Religion should not impede birth control
Published: Sunday, February 19, 2012
Updated: Sunday, February 19, 2012 15:02
Near the end of last semester, I wrote a column for the Central Florida Future titled "Birth control should be a woman's choice." As the title alludes, the article revolved around the decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to require health insurance plans to cover preventative care for women. This meant that the Affordable Care Act's promise of providing insured women with birth control and no co-pay would actually become a reality. The decision sounded close to perfect — and too good to be true.
Well, that's probably because it was. Along with its pro-women decision, HHS incorporated a refusal clause for religious employers. So, a nonprofit organization that has "inculcation of religious values as its purpose," and that primarily employs and serves people who share those same religious tenants, is exempt from providing these benefits to female employers, according to www.hrsa.gov. Ergo, if you are a non-Catholic student at a predominantly Catholic university, you may not have a chance to receive benefits that cover the co-pay for your birth control.
Obviously a refusal clause toward birth control angered me, and I wasn't the only one. Women from across the country expressed outrage toward the decision, and many flooded the White House with letters and telephone calls. Indeed, the refusal clause (and its expansion) was discriminatory in nature. Sure, the Catholic faith typically endorses abstinence only and discourages the use of contraception, but how can we just assume that every employee of a religious organization feels the same?
In fact, last April, research showed that nearly 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women have used some form of contraception that is traditionally banned in their church. This means that women, despite their religion, are having sex, and many do not want to become pregnant.
Now, fast forward to February when President Barack Obama announced his decision to eliminate the refusal clause. In its place, a new compromise was reached. Instead of religious employers providing free contraception services, the responsibility would be shifted to the health insurance companies. This was a compromise that the White House along with Catholic organizations and well-known women organizations all agreed on.
We thought that this would be the climactic end to a yearlong battle over birth control, but in reality, it was only the beginning. With Obama's decision came congressional legislation overriding it. You can thank our Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for sponsoring S. 2043, also known as the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" that would essentially expand the refusal clause to any employer who opposes contraception, according to the Huffington Post.
And then just last week, Rep. Darrell Issa, chair of the House Government Oversight Committee, hosted an inquiry into the birth control subject. His hearing was titled "Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?" The panel featured five individuals testifying on contraception — all of whom were men. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a member of the committee, summed up the hearing best when she asked the panel, "Where are the women?"
My question to you is: Since when did the war on women suddenly become a war on religion? Birth control is a justice issue and saves families money. It is preventative care and respects others to make important life decisions for themselves. And perhaps most importantly, it prevents unintended pregnancies, which will in turn prevent abortions.
Religion should play no part in our birth control, and it shouldn't play a part in our politics either. Birth control is a woman's choice, and I stand strong with that choice.