Ruminations on Religious & Reproductive Liberties of the Contraception Mandate

The San Francisco Chronicle had an informative editorial on Obama’s recent contraceptive mandate. But first, if you have not already seen it, here’s a take on the mandate that is definitely worth the watch-Stephen Colbert’s:


Now, if you did not watch it until the end, go’s smart and hilarious. But on to the serious–Brian Cahill, former executive director of Catholic Charities of San Francisco, thinks that the Obama administration’s “recent compromise” was an “appropriate response” to Catholic concerns about religious liberty because:

1. “Most Catholic organizations affected by the mandate found the compromise acceptable.” The major holdout: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

2. “The great majority of Catholics have long rejected church teaching on contraception.”

3. 95 percent of Catholic women of child-bearing age use contraception.

4. And this one, I was not aware: “28 states have had similar mandates in place for some time.”

Another view that is not out there enough (at least from what I have seen): Cahill thinks that the Conference “demanding an exemption from any employer who would have a ‘conscience’ problem with providing contraceptive coverage for employees” is the same as “forcing their religious belief on employees who do not share their belief.”

There might be a lot out there about this mandate violating religious liberty, but Cahill sees it as doing just the opposite–their stance turns religious liberty “on its head.”

Opposition to the mandate also violates women’s reproductive liberty.  The insurance may cover it, but it is up to every woman whether she wants to take the coverage or not.  Leave it up to women to choose to follow the Conference of Catholic Bishops–or like most, to not.

I have been more focused on the acceptance of the childfree decision as the last stand of reaching true reproductive liberty, but this issue reminds me that our society has not reached total acceptance of having the power to decide when you want to have kids. Amazing.

And so the opposition to the mandate still mounts.  Cahill contends that the real agenda of the Bishop Conference is to “stop any government health care mandate,” even though this ignores the fact that “affordable health care, including contraception, is the most effective way to significantly reduce abortion.”

Maybe Cahill is right–that in true pronatalist spirit, these bishops and other religious leaders in opposition don’t want any other body except themselves to have “the” say when it comes to reproduction. Thank goodness, that so far the law is not on their side.

What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Ruminations on Religious & Reproductive Liberties of the Contraception Mandate

  1. I find it fascinating (and greatly hypocritical) that the Right opposes contraception. They also oppose abortion, so shouldn’t they favor contraception because that would greatly reduce the need for abortions later on?

    This is all about men controlling the sex lives of women.

    And as an atheist, I find the religious freedom arguments appalling. The Right constantly marginalizes and insults atheists, using their so-called “Christian Privilege” to get ther way while asking the rest of us to sit down and be quiet.

    I get nervous whenever I hear the phrase, “Conscience clause” because it reminds me of a local story here back in the 1990s. There was a proposal to allow our local policeman to refuse to enforce mandatory buffer zones around abortion clinics (to keep the protesters away from those tryig to gain access to the clinics) if the officers were personally opposed to abortion. After much public outcry about this proposal, it was dropped. But just the idea of such a conscience clause angered me. [I get similarly angered when I hear about right-wing pharmacists refusing to dispense time-sensitive, over-the-counter medication to women who fear pregnancy from unprotected sex (i.e. from being raped).]

  2. Religious beliefs ought to be respected, as a practical matter, but not at the expense of providing inadequate health care. If we fail to provide good medical care because of a church’s stand on contraception, then where does it end?

    Much of our treatment of infectious diseases like the flu, and just about every infection, is based in part on the theory of natural selection, i.e., the theory of evolution. Antibiotics and the flu vaccine are designed with natural selection in mind, which is why you’re supposed to take your full course of antibiotics, to reduce the chance of creating resistant strains because, well, Darwin was right. If people also want to fight the evil theory of evolution, then no more funding for any antibiotics, no more flu vaccines, and no more epidemiology. In fact, if evolution isn’t true, then there’s no such thing as drug-resistant strains of bacteria. What a relief. Your doctors won’t need to wash their hands as often in an anti-evolution hospital. You won’t need a new flu shot every year.

  3. Laura, I think you’re absolutely correct in saying that the bishops who oppose the measure to make contraception more accessible to women by providing insurance coverage only want the CHURCH to make sexual and reproductive choices for all women. I also find their anti-contraception position totally reprehensible.

    Given to the catholic church’s opposition to contraception when it was first introduced in either the late 19th century or the early 20th (I confess I may not be correct on WHICH century), it is clear the RCC hierarchy hasn’t changed its position one bit. They still can’t stand the fact that women can decide for ourselves whether to be mothers or not or how many kids to have, for those who are parents. This is one of the many reasons I kicked the RCC and its toxic teachings over two decades ago.

    What the RCC is attempting to do is plain discrimination against women by trying to block access to contraception through insurance coverage. What’s even scarier is the number of politicians like Santorum and other right-wing conservatives who support it. I strongly feel that if any of those guys was elected President, especially Santorum, the right of women to be either childfree or DAO would be in serious jeopardy.

  4. There may be better options for this today, but in the recent past some women have been prescribed birth control pills not for birth control but for other reasons related to difficult periods, endometrial problems, etc. Refusing to cover birth control pills is also refusing to cover medicine that’s used for serious medical problems.

    If the rationale for this is that these drugs will still indirectly prevent conception, then these religious groups could then refuse to fund any of the hundreds of drugs that could have a negative effect on fertility. There goes any coverage for chemotherapy and radiation treatment – they seriously hamper a woman’s fertility. No more hysterectomies, even if one could save your life, because that might interfere with a pregnancy….

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