Thursday, February 09, 2012

Do As the Church Says ... Not as I Do?

I know, I said that I would be gone for the rest of this month ... focusing on images rather than words, but the current controversy over whether the U.S. Government is overstepping its constitutional authority by requiring that institutions run by religious entities (i.e., Catholic Church) --where the primary purpose of the institution is not directly dedicated to the purpose of worship-- must provide heallthcare insurance coverage for contraceptive medications and procedures has been weighing heavily on my mind.  The government has already consented to an exemption for religious institutions dedicated to the "sole purpose of worship."  The controversial mandate is directed solely towards secondary institutions  (e.g., hospitals and universities) that are run by the religious entities such as the Catholic Church.  Apparently, this is the first wave of "Obama-care" coming into play?  It does seem odd to me that the Obama Administration would choose to unveil this aspect of the Obama Healthcare Plan in an election year?  Perhaps, the Obama campaign hopes to gain women voters with this issue?

Political designs and agendas aside, I have been extremely frustrated in discussing this issue with the men in my life because they are so quick to dismiss this issue and side with the church.  I guess, it's easy to label this as a non-issue if you aren't the one left carrying a child for 9 months, having your life completely and forever altered in one of  the most (if not, the most) profound ways? Access to birth control and being able to exercise some control over our own individual reproductive health has truly changed the lives of millions of women for the better.  We now have some say in choosing when we will have children and how many we will have. Because of the latter, women can now aspire to have careers and interests beyond merely bearing and raising children. Contraception is in a very real sense liberation for women.  The denied access to contraception coverage also affects men (and their families) with respect to having access to affordable medical services for vasectomies.  How many marriages would legitimately survive prolonged abstinence, I wonder?

The argument that women (and men) can go elsewhere to get the contraception medications and services that they need is ludicrous.  Costs for medications and services not covered directly by health insurance in the United States in this day and age are undeniably outrageous. Contrary to what news commentators like Bill Oreilly of FOX News say: you can't just go out and "get birth control pills for free."  Some low-income individuals can find clinics that will provide birth control pills at little to no costs, but this option is not available for most moderate income earners where the cost of $60.00 per month equates to a daughter being able to take dance lessons, children learning Taekwondo or Karate ... a child learning to play a musical instrument.  These are real choices facing real people.  And as for the argument:  "if you don't like the rules, then don't play" ... In this lousy economy of the past four years the ability to "play" somewhere else has been severely limited for many.  

The above arguments aside, I don't like the idea of the government stepping in to mandate this insurance coverage for contraception medication and services ... even for secondary institutions that are "not directly places of worship."  Given that the Catholic run hospitals and universities are secondary institutions, providing services and acting as employers to lay people: it would be best if healthcare coverage for contraception medication and procedures were provided on a voluntary basis by the given institution, as was previously the case.  This would  maintain the illusion of upholding the "freedom of conscience" clause ... although, to me the freedom of conscience should belong to the woman (or man) and not her employer.  Perhaps, government should adopt a transparent policy of  not allowing  government funding (or tax exemptions) to go to institutions that choose not to offer a comprehensive, non-discriminatory healthcare insurance coverage to their employees or students.  Government could then use the funds no longer eligible for institutions that choose not to comply with the contraception mandate to offer a government sponsored healthcare coverage add-on option for employees (or students) that are denied contraception healthcare insurance coverage by a given religious-run institution.  The Obama administration could also look into the feasibility of making birth control pills an over-the-counter medication --with ID check for age 18 and over-- which would greatly bring down costs and increase access.

I was raised a Catholic and one of the reasons that I left the Catholic Church was the Church's rigid, and somewhat hypocritical, stance on birth control among other issues.  The Catholic Church has a long history of injustice where women are concerned; I don't suppose that they would choose to change now?  I also find it rather amazing that so many Catholics are up in arms, siding with the Catholic Church on this issue when the Obama Administration has given a clear exemption to churches, synagogues and all places of worship ... especially when such a large percentage of  Catholics use some form of contraception themselves.  It's not okay to infringe upon the beliefs of the Catholic Church, in a secondary, for profit setting that receives government funding in many cases ... but it's okay to allow the church to step on the reproductive rights of those that they employ and serve?  I'm just still trying to wrap my mind around this ... (I am tired.  Have not slept yet.  Going to try to find some elusive sleep. I will proof this later and perhaps delete?).

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