Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fight Against the Catholic Attack on Preventative Healthcare for Women

Guest Blogger: Mallen Urso
After reading the countless responses and op-eds in opposition to the recent HHS and Obama Administration ruling on birth control, I can’t help but wonder: Why are Catholic Bishops so hell-bent on being in bed with women’s reproductive health decisions?

Under The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, employer insurance plans are required to fully cover contraception for women.   With this mandate, women are now guaranteed control over their bodies.   This will lead to fewer unintended pregnancies, fewer abortions, and fewer painful decisions for women.  Total win, right?  Well, if it were up to a small, yet powerful, group of men adorned in long, white robes, it would not be for everyone.
Catholic churches across the country are outraged about the new mandate that requires all employers, including faith-based, to include birth control and other reproductive services in their health care coverage.  To be clear, Catholic institutions are NOT required to fund abortions under this mandate.  Moreover, if a company’s mission is primarily religious and the majority of their employees and clients share that faith; religious institutions do NOT have to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees.  This mandate respects religion, but also keeps it rightfully out of public policy.   As said by Senator Barbara Boxer, “The truth is, the president's decision respects the diverse religious views of the American people, who deserve the right to follow their own conscience and choose whether to obtain contraceptives, regardless of where they work.”   
We must consider the women who work for faith-associated organizations but do not necessarily share in that faith.   Why should these women be penalized?   Virtually all women have used birth control at some point in their life (including over 90% of Catholic women).  The reality is that these women are most likely using birth control and would be denied of their right to preventative healthcare simply because of their place of employment.  Let’s not forget-this mandate isn’t only for contraception.  It provides necessary preventative healthcare on all levels, including annual exams and HIV screenings.  What’s more, Catholic Health and Human Services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, is imposing this ruling with the full support of Catholic vice president, Joe Biden.  Clearly, not all Catholics are appalled by this ruling.  In today’s society, we simply can’t turn a blind on to the needs of our people in the name of religious ideals.      
Birth control can cost up to $600/year.  Have we forgotten about those women and families that are struggling just to pay their bills from month-to-month?   Realistically, they do not have the spare $600 to protect themselves from unintended pregnancies.  In fact, one third of all women voters report struggling to pay for their birth control.   Not providing contraception leads to greater issues and larger costs.  Why not handle this preventatively—make birth control accessible!
From Arizona to Maine to New Orleans, Catholic Church leaders are urging their parishes to fight this “violation of their rights.”  They are demanding exemption for businesses owned by religious interests, such as hospitals, universities, insurance companies, and social service agencies.  They fail to see the importance and necessity of this mandate.  We are a country based on religious freedom and separation of church and state.  Let’s not further marginalize women by letting a widely unpracticed religious ideal subject woman to unintended pregnancy and severe health risks.  


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