Wedge watch: The birth control fight boils up!

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2012

As always, Chris and the Times can’t explain: Wedge issue fights can boil up fast, especially in election years.

Clarity tends to take a hike. Inevitably, your nation’s biggest newspapers and most famous broadcasters can’t explain the most basic facts.

This morning, the New York Times features this news report about the new wedge issue—the requirement that birth control and contraception be covered in insurance plans, even at Catholic universities and hospitals. Basically, Jennifer Steinhauer explains what different politicians have said about the new fight.

There’s nothing “wrong” with that kind of reporting. But shouldn’t a newspaper also explain the basic facts about major points in dispute?

Yesterday, the Times covered this same topic in a longer, front-page report. Along with the various quotes from the pols, Helene Cooper and Katharine “Kit” Seelye tried to explain a few facts.

One fact: By now, most people have heard that 28 states have some form of requirement which resembles the new proposed federal requirement. This leads to a fairly obvious question: How have Catholic hospitals and colleges dealt with the requirement to cover contraception and birth control in those 28 states?

In yesterday’s front-page report, Cooper and Seelye saved this question for their very last paragraph. This was their attempt to elucidate this widely-discussed, basic point:
COOPER/SEELYE (2/8/12): Administration officials say one avenue for resolution might be to look at how Catholic institutions in the 28 states with similar laws have dealt with the issue. One possible compromise might be to emulate Hawaii, where the rule is in effect, but where employees at religious institutions that do not offer free contraception can get birth control through side benefits, which the employees nominally pay for but which often end up being free.
Good old Hawaii! But seriously though, folks. Do you have any idea what the fig newton that means?

Earlier, the dynamic duo wanted us to know what Mitt Romney has said and done in the past. This was their attempt to explain:
COOPER/SEELYE: In Johnstown, Colo., Mitt Romney called the rule “a real blow, particularly to our friends in the Catholic faith.” But Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, hoping to galvanize the conservative base of the party, tried to tar Mr. Romney with the same brush, saying that while he was governor of Massachusetts, he had allowed a similar rule to take effect and that he was being hypocritical now.

In 2005, Mr. Romney vetoed a measure to require hospitals to provide the morning-after pill to rape victims. The Legislature overrode his veto, but he did say at the time that in his “heart of hearts,” he believed that rape victims should have access to emergency contraception.
Romney vetoed the measure, then got overridden. That seems to mean that Gingrich and Santorum were wrong in their accusations. Having said that, do you have any idea how that account of what Romney said was supposed to enlarge our understanding? Do you have any idea why that alleged statement was included at all?

What did Romney mean by that statement? Did he mean that rape victims should have access to emergency contraception somewhere else? Did he mean that, in his heart of hearts, he thought they should get access at those Catholic institutions?

What did Romney mean by his statement? Like you, we don’t have the slightest idea. Were the scribes trying to spawn a new flub? We don't know, but this type of work is quite routine at our most famous newspaper!

By the way: We keep hearing that one of “the 28 states with similar laws” is the state of New York—the very state in which the New York Times is located. On liberal TV, these states keep getting cited to show the hypocrisy of the bishops. We’re told that Catholic institutions have made their peace with these requirements in those 28 states.

But uh-oh! On January 30, the New York Times published this long, front-page report about the way students at Catholic colleges in New York have to go elsewhere for birth control. This showed the potential for trouble with the new federal rule, readers were told.

If New York is one of the 28 states, do you understand how this works? We don’t either—and that passage from Cooper and Seelye represents the New York Times’ current hapless attempt to explain how this works in those states.

Strange but true: You live in a culture whose major “journalists” can’t explain shit or shinola! Perhaps the most pathetic example occurred on last evening’s Hardball. Chris Matthews referred a discussion between Melinda Henneberger, who tends to oppose the Obama requirement, and Michelle Goldstein, who tends to support it.

Utter chaos ensued, as always. Chris couldn’t clarify a discussion if five million bucks were at stake. (To watch the segment, click here.)

By the time he was done, the whole world was a muddle. And so, the great man said this:
MATTHEWS (2/8/12): Thank you, Melinda Henneberger. And thank you, Michelle Goldberg.

I think everybody understands these positions—

HENNEBERGER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: —if they were paying attention in the last few minutes.
Too funny! In truth, no one understood squat or squadoosh after watching Matthews flounder and flail. Inside the culture this man helped create, no one ever will.

Chris got up to speed a bit later on, discussing Dear Jack’s teen-aged lover.

85 comments:

  1. It's not for nothing Matthews was honored as Media Matters first Misinformer of the Year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. not for nothing agreed but i thought mmfa was overly crtical of mathews on a relative basis. perhaps in part they were getting back at him for his conduct during the 2000 elections if were to believe the somerbyan analysis.

      Delete
  2. Information that might actually explain the matter:

    http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/sarahposner/5664/bishops_reject_proposed_compromise_with_obama_on_contraception_coverage/

    A local spin:

    http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2012/02/bishop_takes_up_catholics_chur.html

    Poll: Catholics split on contraception coverage for Church organizations:

    http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/sarahposner/5657/new_poll_shows_catholics_reject_bishops%27_position_on_contraception_coverage/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No Catholics aren't split.

      The poll clearly shows Catholics support contraception coverage 58-37%.

      That's slightly more than all Americans. That's right, American Catholics disagree with their church's teachings slightly more than the general public:

      http://publicreligion.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/BC-Employers-Religion1.png

      Delete
  3. Quaker in a BasementFebruary 9, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    By now, most people have heard that 28 states have some form of requirement which resembles the new proposed federal requirement. This leads to a fairly obvious question:

    Yes, it does, thank you! I posed a very similar question a couple of days ago over at Ed Kilgore's new address. At last report, no one had even attempted an answer.

    ReplyDelete
  4. On the Sunday shows, they were saying things like, "If an institution CHOOSES to provide health insurance they should be required to do it according to the law." No mention of the government fines on the other side of the insurance requirement. They spoke on the issue as if there were simple opt-out provisions. They had no clue.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The NYT did provide at least a bit of the information about those state laws that require insurance plans to cover all employees and it's on the Op-Ed page. Linda Greenhouse's legal column:

    The regulation doesn’t require anyone to use birth control. It exempts any religious employer that primarily hires and serves its own faithful, the same exclusion offered by New York and California from the contraception mandate in state insurance laws. (Of the other states that require such coverage, 15 offer a broader opt-out provision, while eight provide no exemption at all.)

    Linda goes on to say that the bishops' contention of a conscience exemption is a legal loser and cites the Oregon peyote case. The information is there but Chris and the gang aren't interested in facts but titillation.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Linda Greenhouse also concludes with this reference to a unanimous opinion which suggests precedent separates this case from the peyote case. She, like others, introduces the fact that 98% of catholics have used contraception without recognizing the irrelevance of that claim.

    "That language is certainly suggestive of deference, beyond the employment area, to a church’s doctrinal claims to special treatment. But while all nine justices signed the opinion, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all nine would agree on its application to the contraception requirement. The question would be whether a church that has failed to persuade its own flock of the rightness of its position could persuade at least five justices."

    ReplyDelete
  7. actually, this is completely irrelevant to the issue at hand:

    " students at Catholic colleges in New York have to go elsewhere for birth control."

    the issue is employer provided health insurance, not health insurance for students, two entirely different things. had it said that employees were going elsewhere for contraceptives, this might be germain. it didn't, so it isn't.

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