Why Walter Dellinger is Wrong About the Contraception Mandate
Dr. Mark S. Latkovic
March 26, 2014
“Contraception as a test of equality,” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/contraception-as-a-test-of-equality/2014/03/23/b18fbaaa-b140-11e3-a49e-76adc9210f19_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions) is Walter Dellinger’s op-ed “brief” for the Supreme Court to reject such lawsuits brought by family-owned businesses Conestoga and Hobby Lobby against the government’s contraception mandate (for background, see also http://www.becketfund.org/hobbylobby/).* He argues: “For all women, denying practical access to the method of contraception that is right for their health and life circumstances, as well as the well-being of their families, can represent a serious incursion into their individual moral autonomy.”
Continuing, he claims that “Selectively denying insurance coverage for contraceptive methods an employer considers sinful effectively makes the employer a party to a woman’s medical consultations.* An understanding of the importance of access to the full range of contraception options should lead the court to reject claims of religious entitlement that so greatly burden the interests of others.” [My emphases]
I’m truly breathless…Let me address just the two points in the article that I have italicized. First, according to Dellinger, denying contraception coverage – well, refusing to offer and pay for it in health care plans – is now a grave “incursion” into women’s “individual moral autonomy”? (Only a lawyer could say this with a straight face). How is that so? For instance, a woman is still free to purchase contraceptives from various pharmacies (They’re not that expensive, and I’m sure Planned Parenthood could set up a fund to help pay for them). There is also natural family planning (NFP), as well as abstinence – yes, abstinence (Periodic abstinence is involved in NFP). But the latter two “methods” involve a virtuous exercise of our moral autonomy – not simply the use of a pill or patch – because they involve moral freedom, not techne. And society would rather mandate contraception convenience rather than urge self-control.
Second, Dellinger argues that denying health care coverage for contraception “makes the employer a party to a woman’s medical consultations.” Clever, but false. A physician can still freely prescribe contraception and a woman can still freely consent to use it or not. The employer is simply saying he/she doesn’t want to include it in the insurance plan. My company’s policy, for example, doesn’t cover visits to the eye doctor, among many other things (good and bad). Is my employer encroaching on my “individual moral autonomy”? Is he a party to my “medical consultations? A “no” to both questions. But in one sense, as a society knit closely together in numerous ways, we’re all at least a remote party to each other’s doctor consultations: e.g., in what we choose to cover or not cover, in what we pay in taxes or don’t pay in taxes, in funding amounts for public universities that train our doctors and nurses, and on and on.
Ultimately, contraception is a bad means (impeding possible human life from coming-into-being) in order to achieve a good end(s) (as Dellinger describes some of them, women’s “health and life circumstances, as well as the well-being of their families”).
*These companies don’t oppose contraception per se, but rather those forms that may be abortifacient (e.g., the IUD).
*I would argue that contraception isn’t a matter of health care, other than uses of it to treat certain medical problems (e.g., endometriosis). If that’s the case, then it’s a legitimate treatment – morally and possibly medically – not contraception.