A week after I wrote "Contraception should be covered by religious organizations," I'm still amazed that providing birth control benefits to women via a health insurance plan is controversial in the second decade of the twenty-first century.
This isn't the Dark Ages. The Catholic Church doesn't run the western world. Few people, and certainly not the United States Constitution, believe the Pope is infallible when he makes moral pronouncements.
So why should the Obama administration, or anyone else, take seriously the freak-out of religious fundamentalists over its decision to require faith-based organizations which employ members of the general public to cover a standard set of preventive services, including contraception, in their health insurance plans?
This already is required by 28 states. Lots of Catholic institutions already pay for birth control. Ninety-eight percent of Catholic women have used birth control, while only 2% use the ineffective rhythm method.
Contraceptive use by Catholics and Evangelicals—including those who attend religious services most frequently—is the norm, according to a new Guttmacher report. This finding confirms that policies making contraceptives more affordable and easier to use reflect the needs and desires of the vast majority of U.S. women and their partners, regardless of their religious beliefs.
“In real-life America, contraceptive use and strong religious beliefs are highly compatible,” says Rachel K. Jones, the report’s lead author. “Most sexually active women who do not want to become pregnant practice contraception, and most use highly effective methods like sterilization, the pill, or the IUD. This is true for Evangelicals and Mainline Protestants, and it is true for Catholics, despite the Catholic hierarchy’s strenuous opposition to contraception.”
It's an absurd controversy. The only reason it's being taken at all seriously is because a bunch of crazies have grouped together under a religious banner, which supposedly makes their craziness more credible.
Actually, it doesn't.
Being out of touch with reality is crazy whether one person or a million are doing it. There's nothing wrong with using birth control. In fact, there's a lot right with contraception. The Institute of Medicine has recommended that it be included among the preventive services available to women in the Affordable Care Act without deductibles or co-payments.
I don't know anyone who thinks using birth control is wrong. I bet even most religious people don't know anyone who thinks contraception is sinful. But the Pope does. As do the (male) leaders of the Catholic church.
Who cares? I sure don't.
People believe all kinds of weird things. Some religious crazies don't believe in blood transfusions. Others don't believe in using any sort of medical care. If I'm employed by an organization that serves the general public and gets government support, why should I be controlled by religious craziness that I don't believe in?
Gail Collins gets it right in her New York Times opinion piece.
This new rule on contraceptive coverage is part of the health care reform law, which was designed to finally turn the United States into a country where everyone has basic health coverage. In a sane world, the government would be running the whole health care plan, the employers would be off the hook entirely and we would not be having this fight at all. But members of Congress — including many of the very same people who are howling and rending their garments over the bishops’ plight — deemed the current patchwork system untouchable.
The churches themselves don’t have to provide contraceptive coverage. Neither do organizations that are closely tied to a religion’s doctrinal mission. We are talking about places like hospitals and universities that rely heavily on government money and hire people from outside the faith.
We are arguing about whether women who do not agree with the church position, or who are often not even Catholic, should be denied health care coverage that everyone else gets because their employer has a religious objection to it. If so, what happens if an employer belongs to a religion that forbids certain types of blood transfusions? Or disapproves of any medical intervention to interfere with the working of God on the human body?
Organized religion thrives in this country, so the system we’ve worked out seems to be serving it pretty well. Religions don’t get to force their particular dogma on the larger public. The government, in return, protects the right of every religion to make its case heard.