We no longer need to worry about U.S. Catholic bishops holding our right to affordable, no-cost contraceptives hostage in the name of “religious liberty,” thanks to the Obama administration’s new decision today to shift the cost of providing women with contraceptives to the insurance companies. Read RH Reality Check’s synopsis of today’s news.
This appears to be a win-win for both sides, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s gratifying to see the Obama administration remain firm in protecting and standing by women’s health for once. It preserves women’s expanded access to health care and allows religiously affiliated institutions to uphold and not compromise their antiquated, anti-woman beliefs.
What has concerned me about this intense debate in the past week is the argument that requiring Catholic universities and other institutions to cover their female employee’s birth control was an infringement on religious liberty and freedom. Last time I checked, religious liberty or freedom as enshrined in our Constitution, allows us to freely practice and follow the faith we choose without discrimination and government interference. Every faith has its core beliefs and teachings that make it undeniably Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. But it’s man-made rules, not holy, divine decrees, commandments and scriptures that control and dictate women’s reproductive choices.
I refuse to believe anything else when I see a small, elite group of celibate (I assume) Catholic bishops hold so fiercely to “church teachings” and ignore the reality that 98 percent of Catholics have widely used contraception (including myself, if you count lapsed Catholics). And never mind that Catholic hospitals and universities have had to provide contraceptive coverage for their Catholic and non-Catholic employees in 28 states. Oh, and having health plans that exclude services that only women use is discriminatory.
Anyway, I digress. For some religious folk, contraceptives will always be morally unacceptable. But what about the rest of us women who are religious, secular or atheist and don’t believe that controlling your fertility is a morally abominable act punishable by God? Is it not hypocritical that the small, mostly male minority of Catholic bishops who cry “religious liberty” are infringing on the rest of the faithful’s religious freedom to think otherwise by preventing them from getting the health care they need? Including the 98 percent of Catholic men and women who obviously don’t follow their church leaders’ teachings?
We live in a complex, multi-faith country where women have diverse, personal beliefs and faith about how best to make their reproductive decisions and futures. (And it’s worth pointing out that not all women who take oral contraceptives are taking it to prevent pregnancy. Women take birth control pills for a variety of hormonal and medical reasons.) If we’re going to argue and defend religious liberty and freedom, then a small, extreme group of right-wing Catholic bishops imposing their view of contraception and women’s bodies on the rest of us – 98% to be exact – is the opposite of religious freedom. It’s religious tyranny. My body is not your battleground for “religious liberty.”