published Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

A battle over birth control

The clash between medical and scientific findings and those who disregard those findings for political, cultural or religious values is nowhere more potent than that over women's reproductive rights. That's long been the case with abortion per se. But given current data about the medical efficacy of customary forms of birth control -- and it's related reductions in the numbers of abortion and unplanned pregnancies and the general health of women across our society -- it's hard to see why new health care reform regulations that call for free contraception services under health insurance plans should be controversial.

But they are. The controversy at the moment is driven by the Catholic Church, which is now raising protests over a requirement to extend insurance coverage for contraception for non-religious employees in affiliated institutions. The church's cause is being taken up by hard-right Republicans who see another wedge issue angle that may be used to expand their social conservative umbrella to a new contingent.

The controversy springs from an appeal to the rule that Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius unveiled last August. She pointed out that exemptions would be made for employees of churches and other places of worship. But she noted that the rule would cover the general employees of hospitals, universities, charitable organizations and a range of other bodies that commonly hire a diverse group people of different faiths or beliefs who were not linked with the employers' religious affiliation.

Such employees, like those in our broader society, she said, will be included under the new insurance requirement covering free preventive care and birth control, without co-pays and deductibles. The Catholic Church, which oversees a number of Catholic universities and hospitals, appealed for a far-reaching exemption. The Obama administration announced last week that it would not grant that appeal.

It made the right decision. The rule was adopted on the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine, an independent organization, following studies and research that document the broad value of birth control services. It found that medical birth control services are more than a convenience. Rather, they are a medical necessity for "women's health and well-being."

The Institute pointed to research, in 2008, that showed nearly half of all pregnancies in the country were unplanned, and that 42 percent of unplanned pregnancies ended in abortion. Those rates reversed as use of birth control went up: both unintended pregnancies and abortions went down.

It further showed that women with unintended pregnancies who did not get abortions suffered higher rates than normal of depression and engaged in behaviors -- smoking, alcohol, drugs and inattention to prenatal care -- that increased the risk of harm to fetuses. When birth control was made available, pregnancies were more likely to be appropriately spaced and abortions averted.

Birth control, even for women with medical conditions that improved from contraceptive therapies, often remains financially out of reach for the women who most need it. Students and lower-wage employees without health insurance coverage for contraception too often get pregnant, or go without needed contraception therapies, simply because they cannot afford the cost of doctor's appointment and prescription for contraceptives.

Reversing that circumstance would provide a significant, humane service in the real world. Even among members of the Catholic faith, studies show that 98 percent of active Catholic women in the broader community use contraceptives, despite their church's doctrine. Given such findings, provision of contraception hardly seems to contradict adherents' religious values. Health insurance policies in public institutions should respect that.

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HighFastHard said...

Will someone please make a ten paragraph post which includes lots of bible verses (in a pathetic attempt to make their opinion seem more credible and worth considering.) Who cares....

January 31, 2012 at 10:41 a.m.
WendyLohr said...

Forcing people to do what they consider evil is "the right decision"? Interfering with religious establishments, contrary to the 1st Amendment, is "the right decision"? Imposing your values on people of a different religion in a country where alternatives abound is "the right decision"? We (Wendy and Andrew Lohr) don't agree with the Roman Catholic position, but I (Andrew) think tyranny a worse mistake than the RCs are making, and taking power from the 99% to give the D.C. 1% more power over our lives is wrong.

January 31, 2012 at 6:33 p.m.
lkeithlu said...

The Catholic Church most likely uses large insurance corporations to provide the employees of their hospitals and universities with comprehensive health insurance. No one. NO ONE. is forcing Catholics to use it (98% do; something the church is teaching ain't stickin') Making it available is not forcing people to use it. If the Catholic Church is so opposed to birth control, let them excommunicate the 98%. That ought to take care of the problem, right?

This should be applauded by everyone who is supposedly "pro life".

January 31, 2012 at 6:38 p.m.

As a practioner of a religion, you do not have to engage in any particular conduct. This isn't about that. This is about making others behave according to your standards.

But what right do you have to force somebody to behave according to your religion just because they work for you?

The tyrants, WendyLohr, are those who want the ability to decide what others will do, not because of any practical or rational concerns that fall under reasonable terms of scrutiny, but out of faith and religious belief.

If you wish to argue that I should or should not do something, fine, but don't try to make it a condition of employment unless it can survive strict scrutiny under clearly objective terms. In this case, either way somebody's freedom is going to be imposed upon. Or do you think a person should not be free to get appropriate insurance coverage through their employer?

I'd rather not make my religious beliefs cause somebody else harm. Why do you think others should be able to make choices for me?

January 31, 2012 at 7:10 p.m.
acerigger said...

JonRoss,you and the rest of the right-wingers need to find out just what "marxism"is! (hint)it aint Pres. Obama.

January 31, 2012 at 9:59 p.m.

No, JR it is not. This is why i dislike it when people quote part of a post, you seemed to have missed the part where I covered rational scrutiny. You an individual do not have to use birth control or contraceptives for whatever reason you want. You are free to behave as you wish. You can behave as to yourself according to your own standards. If you were running a religion, then your secular employees, however, can't be made to be subject to it. Why? Because the rest of society doesn't agree with it, any more than say Christian Scientists get away with not offering medical care to children, or Jehovah's Witnesses having insurance that doesn't cover blood transfusions. We, as a society, have decided not to give you the freedom to take that from others. We demand substantive objective reasoning to persuade us.

Either you are free to be a tyrant, or I am free of your tyranny. I pick the latter because I recognize what a foolish appeal it is to say somebody should get a job elsewhere. I've known way too many people who were not free to do that because they needed what the join offered them, including the insurance. So they took unpaid overtime, slogged through unsafe conditions, or tolerated abuse.

What would you do for them? Or will you just mouth your empty adage that only appeals to the false pride of self-reliance? I do not find that persuasive, it doesn't work out in the idealistic version it would need to be for it not to cost more freedom than it grants.

Btw, the considered and reasoned decision in this case is not a whim. Try at least being accurate with your objections.

If you really want a solution, fine, National Healthcare system. Problem solved. Now nobody has to have a healthcare plan by any other organization than the nation. If you don't like that? So what, this has never been a country ruled by absolute assent anyway. There's several dozen things I don't approve of in the current budget. When are you going to free mine from that oppression? Do you even care?

January 31, 2012 at 11:32 p.m.
librul said...

..."the only thing I see religion doing in the public sector is gay bashing and telling women, mostly poor and desperate and in deplorable financial and personal situations, what to do with their bodies. I see busybodies deciding what drugs they can dispense to which customers, or deciding that they don’t have to issue a marriage license because of some petty deity that I don’t believe in told them to hate their fellow citizens and ignore the law. In a country in dire financial straits but still spending billions and billions of dollars on education, I see religious folks actively and openly working to make our schoolkids dumber. I see them shooting people who provided a medical procedure, and I see others rummaging through people’s personal lives to find out who hasn’t lived up the word of God. I see glassy-eyed fools running for President claiming that vaccines that save lives actually cause cancer, or that if you get raped and are pregnant, you should just lie back and think of Jeebus and make the best of a bad situation. In fact, everywhere you look these days, if Christianity or religion is getting a mention, it means something ugly is happening and someone somewhere is being victimized, marginalized, or otherwise abused. Go read some of the arguments against integration and you’ll see the same bible verses used today against homosexuals. Fifty years from now, they’ll be recycling them again to trash someone else they don’t like or who isn’t good enough for them."

February 1, 2012 at 8:26 a.m.
tipper said...

JonRoss: Have you looked under your bed lately? See any Marxists or tyrants, or are they just dust-bunnies masquerading as evil-doers? Spooky.

February 1, 2012 at 4:12 p.m.
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