Stepping into the world of Social Work
In the news this week is a decision to celebrate – many religious employers will be required (in 2013) to cover birth control even if the particular faith opposes it.
While some feel this violates religious liberty, it is actually an excellent decision in support of individual liberty vs employer overreach. My employer, no matter what its views, has no business interfering with my medical decisions.
Most of the individuals employed by such employers are in purely secular positions. Catholic hospitals, for example, have many many positions which are not religious in nature, such as clerical, janitorial, technical, food service. I don’t even imagine all the medical staff (doctors and nurses) are expected to belong to the church. For that reason, their employer has no right to impose its views on their private life (and there is very little more private than medication).
An important factor such employers should also remember is that birth control pills have purposes other than contraception. A well-known example is that they can help solve menstrual bleeding, pain, and irregularity problems. For my employer to limit my doctor’s decision on that score is excessive. Would they also forbid my having a hysterectomy? What if my employer believes that epilepsy is caused by demonic possession – can they forbid the insurance company to cover anti-epileptic medication? Can they deny medical care related to pregnancy if I am not married?
You might say that I accepted such terms if I accepted a hypothetical position with a Catholic employer. I disagree. If I take a position delivering meal trays, billing, or mopping floors at Providence St. Joseph, I am not obligating myself to live as a Catholic.
I tend to be fairly moderate when it comes to employer expectations of employee personal lives. As a former teacher and current social work student, I can see how working for a religious employer would require great care in personal deportment while at work and in situations where you could be connected with your employer. But nobody other than my husband sees me take my medication every morning, and nobody other than my doctor and I get to decide what that medication is. While my employer has indeed contributed to the insurance plan which pays a portion of my medications, they do not have the right to make medical decisions on my behalf by excluding whole categories.
Perhaps those who are claiming their religious rights are violated can be comforted by seeing insurance more accurately. They are not buying their employees medication – they are paying for a particular level of coverage (usually shared between the employer and employee) and the EMPLOYEE is buying the medication. The assumption that the church is somehow buying birth control because a benefit plan covers them is absurd. It is equivalent to assuming that because my employer paid me my salary, any purchase I might make with it is still subject to their beliefs.
This has some personal interest to me, as I am seriously considering medical social work as my concentration, with the hope of working in a hospital once I am finished. An otherwise excellent Catholic hospital chain is dominant in this area, and I might have found myself applying there. I would not want to affiliate myself with any employer that would attempt to control my life and private medical decisions in such a manner.
I received a Kindle Fire for Christmas (by request) and thought I’d give some thoughts on it.
I wanted it most particularly for textbooks and journal articles for my MSW program. Carrying heavy books around is a bit annoying and the cost (in paper and ink) of printing out the journal articles assigned as supplementary reading had become too much. I had tried to load articles into my Ipod Touch, but it was just too small to be comfortable.
The Fire is a slight bit heavy, but not unreasonably so given its functions. Its size is just about right for the screen I need for reading. I can comfortably hold it on my knee or stomach or a table and read with my glasses on.
I was disappointed that Amazon tries to tie you into their store, rather than enabling the use of the other Android markets. But it is possible to bypass that.
One thing that really annoyed me was that the only textbook I needed to buy this semester, while promoted as a Kindle edition, was not compatible with my Kindle. But others will be in the future, I’m sure, and that’s more an Amazon issue than Kindle. I did have a textbook bought in Kindle format prematurely (I thought it would work on my Ipod Touch) which does work, and is still needed for this semester, so at least I have one textbook on Kindle. One class is also using a popular novel for analysis for the midterm, which was also no problem on this device.
Battery life seems to be OK for my type of use, reading things, checking e-mail, and playing games off and on during the day I haven’t had to charge it until after dinner.
I’m still getting the hang of reading journal articles on the Kindle, though it is certainly much better than on an Ipod. 🙂
I listened with interest to the story of Rick Santorum’s “flub” about “mak[ing] … people’s lives better by giving them someone else’s money.” He denies he intended to say “black” where my ellipsis is, so I’ll leave it to others to discuss that matter. But in my opinion, even without specifying any ethnic group, he’s wrong.
Our society is built on having a “commons” – various services and infrastructure that are paid for by all and available to all. Examples of the commons are roads, police, schools, firefighters, and many other services at the federal, state, and local level. These services take my tax money to make people’s lives better, and I happily contribute even to those from which I do not immediately benefit. For example, as a childless adult I do not have any children in public schools, but my tax money is paying for children to be educated and their lives will be better.
There are other programs where tax money goes more directly to someone in need, and I’m sure those are the programs Santorum is speaking of. These are the safety net programs – everything from food stamps to Medicare and some programs within Social Security. I’ll admit, good people can disagree about many aspects of these programs and their specific policies. I think we can also agree that the recipients of these programs need more than money if they are to become self-sufficient.
But for many folks, it is indeed money they need right now. To keep a roof over their heads, food for today and tomorrow, the light and water bills, whatever. Yes, I pay a certain amount in taxes to support these programs, so it is taking money out of my pocket to give to these folks. While I might grumble over my tax bill, it is the cost of living in an ethical society.
The idea of living in a community where people are starving at the same time I have a full stomach and freezing to death when I am warm and cozy is anathema to me. I know it still happens, even with the programs we do have, but at least I know we are doing something about it.
There are many improvements we can make to existing programs and policies, but I am perfectly comfortable with the idea that some of my tax money goes to make someone’s life better. I am very uncomfortable with the idea of a presidential candidate who issues such a blanket condemnation of an integral part of a modern society.