Sr. Keehan On the “[No-]Good Intentions” of the Obama Administration
Sister Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association has granted an interview to Kaiser Health News in which the nun seems to be apologizing to and for the Obama administration.
Sister Keehan was interviewed after the Catholic Health Association reversed itself and said it does not support the Obama administration’s “compromise” on the HHS contraceptive mandate, a move that Kaiser Health News characterized as “a blow” to the administration.
Sister Keehan and the CHA proposed, however, that the problems posed by the HHS mandate could be solved by using a different definition of what constitutes a religious employer. (Go here to read why Sister Keehan’s plan might create a situation that is even worse than the current one.)
In explaining why the CHA broke with the Obama administration, Sister Keehan said she eventually came to the conclusion that the mandate was too “just too cumbersome:”
Many, many, many of our organizations offer a choice in health coverage to their staffs. So they would have two different ways of dealing with their employees on this issue and, quite frankly, many of our members were hearing from local insurance companies and agents that ‘well, we may not carve out explicitly how we’re charging you for this but there is no free lunch and you are going to pay for it one way or the other.’ That was exactly what the goal was not. The goal was to not pay. And that’s not the fault of the White House. That’s the reality of the marketplace.
Not the fault of the White House? The marketplace didn’t mandate contraceptive coverage. The White House could settle this matter immediately by announcing that faith-based employers will not be forced to go out of business or provide coverage for procedures they find morally repugnant.
Asked if Obama administration officials had ever definitively told her that they were no longer willing to entertain the idea of further “compromises,” the nun seemed to demonstrate an unshakable faith in the administration:
No, no no. The administration has worked with great good faith to try to find a way to resolve this that works. However, all the good faith in the world doesn’t get past the challenge. And we still have some very real concerns in the church that even if you get rid of the coverage of contraceptives, [there may be] problems in the future.
So as we have talked consistently with the administration, we said, ‘We should just revisit this. Go back to what we first suggested to the administration, early on when this came up.’ And that is use the time-honored definition that the federal government has used to define religious organizations. Don’t make up a new one. And secondly, the government has plethora of programs that they use to make contraceptives available right now. If you want them available to women, please do it through a government program.
But Sister Keehan is managing to keep the faith:
We remain as committed as we ever were to the Affordable Care Act and to the preventive services. We think this is a huge step forward for women who are low-income. And it’s a huge step forward even for the economics of health care, because you catch a problem early, often times you save a life.
We believe from a human perspective, as well as from an economic perspective, no barriers to preventive services is superb for this country. We just don’t want to participate in this one particular preventive service.
Surely, in apparently referring to sterilization, abortion-causing drugs, and other contraceptives as “this one particular preventative service,” the nun misspoke. Catholic teaching regards abortion, sterilization, and contraception not as just another “preventative service” but as intrinsic evils that prevent or extinguish human life, not health problems.