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Contraception ruling sparks concerns

February 17, 2012

The Department of Health and Human Services has recently ruled that employers should be required to provide health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost, a mandate that has garnered heavy criticism, especially from the Catholic Church.

The new ruling would require insurance companies to provide preventative care to women as part of their health insurance plans and is basically an extension of a similar ruling already passed during the Bush administration that required corporations with 15 employees or more to provide birth control. However, the ruling has recently drawn the ire of the Catholic Church because the church fears the ruling will require Catholic institutions, such as hospitals and schools, to hand out birth control, something they are fundamentally against.

The mandate does not apply to religious institutions such as churches or mosques unless they employee a certain number of non-religiously-affiliated employees.

Historically, the church has thoroughly discouraged the use of birth control, even for married couples, with the exception of abstinence. The church nearly changed their stance on birth control in 1966 when Paul VI’s birth control commission voted overwhelmingly to lift the ban on birth control (due to mass complaints from women exhausted and financially strained after multiple births, as well as modernization issues), and was lifted for a short time, but was ultimately overturned and denied in the long run.

The Rev. Anthony Bernas of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church provided the Courier with a copy of the letter sent from the Office of the Bishop Diocese of Peoria on Jan. 24, 2012, to Catholic churches in the area. The letter was penned during an earlier draft of the ruling, though the church’s stance has not changed since further exceptions were made to the ruling.

The letter directly attacks the ruling, calling it an “intrinsic evil and mortal sin,” while urging its members to “oppose by every means at [their] disposal” this “unprecedented governmental assault upon the moral convictions of our Faith,” and “bigoted and blatant attack on the First Amendment rights of every Catholic believer.”

According to a research conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, a majority of Catholics are actually in favor of the ruling, despite the Catholic Church’s official condemnation of birth control use. As many as 52 percent of Catholics are in favor of the ruling.

The ruling and the wide support it has garnered from Catholics nationwide has also generated strong reactions from young Catholic women on the Monmouth College campus.

Junior Meg Grzenia, who identifies herself as a practicing Catholic said, “This seems a complete paradox to me. I understand that if, as a Catholic, you support birth control and all the services implied with Planned Parenthood, then you would most obviously back the new law-initiated service. If, however, you defend these elements, which are widely-known as conflicting issues of our faith, it seems appropriate that you should pay-out-pocket for them. It’s that simple.”

Senior Nina Teresi was more concerned with the political implications.

“I understand where Obama wants to go with his plan, but I think he is going about it in a bad way. I feel as though religious affiliated hospitals should have the right to choose whether or not they wish to hand out contraceptives and that public facilities, either state owned or federal owned, should be required to hand out contraceptives,” said Teresi.

“I hold my faith close to me, but over the years, I have interpreted the Catholic faith in my own way instead of their way. I follow certain beliefs but I also have opposite opinions of other beliefs,” said Teresi.

The ruling does not directly require the hospitals themselves to distribute birth control, nor was president Obama directly involved in the ruling, though the department is part of his administration. The mandate would, however, require the insurance companies that cover hospital employees to offer fully covered birth control as part of their health care package; these companies operate independently of Catholic institutions such as schools and hospitals. Because of this, the insurance companies would contact the women directly and could do so without the explicit knowledge or approval of the institution.

Emery Johnson-Miles, a sophomore who is a registered distributor for the Great American Condom Campaign, critiqued the church’s stance.

“Women’s bodies are constantly a battleground for political bull s—. For me, birth control is a basic human right, and what I cannot wrap my mind around is the fact that, even though the conservative right is anti-abortion, they aren’t willing to allow contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies, which would lower the number of abortions,” said Johnson-Miles.

Whatever the outcome may be, the debate has opened discussions on campus in forums both inside and outside of class. “If there’s one thing that we can take away from this whole fiasco, it’s that we need to create a constructive dialogue in order to make the world more functional. Part of this is discussing sexual health,” said Johnson-Miles.

Sarah Zaubi
Features Editor

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One Response to Contraception ruling sparks concerns

  1. Gerald Grzenia

    February 17, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Good article including both sides of the religious tone of the debate. However, what about the fact that this edict is unconstitutional? There’s not much debate for that observation.

    Some good references –
    “The new HHS rule represents a radical departure from the traditional treatment of religious organizations in America,” says Horace Cooper of the National Center for Public Policy Research. “If the White House doesn’t overturn this regulation, the Courts will.”

    “No American, employer or worker, should be forced to choose between their religious precepts and obedience to the law,” added Cooper. “It’s beyond bizarre to argue that the only way to ensure that the ‘morning after’ pill or other abortifacients are available is to force religious organizations to pay for them.”