost in their insurance policies. In other words, the insurer would be required to provide the services "free of charge" and pay for them out of their own pocket.

What's wrong with that compromise plan?

As economist Steve Landsburg explains, the proposed compromise does not really change the fact that the religious employers are still being forced to pay for the contraceptives-abortifacients:

[A]ll economists (and I hope everyone who's successfully completed a Principles course) understands that transferring the responsibility from employers to insurers amounts to transferring the cost from insurance buyers to insurance buyers, which is to say that it's not a change in policy. One of the first and most important lessons we teach our students is well summarized by a slogan: "The economic burden of a tax is independent of the legal burden". Ditto for a mandated insurance purchase. It is not the law, but the underlying price-sensitivities of buyers and sellers, that determines where the burden ultimately falls.

Your president knows this. He's banking that you don't.

[Note: If you have a suggested topic for The FAQs,  please send them to joe.carter *at* thegospelcoalition.org.]

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator. You can follow him on Twitter.

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  • http://www.gratefulforgrace.com Mindy at Grateful for Grace

    My question: What can we (individual citizens) do about this now?

  • http://@DanChurch Dan Church

    Joe,

    Thanks so much for the article...and helpful links as well. I'm a bit 'slow' in connecting the dots but is correct to assume that the employers' dollars are still directly going to abortion drugs? Is that essentially why the "compromise" is not a compromise?

    • mel

      yes because if you have a lemonade stand and someone tells you that you have to give a free napkin with every glass of lemonade, you figure in the price of the napkins when you set your price on the glass of lemonade.

    • Joe Carter

      Yeah, the insurance companies get their money from premiums paid for by the people they insure. saying that they'll pay for it themselves is like saying that rather than having a parent pay for something they object to we'll just take it out of a child's allowance.

      In his testimony before Congress. Catholic bishop William Lori provided a helpful analogy:

      Once upon a time, a new law is proposed, so that any business that serves food must serve pork.
      There is a narrow exception for kosher catering halls attached to synagogues, since they serve mostly members of that synagogue, but kosher delicatessens are still subject to the mandate.

      The Orthodox Jewish community — whose members run kosher delis and many other restaurants and grocers besides — expresses its outrage at the new government mandate.

      And they are joined by others who have no problem eating pork — not just the many Jews who eat pork, but people of all faiths — because these others recognize the threat to the principle of religious liberty.

      [. . .]

      You are free to call yourself a kosher deli; you are free not to place ham sandwiches on your menu; you are free not to be the person to prepare the sandwich and hand it over the counter to the customer.

      But we will force your meat supplier to set up a kiosk on your premises and to offer, prepare and serve ham sandwiches to all of your customers free of charge to them. And when you get your monthly bill from your meat supplier, it will include the cost of any of the “free” ham sandwiches that your customers may accept.

  • Al

    "Historically, the church has viewed contraception as evil. The Church Fathers and early Reformers were consistent in their opposition to birth control. Martin Luther said that contraception was "far more atrocious than incest or adultery" and John Calvin considered it "doubly monstrous" because it "extinguish[es] the hope of the race" and acts "to kill before he is born the hoped-for offspring."

    "Most Protestant denominations shared this view until the 1930s. However today, few denominations---whether Mainline or Evangelical---actively oppose the practice."

    Which denomination continues to actively oppose all contraception labeling it evil?

    • Joe Carter

      Which denomination continues to actively oppose all contraception labeling it evil?

      The Amish Mennonites are the main ones that comes to mind. I suspect there are some fundamentalist offshoots of other denominations that feel the same.

      However, most of the shift back to the historical view is occurring at the individual level, rather than at the denominational level. An example would be Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. (see here: http://www.albertmohler.com/2006/05/08/can-christians-use-birth-control/) I should clarify that Mohler has not, to my knowledge, used the term "evil" in reference to contraceptives.

  • Ayehus

    I'm frustrated that TGC has gotten so political as of late. This isn't about the Gospel. This is about making America a "Christian" nation. Christians need to stop pretending that the USA should, by default, be a haven for Christians to impose "God's law" on the world through military and economic power.
    Don't get me wrong, I find these current developments disturbing, but let us not try to redeem a nonredeemable, man-centered, man-made government. In the Word we are never promised inherent liberties and rights from the government. We are simply spoiled with them and idolize the founding fathers who would have had us believe that very thing. Let's spread the Gospel and LOVE and SERVE all people- both those of the Church and those who are lost.

    This country is not our true home.

    • Matt

      A-freakin'-men.

    • Ryan

      I'm afraid I don't share your assessment: "This is about making America a 'Christian' nation. Christians need to stop pretending that the USA should, by default, be a haven for Christians to impose 'God's law' on the world through military and economic power." I've not heard anyone in TGC hold the view you describe. Where have you seen this view advocated?

      On politics, why must it be either or? Should Wilberforce have ignored slavery to preach the gospel? Newton counseled him to live as a faithful Christian in politics- should not others do the same in our age? I am a minister, and so my engagement in politics will be minimal. However, I welcome faithful brothers and sisters who will contend for justice, peace, and freedom for the welfare of our countrymen and for the progress of the gospel.

    • taco

      This is about making America a "Christian" nation.

      How exactly is what Joe wrote here about making America a Christian nation?

      Christians need to stop pretending that the USA should, by default, be a haven for Christians to impose "God's law" on the world through military and economic power.

      How is what Joe posted here doing this?

      let us not try to redeem a nonredeemable, man-centered, man-made government.

      How is this about redeeming the government instead of about a religious organization being forced to provide abortive services? Are you suggesting that Christians cannot petition their governing authority to change a policy? What would you ask of Nehemiah? Should he have not even asked Artaxerxes to change his policy regarding Jerusalem?

      Let's spread the Gospel and LOVE and SERVE all people- both those of the Church and those who are lost.

      How in the world is any of this related to not doing that?

    • Tim

      I agree on the point that I don't like too much politics thrown into the gospel saying, "If you are a good Christian you will take this and this and this political viewpoint" or preachers who get up and endorse a particular candidate every sunday (or any sunday at all in my preference.) But I do not think this is what is being advocated here.

      This goes far beyond politics or how much we will be paying in taxes next year. This is about Christian organizations independent of the government being forced to pay and therefore in a way endorse practices which go against their beliefs. I am personally not against ALL contraceptives but am against many of them, but I still believe it important that the government knows that it cannot come in and impose alien beliefs on any church or religious organization.

  • Al

    How could we ever claim Sola Fide only and say to the sea of naked little dying brothers and sisters, "Be warmed"?

    Either we're for faith alone AND 100% pro-life (100% anti-abortive birth control) OR we hate God.

    There's no middle ground.

    • Ayehus

      You bring up a compelling point. But what I'm attacking is the slippery slope. The attitude behind what's going on. I want to do all I can to save the helpless unborn who can't save themselves. But it seems we are no longer at a point where we can do that in the civic realm without forcing this onto the unsaved. They have no directive from Scripture, from the Gospel, to reject immorality and value the unborn. And to force it upon them anyway is to make the same mistake so many Christians in power have made throughout the centuries that has resulted in terrible bloodshed in God's name.

      What I mean to say is, there are other ways to protect the unborn. For just one example, I have several friends working in a crisis pregnancy counseling center who have helped to stop MANY abortions from happening that would have otherwise gone through. There are many instances of this going on nationwide.

      If we can bring the message of the Gospel that calls us to value ALL life to America and the world organically instead through imposition, is that not a much bigger victory in God's name? Indeed, THAT is a victory the Lord Himself accomplishes.

      • taco

        But it seems we are no longer at a point where we can do that in the civic realm without forcing this onto the unsaved.

        Since when has any sort of law against murder not been forced onto the unsaved?

        They have no directive from Scripture, from the Gospel, to reject immorality and value the unborn.

        What do you mean by this?

      • Earl

        Ayehus, have you ever studied ethics or jurisprudence? Can you tell me the difference between natural law and legal positivism? Can you tell me the difference between morals, ethics, and laws? Can you tell me the difference between a dictatorship and a participatory democratic republic? Can you tell me the difference between divine command theory and moral non-cognitivism? Can you tell me the difference between utilitarianism and deontology? Can you tell me which of these various positions the bible and Christianity has historically created, informed, or rejected?

        Until the gospel has been victorious throughout all the earth, and all men everywhere are in fellowship, and there is no need for police, government, or law- my friends and I will take a civic interest in helping form the government whch protects our very freedom to share the gospel, worship, and *act out* our values. To claim that my duties and obligations to my neighbors and the global community end with talk and don't include good deeds and rebellion against anti-religious mandates would be silly. What did Peter do before the jewish council in early Acts? He stood against their mandate, and so did his friends. What did Paul do when he came against the silver idol makers who ran Ephesus? He took up a manifestly economic action against them.

        Now, you may practice total pacifism as you wish, but as for me and my friends, we will practice civics and pursue justice. The sinful fallen world may scorn us for doing so, claiming that we are the tyrranical cosmic party poopers for *not* mandating morality (vice legislating morality), but that is no obstacle to me.

  • http://frontlinesintertwined.wordpress.com/ Jonathan Chan

    I'm sorry, please forgive me if I get too strident in this comment, but after reading this post, I'm just incredibly disappointed in you guys:

    First, you fail to mention that Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Hospital Association both support the compromise struck on Friday, and further, strongly supported the Affordable Care Act. Second, you fail to cite a single source that could reasonably be considered center or left-of-center. Third, you fail to note the results of the recent Pew Survey which shows that fewer Catholics are opposed to the original contraceptive rule than Evangelicals (not to mention that only 27% of Catholics attending Mass weekly view contraception as morally wrong).

    Look, I agree that the contraception provision is an overreach, infringes on the rights of religious employers, and sets a precendent that is cause for concern. And I think the compromise doesn't do much at all to address those issues. But failing to include any of the above in this post presents your readers with a biased view that I would expect from the Christian Coalition, not the Gospel Coalition.

    To date, commentary by TGC bloggers on social issues has skewed very much right of center, and there's nothing wrong with that! They express legitimate, reasonable opinions on these issues (though if I were Kevin DeYoung and Justin Taylor, I'd lean a little less heavily on Thomas Sowell, a man who continues to defend the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War 2). I'm not asking anyone to change or mute their opinions.

    But without the presence of equally legitimate counterbalancing views, TGC runs the risk of diluting its commitment to promoting gospel-centered ministry with a commitment to conservative politics. Without making clearer distinctions between the conservative political views that many Christian share, and the gospel-centered theology that all Christians must share, this is borderline deceptive.

    When TGC recently started features like "The Story", and now "The FAQs", I was initially very hopeful that differing views would be given some airtime. But (please correct me if you feel I'm misrepresenting this), the right-of-center trend has continued unabated.

    Unless it is TGC's view that conservative politics are gospel-centered politics, please, I beg you, begin to inject some more balance into your social and political commentary.

    • Al

      "You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream--the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order -- or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism."
      -Ronald Reagan

    • Joe Carter

      First, you fail to mention that Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Hospital Association both support the compromise struck on Friday, and further, strongly supported the Affordable Care Act.

      Catholic Charities USA has not endorsed the compromise (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/02/15/catholic-charity-group-denies-endorsement-contraceptive-coverage-policy/). As for the CHA, the organization is headed by a Sr. Carol Keehan, a women who is often criticized by her fellow Catholics for selling out the pro-life cause.

      I’m not sure why it matters, though. The Catholic Church is headed by cardinals, bishops, and the Pope—not by CEOS of non-profit organizations. Whether some organization that calls themselves “Catholic” disagrees with the Catholic Church is not really relevant.

      Second, you fail to cite a single source that could reasonably be considered center or left-of-center.

      That is because this is not—or should not be—an issue of Left or Right. The issues I am writing about are pro-life and pro religious-liberty. I would hope those would transcend partisan political labeling.

      Third, you fail to note the results of the recent Pew Survey which shows that fewer Catholics are opposed to the original contraceptive rule than Evangelicals (not to mention that only 27% of Catholics attending Mass weekly view contraception as morally wrong).

      Again, why is that relevant? The views of the Catholic Church are not based on polling data or surveys. My purpose in mentioning the Catholic position was to present their view on contraceptionas precisely as possible. If Catholics dissent from the teachings of their church then they are really no different than Protestants.

      But failing to include any of the above in this post presents your readers with a biased view that I would expect from the Christian Coalition, not the Gospel Coalition.

      As the old saying goes, truth is biased. You will not find anyone at TGC—and certainly not me—present the pro-abortion case in the interest of being “balanced.” That sort of “objectivity” is nonsense. Christians should stand for the truth, even if it offends someone’s political sensibilities.

      To date, commentary by TGC bloggers on social issues has skewed very much right of center, and there's nothing wrong with that!

      I would prefer to think of it is as skewing very much toward the Biblical view on these issues. If the left of center in America take a different view (as they do on abortion) then it is natural that we are going to be out of sync with them. The same goes for when the popular right of center view goes against the Biblical view (as with torture).

      But without the presence of equally legitimate counterbalancing views, TGC runs the risk of diluting its commitment to promoting gospel-centered ministry with a commitment to conservative politics.

      If there is an equally legitimate counterbalancing view that I have not included, I will be happy to consider it and update the post. What position do you think I am missing?

      Without making clearer distinctions between the conservative political views that many Christian share, and the gospel-centered theology that all Christians must share, this is borderline deceptive.

      This post is not presenting a “conservative political view” but rather what I would consider two positions that should be universally shared by all Christians:

      (1) Christians should be pro-life and not fund measures that destroy innocent human life.

      (2) Christian organizations should not be forced to pay for the destruction of innocent human life.

      When TGC recently started features like "The Story", and now "The FAQs", I was initially very hopeful that differing views would be given some airtime. But (please correct me if you feel I'm misrepresenting this), the right-of-center trend has continued unabated.

      In order to allow the readers to judge for themselves, I’ll lay my primary assumption on the table so that it can be examined for bias. My primary assumption in writing an article like this is that Biblical mandates should trump political categories.

      For example, it is unfortunate in America that many (though certainly not all) on the political left are pro-abortion. But I am not going to temper my pro-life views (which are rooted in the Bible) simply because the position I hold aligns with the political right. I care about truth, not about offending someone because the side they vote with is wrong about an issue.

      • http://www.frontlinesintertwined.wordpress.com/ Jonathan Chan

        Joe,

        Thanks for your response, and for the correction on the point about Catholic Charities USA, I was mistaken on that point.

        First, I sense a combativeness in your tone (sorry if I'm misreading that), that I was not looking to provoke. I apologize if anything in my comment was out of line. I don't consider you to be any sort of opponent, and I hope you you don't consider me to be one, either.

        Second, I had forgotten about the stand that you and Justin took on torture some time ago, and failed to give you credit for it, which painted both of you as more partisan than you really are. I'm sure there are other issues where you've done that, and I've been selective in my memory. Again, I apologize.

        It's clear that we have some areas of disagreement on this issue, but I want to be sure to highlight the considerable areas where we do agree. I agree with your basic assertions that:

        (1) Christians should be pro-life and not fund measures that destroy innocent human life.

        (2) Christian organizations should not be forced to pay for the destruction of innocent human life.

        And I'm certainly not asking you to temper the pro-life views we share, or to stop taking a stand for truth on Biblical issues. Nor am I saying that there is, for each and every issue, both a conservative and liberal view that could be viewed as equally Biblical.

        But from my perspective, this was not a post that sought to put opposing views in the best possible light, or set the full context. You didn't engage with the debate ongoing between Marty Lederman and Robert George over at Mirror of Justice, (as well as some of the commentary by Andrew Sullivan, though one must weed through considerable pro-choice material). At the very least, you could have linked to some of these views, and then stated how and why you disagree, and why all Bible-believing Christians should as well.

        You say that it's irrelevant that rank-and-file Catholics are in disagreement with the magisterium on the issue of contraception. On the one hand, I see your point. If popular opinion defined Catholicism, it would cease to be Catholicism. But when you cite the evangelical leaders who call on us to stand with Catholics, it seems like it's important to note that a sizable number of faithful Catholics disagree with the USCCB, and are not standing with them.

        Finally, to bring the conversation back to the 35,000 foot view, I'm not going to completely back away from my assertion that TGC commentary on political issues is unbalanced on certain fronts. Not to harp on this point, but when, say, the economic views of Thomas Sowell are aired, without a contrasting view from an economist not in lock-step with the Chicago School, then I think it's cause for concern. And an Asian-American Christian, the repeated citing of someone who defends one of the most painful periods in our history, without comment or caveat, is a little hurtful.

        Again, apologies if I misrepresented you based on just a few posts.

        • Joe Carter

          First, I sense a combativeness in your tone (sorry if I'm misreading that), that I was not looking to provoke. I apologize if anything in my comment was out of line. I don't consider you to be any sort of opponent, and I hope you you don't consider me to be one, either.

          Sorry about that. I do tend to come across much harsher in the comments section that I intend. I certainly don’t consider any of our readers to be “opponents” (unless, of course, they make it clear that the oppose where we stand).

          But from my perspective, this was not a post that sought to put opposing views in the best possible light, or set the full context. You didn't engage with the debate ongoing between Marty Lederman and Robert George over at Mirror of Justice, (as well as some of the commentary by Andrew Sullivan, though one must weed through considerable pro-choice material). At the very least, you could have linked to some of these views, and then stated how and why you disagree, and why all Bible-believing Christians should as well.

          In addition to my editorial duties on the feature article side, my role as a blogger is to be the primary contributor on the “You Should Know” section. The intention of creating the YSK section was to highlight topics, creatively and briefly, for our regular readers. One of the ways we keep items brief (though this post was rather long) is to make assumptions about what our regular readers think. For example, I assume that almost all our dedicated readers are pro-life. So when I talk about abortifacients I don’t have to explain why they are bad since (I assume) our readers already agree. When I put together this FAQ, I made a lot of similar assumptions.

          It’s not that I don’t think the other side is able to make interesting argument, it’s just that I don’t think our readers will find them all that convincing (as I do not). Therefore, in the interest of brevity it isn’t really worth spending a lot of time explaining how some intellectual Catholics are debating the meaning of “intention” and how that might bear on the issue. I assume our readers just want to get up to speed on what is going on, and since they are likely to agree with people who are similar to them but who have spent a lot of time thinking about this issue (people like D.A. Carson), I can write an explainer article that relies on “shorthand.”

          But when you cite the evangelical leaders who call on us to stand with Catholics, it seems like it's important to note that a sizable number of faithful Catholics disagree with the USCCB, and are not standing with them.

          That’s certainly true. But this is a website of an evangelical organization so the primary reason I mention the Catholic view at all is because we agree with them. Whether the majority of Christians (either Catholic or evangelical) is for or against the issue may be interesting, but it’s not necessarily important. The important aspect is who is on the right side of the issue.

          Finally, to bring the conversation back to the 35,000 foot view, I'm not going to completely back away from my assertion that TGC commentary on political issues is unbalanced on certain fronts.

          I don’t think that is an unfair assessment. But I hope our readers will make a distinction between the material on the homepage and the content on the individual blogs. TGC has chosen people that we respect and trust and given them editorial control over their own blogs. Naturally, that means that the staff and council of TGC is not going to agree with everything they write. Although the bloggers are a part of the TGC family, their views are not necessarily representative of TGC.

          Of course, the same is true for the feature section and the areas in which I write. I have no illusions that that everyone at TGC agrees with my take on certain issues. But because what is on the TGC blog is by the staff, I do try as much as possible to provide a viewpoint that is representative not just of me but of TGC. I would be very hesitant to write about an issue for the YSK section in a way in which I knew the other staffers disagreed. I and the other editors have a responsibility to represent the organization in a way that our individual bloggers do not.

          And an Asian-American Christian, the repeated citing of someone who defends one of the most painful periods in our history, without comment or caveat, is a little hurtful.

          If the issue came up, I would be on board with those condemning the unjust treatment of Asian Americans during the internment of WWII. But if we refused to reference anyone who held a position on which we disagree, then we wouldn’t be able to say much at all.

          • http://www.frontlinesintertwined.wordpress.com Jonathan

            Joe,

            Thanks again for the response, and for explaining more of your thought process behind the various segments on the TGC blog.

            Most of what you're saying makes sense, but it leaves me with a couple of concerns that you may have already considered and taken into account. First, that an "insider" piece would be misconstrued by "outsiders": Well there they go again, Evangelicals who are trying to avoid polarization around "distracting social issues" marching in lock-step with Catholic culture-warriors, without thinking critically about it at all. Perhaps even linking to the longer-form commentary of folks like Carson would be enough. Or maybe I'm being naive in thinking that there is a way to write this post that disarms that kind of thinking. I think, in general, my preference is generally for writing that's as accommodating (ironic, huh?) as possible to the opposite point of view, while still making clear the disagreement.

            I certainly understand the need to meet deadlines and keep word counts from spinning out of control! I'm just very hesitant about writing that assumes so much about readers' worldviews, especially on such an explosive topic. I'm also a bit uncomfortable with the way you used John Leo to game out the "worst-case scenario", a scenario that many of the compromise's supporters would oppose. I'm sure the majority of readers know that, it just contributes to an overall tone that I find a bit charged, and might have been a slight infringement of Alexander's Rule (though you didn't name anyone in particular).

            As to the larger point, I understand that TGC has no editorial control over the individual bloggers, and I'm certainly not asking for it! Again, I don't think any of the opinions that are expressed are out of bounds for this site, and I don't think any political or social commentary should be muted because it happens to be in agreement with conservatives. But I do wonder how more balance can be injected into the conversation. As a TGC staff blogger, I can see why it might be inappropriate for you to "swing the other way" just to provide a different view. I'm hopeful that at some point, TGC will find ways to express the voice of Evangelicals that remain strongly pro-life, but are also more amenable to other policy positions that are less associated with with conservatism.

            Finally, the point about Sowell is taken. Again, I'm not asking that nobody reference or cite him, there are a number of areas where he and I likely agree. And neither am I saying that by citing him or referencing him, you're agreeing with that particular view of his. My point is that those particular views have been incredibly hurtful to Asian-Americans, many of whom are Christian, and many of whom regularly read this site. I think that in the midst of laudatory posting on his work, at some point it might be worth mentioning.

    • KBH

      Well-said. I used to be a more frequent reader of TGC, back when reading the blogs did more to point me to Christ rather than highlight controversy (whether political or celebrity pastor-related). If I wanted to encounter a litany of conservative talking points, I could turn on Fox News or visit one of the hordes of websites devoted to that purpose.

      If the bloggers here have strong, informed political views, that's fine. But I wish they'd find a different forum for expressing those things. (Tim Keller, one of their own, handles the topic of political controversy well in a sermon titled "Arguing About Politics"...it's worth a listen, and available on podcast.)

      Finally, in the name of pursuing truth, why not include the thoughts of a believer who does find Obama's compromise helpful and workable? Is fear or partisanship driving the one-sidedness? Young evangelicals are leaving the political Right in droves, and I can hardly wonder at it. My own political views don't fit into a neatly partisan box, but the invective and misinformation I see coming disproportionately out of the G.O.P. are disheartening. It saddens me that they have somehow attained the "Christian" moniker, because I see so little of Christ in their more public voices.

      • Joe Carter

        Finally, in the name of pursuing truth, why not include the thoughts of a believer who does find Obama's compromise helpful and workable?

        So we should include the thoughts of a believer who finds that it's okay for Christians to be forced to pay for abortifacients? How exactly does that advance the Gospel?

        • KBH

          I think you might be overstating the issue. Would you prefer to have more women get pregnant unintentionally with the knowledge that a percentage of them will seek out abortions (no matter who financially supports it)? Are you in some sense responsible for those abortions that result, because you withdrew the resources that would have prevented them? That's a real question...you might be able to pass the full moral responsibility onto pregnant women at that point, but you've still had a hand in the process. That's my concern as a pro-lifer who has a much bigger moral concern with abortion than with contraception.

          Why not seek to find a common ground instead of condemning the compromise universally? I think Obama's compromise did that well. Catholics do not have to pay directly for contraceptives. Even if they do pay indirectly through higher premiums--which is not a assumption we can make since insurance companies have a real financial motive to provide birth control--they can foster a work environment encourages their employees to value life as they do. To me that seems a better way of advancing the pro-life cause than bickering in the public sphere over having to help women pay for contraceptives. (Let's leave aside, for now, the fact that many women are on contraceptives for purposes that have nothing to do with procreation...)

          The objections so many conservatives voice now over taxes and their use seems strange in light of scripture. There is nothing sacred about the money you earn....those bank notes you earn have presidents on them, just as the coins in Jesus' time had Caesar graven on them. There are certainly good reasons to try to ensure that the government uses resources wisely, but Jesus himself evidently didn't see that argument as worthy of his time in ministry....rather, he rendered unto Caesar what Caesar asked. (And let's not pretend that the Roman Empire used those taxes morally....later, they directly persecuted Christians, who effectively had to help support their own persecution when they paid Roman taxes.)

          You mention Amish Mennonites above in citing an example of a sect that views contraception as evil. To my knowledge they are also pacifists, and so the government has allowed them to avoid the draft because of their theological convictions. But they still pay taxes and thus financially support defense spending, even if they object to war.

          When we stand before God on the last day, He will not ask us to account for what our governments did with our taxes. He will ask us to account for how well we loved the oppressed, the broken, and the poor. He will ask us what we did for the least in this world...how well we embodied the life of His Son in our brief time here.

          You can certainly help the "least" in serving pro-life causes....so if this policy of refusing any compromise on contraception could lead to additional abortions, think about that. It's more about the the lives lost than who pays for it and how.

          • Joe Carter

            Are you in some sense responsible for those abortions that result, because you withdrew the resources that would have prevented them?
            No.
            That's a real question...you might be able to pass the full moral responsibility onto pregnant women at that point, but you've still had a hand in the process.

            No, that does not follow. There is no logical connection between “I shouldn’t have to pay for contraceptives if I believe they are evil” and “I am partially responsible for a women getting pregnant.”

            That's my concern as a pro-lifer who has a much bigger moral concern with abortion than with contraception.

            The issue isn’t really about access to contraception. If you have a job that pays full-health benefits then chances are that you can afford to buy contraception yourself.

            Why not seek to find a common ground instead of condemning the compromise universally?

            That is what almost all Christians involved in this debate are attempting to do. The compromise is to expand the exemption to include all religious groups. The Obama administration is the one that is being intransigent.

            I think Obama's compromise did that well. Catholics do not have to pay directly for contraceptives.

            Yes, actually they do. Even economists that are sympathetic to the mandate admit that the Catholic organizations are still paying for the contraceptives.

            Even if they do pay indirectly through higher premiums--which is not a assumption we can make since insurance companies have a real financial motive to provide birth control--they can foster a work environment encourages their employees to value life as they do.

            But why should they be forced to violate their beliefs? I don’t understand why it is necessary to force them the religious organizations to engage in activity that they consider to be evil.

            To me that seems a better way of advancing the pro-life cause than bickering in the public sphere over having to help women pay for contraceptives. (Let's leave aside, for now, the fact that many women are on contraceptives for purposes that have nothing to do with procreation...)

            How is helping to fund abortions advancing the pro-life cause?

            ....rather, he rendered unto Caesar what Caesar asked.

            And the other part of that quote is “and unto God the things that are God's.” In this case, Caeser is asking to take what belongs to God—our conscience.

            When we stand before God on the last day, He will not ask us to account for what our governments did with our taxes.

            Why not? If we are responsible for making the laws why will we not also be held accountable?

            You can certainly help the "least" in serving pro-life causes....so if this policy of refusing any compromise on contraception could lead to additional abortions, think about that. It's more about the the lives lost than who pays for it and how.

            I’m still unclear on how directly paying for abortions is serving the pro-life cause. Can you clarify what you mean?

            • KBH

              Thanks for your extended response...I know you put a lot of effort into it!

              I was under the impression that not everyone here believes that abortion and contraception are morally equivalent. If I'm mistaken in that assumption, there is not much of a point in continuing the conversation. I do think there's a difference, and it's not because I'm uninformed or "unbiblical," as Mel below appears to imply. (There are quite a few doctors, including an OB/GYN, in my Christian, very pro-life, and mostly conservative extended family.)

              If the issue is so divided, even among believers, perhaps the solution might be to overhaul healthcare so it's not based on the employer-employee relationship....thus protecting any employer from having to violate their conscience.

              God bless.

            • http://thegospelcoalition.org Collin Hansen

              I'm sure most evangelicals make a moral distinction between abortion and contraception. However, just because someone calls some a pill contraception doesn't make it so. Is it still contraception if a woman takes one of these new drugs several days after she becomes pregnant? Such pills may save her the trouble of paying for a surgical procedure, but wouldn't at least some of these methods be considered abortion by other means?

              Also, removing the employer from the healthcare equation hardly solves this particular problem. I don't think the Christians protesting these new regulations would be comforted by the government taking over. But perhaps you can suggest other alternatives.

            • Earl

              Separating the employee-employer relationship in health insurance (something I VERY strongly support) will not address the problem of government mandates which may step on religious freedom. If the health insurance market were identical to the auto insurance market, and the government mandated all insurance companies to provide free abortions, sex changes, and euthansia services, I would not be able to just get a different insurance provider. I would be forced to chose between dropping health insurance and violating my personal values (actions which ultimately manifest in the marketplace.)

          • mel

            So we are back to the lesser of two evils argument. Kill them sooner rather than later because it is less like killing?

            Back to the original - this isn't about contraception. It is about religious freedom. Those that are more political than biblical can't see that for some reason.

    • mel

      How can there be differing points of view on facts? That is taking the world view is that there is no truth.

    • http://www.Twitter.com/willsimpson62 Will

      I feel the need to comment and thank you guys for such a wonderful Q&A post. I have never found TGC's politics to be anything other than centered on a Biblical worldview. The Bible is pro-life, so that's an expected biased.

      Also, as for the Thomas Sowell point, I have always been a fan, but have no idea where the internment point comes from. I've read a half dozen of his books, as well as his columns for years, and never heard anything like that. He's written scores of books and millions of words in his career, I don't know if he ever legitimately said that or not, but it seems like a nit-picked minor point in the scope of his career, even if it is true.

      Also, as a twenty-year-old college student, I fear too much of a blowback from my peers against the Moral Majority/Focus on the Family era. My friends are so afraid of being lumped in with the religious right that they try desperately to run away, embracing a Jim Wallis worldview or being apolitical, assuming that the government's influence on culture and people's lives is not Biblically relevant. I find his disturbing. As I said, the Bible is pro-life, but it's also pro-property rights, and sets a lot of parameters about just treatment in society that is perfectly relevant to public policy.

      I understand my friends' desire to not be lumped in with Jerry Fallwell. But that's not a legitimate reason to launch into the other direction. (Also, I typed this on my phone, so sorry about at typos or awkward sentences).

  • http://treasuringitup.blogspot.com Hannah

    Contraception MUST be a concern of ANYONE claiming Christ's name. If God is Lord of your life, He must be Lord of your body. It is sickening the amount of Christians who take "contraceptives" without acknowledging or even educating themselves on if they are causing their body to abort. This is not just the "Day After Pill" but the majority of birth controls used prevalently in our churches and prescribed by "Christian" doctors. On the website of the notorious Pill (not the Plan B, just the normal Pill) it explicitly says that it primarily prevents ovulation - but secondarily, in the case of ovulation and CONCEPTION (which is when human life begins), the lining of the uterus will be thinned and not allow for implantation and the baby (for it IS a baby) will be flushed from the womb. So I ask you, is that also abortion? How many conscientious Christians do you know on The Pill?

    Yes, this is a pro-life discussion because GOD is pro-life. If we neglect to protect the image of God, we neglect God Himself.

    This is not "political",
    this is not "making America a Christian nation",
    this is not "what the Pope said",

    this is the most basic tenant of our belief as Christians: that we are created by God and are precious enough for Him to send His Son to die for us. That includes me, that includes Obama (if he repents), that includes the 4,000 children who will die of abortion TODAY not to mention the multiple ones that will pass from their unknowing mother's wombs because of the artificial hormones they are pumping into their systems.

    I, for one, will not be forced by my government to pay for the murder of the unborn. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would agree.

    No...I'm not passionate about this at all...

    • KBH

      Hannah, thank you for being so passionately pro-life.

      A question, though: since about half of all fertilized eggs do not implant, does that mean that God created a means of reproduction that inevitably murders large numbers of babies? Or might life begin during or just after implantation? I think we need to view the issue with some humility, because we honestly don't know beyond all shadow of doubt that a baby gains a soul at the moment of fertilization. There's some mystery involved, and I think God intended it to be that way.

      Finally, you assert that you won't by forced by your government to pay for the murder of the unborn. (And again, I am in full agreement regarding abortion as taking a life.) But what about a government that drops atomic bombs on two cities full of women and children? Or a government that, led by a Christian, engages in a war that claims the lives of over 100,000 Muslim civilians--all on grounds of faulty intel?

      I ask these rhetorical questions just to illustrate the fact that we can't believe our government--any government--is going to use our tax dollars well. So we can render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and then work among vulnerable or pregnant women to promote life. The Holy Spirit moves in hearts, not in legislation.

      • T

        "since about half of fertilized eggs do not implant, does that mean that God created a means of reproduction that inevitably murders large numbers of babies?"

        One hundred percent of fertilized eggs will eventually die: about half due to failure to implant, to use your figure, and some of them after a hundred years or more, during which time many will become multicellular, be born, undergo puberty, and go bald. The means of reproduction does not "murder" the babies; only a conscious decision to deprive a human person of life is murder. (Women who are unaware of the abortifacient secondary effects of their oral contraceptives may be negligent but still responsible, but until they have been educated, I have a hard time classifying their implantation failures as "murder" -- perhaps more like "manslaughter.")

      • Earl

        Caesar is dead. We The People have arrived on the scene. We The People are now in charge, and We The People will affect the laws of our land as we see personally fit to do. Are you going to exercise your right to inform the laws of YOUR land, or are you going to wait for Caesar to return?

  • Al

    You can't be for Sola Fide AND Pro-Contraception.

  • Earl

    The thing that got me on contraceptives was this: I am pro life because I believe that life begins at conception, not viability. A fertilized egg has passed the point of conception even if it fails to implant and become even more viable. If an egg does not become viable through no fault of my own, than I am not at fault. If I willfully did something to reduce viability, I have done something harmful.

    Phsyical barriers preventing conception seem acceptable to me. Chemical treatments that reduce viability are not. If a chemical barrier were 100% effective in preventing conception, that would construct a physical barrier in my mind. But neither the pill, nor the IUD, nor the shot, is such an instrument.

    To be pro life and use such contraceptives for birth control is hypocritical, and no different then being pro choice.

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  • RJ Moore

    I am so sick and tired of these so-called "Christian" organizations fighting against issues like this. If I didn't know God for myself, I would leave the church altogether. It's because of organizations like this that thousands of young people are walking away from Christianity.

  • StephenW

    So, why should I pay for Viagra? Why should I pay for any erectile-disfunction medication if I don't want to based ON MY AGENDA?

    Last I hear, most employer offered health care plans are co-funded. So, why does the employer get to make the choice, over my choice, what gets covered under the health insurance THAT I WILL BE USING??

    WAKE UP! Why should your employer get between you and your doctor???

    • Greg

      Because your employer is paying for your doctor?

  • Shan

    I have faith but dislike the man made church. I live a godly life. For me personally birth control is a health issue as it to many other women I know. I will concede that the law currently supports their right to do so even though they chose to operate a business, a rather large network. At the end of the day I am thankful that I don't have to work for a catholic hospital and nor do I have to seek services from such a hospital. From here on out I will take my care and that of my children with my private insurance to non catholic hospitals. I cannot in good conscience support the church by seeking their health care services so that they can impose their beliefs on women of a different faith. Additionally, I have grave concerns that my health matters little if I were to choose to give birth at a catholic hospital. I have a high risk pregnancy.

    • Greg

      It matters not what the issue is "to you personally". It matters what the absolute truth (ie, what God has said) about it is.

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  • http://www.anapolschwartz.com/practices/nuvaring/ Roxy | Nuvaring Lawyer

    There are lots of issues associated with contraceptive use but it will be important to focus more on its effectiveness as well as its untoward effects to make sure that no life will be put at risk.

    • http://almostreadytogoamish.blogspot.com/ RN

      Good point, considering things such as the abortion-breast cancer connection ignored by the mainstream media.

  • http://almostreadytogoamish.blogspot.com/ RN

    q: What is the mainline Protestant and Evangelical position on contraception?

    a: "A boy for me, a girl for you, and praise the Lord we're finally through!"

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