Stepping into the world of Social Work

Contraception is not about women?

I’m personally outraged by some of the rhetoric I hear about the contraception debate, not only from Catholic groups but also at least one of the presidential candidates. THEY are trying to reframe the debate to their taste while not realizing that they are demanding the “right” to trample the health of millions of women.

First, there is no way this can be about anything but women. It is the woman who would decide to obtain that prescription, fill it, and take it each day. It is the woman who would bear the consequence if she was unable to obtain affordable contraception and became pregnant.

An individual accepting a position at a Catholic church or diocese – at any level – would almost certainly be an adherent of the faith, and the small number of exceptions would be people who are willing to accept special strictures. I have absolutely no problem with this, and I doubt anybody else does either. Churches are exempt from a number of employment laws, and may choose employees based on faith affiliation.

The Catholic Church, in addition to their houses of worship and official church structure has also chosen to run some community service agencies, such as hospitals, adoption agencies and universities. (I won’t discuss elementary and high schools, as many elementary schools are certainly directly connected with a specific parish, and high schools may or may not be.)

While these are wonderful contributions to the community, they are separate from the Church in many ways. First, their primary purposes are NOT religious, they are agencies which have the purposes of aiding some specific aspect of their community (health, child welfare, higher education). While some connection to the church might remain, most of the work of the agency is secular.

Hospitals are also large employers, with the only employees absolutely needing to be Catholic reporting to the department of the chaplain. Those who mop the floors, cook and serve food, administer blood tests, take x-rays, handle administrative tasks, and even the nurses are hired on merit, not religion. Their jobs are identical to their peers at any other hospital. The same thing goes for universities – thousands of employees doing secular jobs that are identical to what they would be doing at any other university.

Nobody’s religious freedom is being harmed. The Catholic church is only being required to accept that since their hospitals and universities are not part of their religious mission, they fall subject to a number of secular regulations. One of them is the new definition of what a comprehensive health insurance plan looks like. If they do not wish to offer comprehensive health plans, there are consequences.

Particularly after the compromise, this really starts to look ridiculous. Since health insurance companies typically consider contraception to be a pretty standard prescription to cover, they weren’t giving discounts for plans that didn’t cover it. So covering it free isn’t a big deal for insurance companies. But some bigwig Catholic males are still throwing a tantrum because some food service worker, administrative assistant, nurse, or  English professor might obtain contraceptive medication on the insurance policy they receive as part of their compensation. This is as silly as trying to dictate what an employee might buy with their salary.

The real violation of religious liberty is this: that food service worker and English professor aren’t Catholic. They don’t have to be Catholic simply because they took positions with a Catholic hospital or university.  The nurse does happen to be Catholic, but has a medical condition that is best treated with the same pills. Each of them has the right to decide, with her doctor, what her health requires and what her beliefs are in terms of artificial birth control. In all of these cases (and even if the employee is Catholic but chooses not to follow church teachings in this regard) it is an unacceptable violation of THEIR rights to have their employer exclude an important aspect of women’s health from coverage.

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3 responses to “Contraception is not about women?

  1. trutherator February 22, 2012 at 5:33 am

    My reply is here:

    Robbing Patricia to pay for Paula, when it’s for something that goes against Peter’s religious beliefs, does not believe in, is not only a violation of Patricia’s religious freedom, but a violation of freedom in general.

    Accepting government power over your own purse to support your own religious idea that Idea X is not a religious idea, is accepting government power to suppress X.

    Golden Rule Government says, if you don’t want government to rob your money to support a religion that bans contraception as doctrine, then you don’t want government to rob your neighbor’s money to support contraception.



    • kepdavis February 22, 2012 at 7:43 am

      It’s even simpler than that.

      Peter, in running a business in the United States, has to accept certain laws regarding his conduct as an employer. He cannot, for example, decide that his faith disapproves of the minimum wage, workweek/working hour regulations, or workplace safety laws. Since he is not running a church, he cannot claim religious exemption.

      In attempting to fix the health care mess in this country, we are working to define what a comprehensive medical plan looks like. Companies that do not provide such a plan are skimping on their employees and costing the taxpayers money when these employees end up requiring government assistance for untreated medical issues. It has been determined that a comprehensive medical insurance plan includes coverage for contraceptive medication. This is a secular decision, similar to deciding that employers must allow certain rest breaks. Some employers (small ones, actual churches) are exempt, but a university or hospital that simply happens to be associated with a church are quite properly not exempt.

      And it isn’t robbing anyone when Paula needs the medication to treat an ovarian condition or any other condition treated by the same medications. The last statistic I saw was that 14% of prescriptions for contraceptive medication were to treat existing medical problems. That demonstrates a clear medical need for the insurance coverage. Peter doesn’t have the right to make medical decisions for Patricia or Paula, he is just expected to provide a comprehensive medical plan and let them use it as they and their doctors decide, he isn’t permitted to know why.

  2. Matthew Phillips February 22, 2012 at 8:02 am

    One of the best things I’ve seen written on the topic (and I’ve been reading a lot on it lately). Maybe actually the best. It seems like you answered all the points in a very methodical way.

    Well DONE!

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