Thursday, February 9, 2012

Who's really ticked off about the birth control rule?


“Obama feels Catholic ire on new rule,” said yesterday’s headline in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the Obamacare regulation that requires religious-affiliated institutions such as colleges, hospitals and charities to offer free contraception to employees and students as part of their health care coverage.   Churches and their religious servants are exempt and would remain so.
The chart above seems to indicate that Catholics might not be too irate at Obama.  It may just be their church leaders who are.  A majority of Catholics seem fine with the idea. 
But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that you are a professor or student at Villanova University, or a nurse at Fitzgerald Mercy Hospital or a social worker at a Catholic Charity.
Maybe you are a devout, practicing Catholic.  Maybe you have used the rhythm method all your reproductive life and have accepted with great joy every child who has come your way.
I think that may be a “who are we kidding?” hypothesis, but let’s entertain it.
So, let me ask you this:  Is it an infringement on your religious liberty if the man or woman working next to you, who is not a devout practicing Catholic, is covered by your group insurance plan for birth control?
Or is it religious oppression if your employer forces its religious views and practices on their employees who are not of the same faith?   
Your role as a devout practicing Catholic is clear:  You are totally free to never, ever ask your church employer to cover any form of birth control for you. 
There you go.  There’s your religious freedom.  Not one whit diminished.
But religious institutions are not free to employ only those who adhere to their religious beliefs unless the employee is a religious acolyte – a priest or nun or imam, a “called” teacher or advocate.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently reaffirmed this principle in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC.  
Religious employers cannot discriminate on the basis of gender, race, religion, disability and so on, so why should they be able to discriminate on the basis of health insurance coverage?  Why do they get to dictate whether their non-follower/employees can be covered for just that one aspect of health care, the one that applies only to women and only to women of child-bearing age?  
No religious institution is screaming that having to provide insurance coverage for Viagra is an infringement of its religious freedom.  That never happens.  
But it does happen that some large Catholic institutions, such as universities and hospitals, by virtue of having to negotiate with unions, do, in fact, already quietly provide health care coverage for birth control. 
So for the Catholic Church to be screaming about its religious freedom being trampled is just another fact-free excuse to attack President Obama.  And another way for the religious right of every denomination to continue its relentless war on women.
As usual, the hypocrisy is stunning.  
“But the Catholic Church can’t teach against birth control if it has to provide it,” say pundits like Chris Matthews. 
Here’s a thought:  Maybe the Church should give up trying to teach its American followers not to use birth control.  American Catholic women haven’t been listening to its teachings on that subject for a very long time.   
In fact, Catholic women in all developed countries haven’t been listening for a long time either.  It’s no epidemic of infertility that causes the women of Catholic Italy to have one of the lowest birth rates in the world.
This is a fact:  Nations prosper when women are educated, have equal opportunities and are free to make decisions about their own bodies, and nations languish and their people suffer where none of that is true.  Check out the country-by-country birth rates at the link above if you don’t believe it.  Imagine what it’s like living in Niger!
A recent poll by the Public Religion Research institute showed that 58 percent of American Catholics agree that employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception (chart above), which was three points higher than all Americans in general, a total dragged down by the disapproval rate among white evangelicals (56 percent of those disagree).    
And a Guttmacher Institute study in 2011 showed that American Catholic women use contraceptives at about the same rate as non-Catholics, which is to say, virtually all women at some time in their lives:
“Among all women who have had sex, 99 percent have used a contraceptive method other than natural family planning.  This figure is virtually the same among Catholic women (98 percent).”
A Catholic friend tried this second line of defense on me:
“Well, I’m through menopause, so why should my health care plan even have to cover obstetric services at all?” 
Nice try.  In no other insurance situation is this ever an issue.  Insurance, by its very nature, is designed to spread the risks across all levels of behavior and circumstance. 
I have sprinklers in my home but I don’t insist my homeowners’ insurer not cover homes that don’t have sprinklers.
My car insurer insists I buy extra uninsured motorists insurance for those dolts who drive around without it and  I comply without a whimper.
I don’t smoke.  My life insurer offers insurance to smokers, albeit at a higher rate, and I cannot demand that it stop.
I don’t eat KFC’s super deluxe southern fried chicken sandwich with cheese and bacon (a heart attack on a bun if I ever saw one), but I can’t kick if my health insurer covers people who do.
No, only when the issue is women’s control over their own sexuality and their own bodies does anyone ever raise a fuss, and the fussing is largely done by men.
Why do we women have to continue fighting this battle, decade after decade after decade?  It’s so tiresome and so 12th century and I am so sick of it. 


  1. Damn, that darn First Amendment!!!
    Damn, that darn Second Amendment!!

    Ohhh, this is a woman's issue ? All men should shut up and let the ladies kill all the unborn babies as much as they want.
    You would think that with all the Birth Control and Morning After pills being paid for there would be less Abortions, wouldn't you? But I'm just a stupid man. Sorry to comment.

  2. How is it freedom of religion to allow the hierarchy of one religion to dictate what women of other religions can do with their bodies? I'm not saying men or stupid or have no say on the issue but until men can get pregnant and have children, it is an issue of a whole lot more concern to women than men, generally speaking. In fact, I would bet that there are a whole lot of men who agree with and encourage their women to use birth control, which all you pro-lifers always want to conflate with abortion. They're different and, in fact, birth control and morning after pills do indeed lead to a lot fewer abortions. You can't abort what isn't there.
    How exactly does the Second amendment come into this? Shotgun weddings?