The political debate between the Obama Administration and the Catholic Church on the contraception mandate is an argument that I’ve hesitated to touch on given the sensitivity of this issue. The mandate requires employers to provide healthcare that includes free contraception. As a woman growing up in a Christian based household, I can relate to both sides, which argue on whether the rule affects the “religious liberties” of the Catholic Church or women’s reproductive freedom.
I am a firm believer in finding ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies especially after being raised in a time when sex was openly discussed and exposed to children at an early age through music and television—even some cartoons mentioned the topic. The prevalence of sex-related topics in school and at home made sexual abstinence difficult to maintain as a teenager, so I could imagine how it is for teens today. Then, there is the idea of using contraceptives to save money in healthcare costs, which is President Obama and his administration’s intention. (A recent study shows that the costs for births from unintended pregnancies exceeded a half billion dollars in 2006).
However, some Catholic leaders and GOP presidential candidates like Rick Santorum believe that sex should be preserved for marriage, similar to the Christian belief. The mandate has drawn a storm of negative criticism from Stantorum and other conservatives who say that a federal requirement to pay for contraceptives is an attack on religious liberty and is morally offensive. In response, Obama and his administration have compromised on coverage requirements to religious advocates who disagree with paying for contraceptives. President Obama stated “that the church’s and church administrations were exempt from paying for birth control and the insurance companies who offer their coverage would be required to offer contraceptives directly to employees at no additional cost.” He made it clear that the U.S Department of Health and Human Services would require insurance companies, not employers, to pay for the coverage. However, all employers even religious affiliated intuitions such as universities, hospitals, and charities will have to comply. Even after the shift, President of the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops Timothy Dolan is still unsatisfied. He says the only solution to the birth control insurance rule is to rescind the mandate. But would that really be the best move?
A statement that I read in a story, Republican hearing on contraceptives was dumb politics, in the Los Angeles Times sums up the answer of why offering free contraceptives would be more of a realistic approach:
“Maybe among the rhetorical “American people” for whom conservative congressmen always claim to speak, birth control is a wicked thing that leads to promiscuity and wanton pleasure, but among the actual human beings who live in this country, contraceptives are more popular than apple pie.”
This is true. I’m certainly not promoting premarital sex, partly, because of the risk of contracting an STD. (one of the reasons some Catholics oppose the mandate). But if these old ways have been proven unsuccessful than it’s time to consider an alternative route in solving these problems. Offering free contraceptives just may cut the number of STD cases and unwanted pregnancies resulting in single parent families. What about married women? should their reproductive liberty be compromised? Controlling women’s reproductive freedom as a way to solve these problems is only limiting their freedom of choice. God himself gave everyone free will. No matter what a group’s moral beliefs are, forcing those beliefs on others won’t solve the problem. It never has.
Other Democrats feel strongly about keeping the mandate in place pointing out that women use contraceptives for medical purposes as well.
“It is our clear understanding from the administration that the president believes as we do, and the vast majority of the American women should have access to birth control,” said Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., “It’s medicine, and women deserve their medicine.”
In conclusion, offering free contraceptives would benefit women who choose to use them. Officials and politicians are becoming too involved in women’s personal lives by imposing their beliefs on them. Instead, premarital sex prevention techniques and educational material on the risks of premarital sex should be presented to the public, leaving the personal choice of reproduction up to the women not the politicians.
President Obama Birth Control Compromise Divides Catholic Leaders (huffingtonpost.com)
“Why the Contraception Mandate Matters” (aclu.org)