Bishops’ Health Care Far From “Universal”


This post first appeared on the Huffington Post.

Yesterday an article by Dan Gilgoff appeared in the U.S. News World Report titled "Bishops Demand Universal Healthcare Without Abortion." Does
anyone else see the irony in the U.S. bishops wanting to define
universal health care as covering everything except for what they don’t
support? Under this theory, I suppose women are supposed to wait to see
just exactly how the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops comes down on
a variety of health care needs to understand what in fact will be
considered universal. Since when does universal health care mean
denying comprehensive reproductive health care supported by the
majority of Americans?

Under a "God & Country" header, Mr. Gilgoff’s article reports on
the ongoing demands by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to
eliminate the legally protected right to abortion from the American
health care system, but doesn’t bother to mention all the other
positions of the U.S. Conference: the bishops agree with Pope Benedict
that condoms can worsen the AIDS pandemic in Africa; that contraception should not be covered under most health plans and that it is not basic health care; and argue that emergency contraception will not reduce either the need for abortion or unintended pregnancy.
Seems that, if the U.S. Conference had its way, the national health
care system would make American women second-class citizens and deny
them access to benefits they currently have.

The danger, of course, is not simply that the bishops are pushing to
erode decades of legal access to contraception and abortion in America.
Their hard-line opposition to women’s rights also endangers millions of
women around the globe — where women also need universal health care
access. The effort to criminalize access to safe abortion endangers
most women in the developing world — the very women that you would
think the bishops would be concerned about. Each year, an estimated 19 million women
primarily in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean — resort to
unsafe abortions. Globally, an estimated 68,000 women die each year as
a consequence, and more than five million each year suffer temporary or
permanent disability — including the inability to have a future
healthy pregnancy.

The root cause of unsafe abortion is unintended pregnancy, a result
of the lack of affordable and accessible contraception for women. The
correlation between higher contraceptive use and lower maternal
mortality is well established.

We have an opportunity this year to fundamentally address serious
health care issues for women and young people in America, and we stand
ready to partner with President Obama and Congress to find solutions to
our most pressing health care issues. The United States continues to
have some of the highest rates of unintended and teen pregnancy among
the world’s most developed countries, and now epidemic rates of
sexually transmitted infections among our teens. If we did our job
right in expanding access to contraception, we’d see a lower abortion
rate in America, just like in most other developed nations.

I’d welcome the bishops’ commitment to focus on these "universal"’
problems, rather than continue to fight to diminish a woman’s right to
make personal decisions that should be kept between her and her doctor.

We call upon Congress and the White House to continue to stand firmly on the side of women in health care reform. Women are needed to pass health care reform – and we are not going backwards and we are not going away.

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  • nikolasr

    Health care is the plan solution for this horrible problem regarding abortion. It is right to give health care for the medical safety of people. But this would be a mortal crime if used for women to continue their practice of aborting child on their wombs. Abortion is a very dangerous way ease the mistake done. According to this information more or less 68 million women die because of abortion. After health care issue, what’s next? Check this out! Reality Check

  • larry-j

    Does anyone else see the irony in the U.S. bishops wanting to define universal health care as covering everything except for what they don’t support?

    I think that their defining “universal” as excluding abortion is no more or less ironic than Cecile Richards defining “health care” as including abortion.

  • frolicnaked

    It is right to give health care for the medical safety of people…  Abortion is a very dangerous way ease the mistake done.

     

    If safety is the goal, then access to medically supervised abortion is actually really important. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the risk of death from abortion in the U.S. is only 10% as large as the risk of death associated with childbirth. It’s where safe abortion is restricted — illegal or inaccessible to a lot of people — that the risk of complications is hundreds of times higher. 

     

    From the data currently available, it actually looks like making abortion inaccessible to people will serve to endanger their health as well as add to overall health care costs. 

  • jgbeam

    .. the Bishops to turn pro-choice? I don’t think so. As long as any health care reform includes abortion funding, and present proposals include it by not excluding it, the Bishops will object. I am disappointed, however, that they are so timid in expressing their disapproval. BTW, Pope Benedict XVI is right on all accounts.

    Jim Grant, Pro-lifer

  • edward-craig

    I guess it’s a compromise that they didn’t include birth control in the ban. Perhaps only an oversight?

  • colleen

    I guess it’s a compromise that they didn’t include birth control in the ban.

    If you read the links in the article you’ll see that they’re just as opposed to any woman, Catholic or not, having access to effective contraceptives and, of course, opposed to rape victims having access to emergency contraception as they ever were.
    Equally predictably they enthusiastically back Viagra and, presumably, other ED drugs.

    The only difference between the American anti-abortion movement and the Taliban is about 8,000 miles.

    Dr Warren Hern, MD

  • crowepps

    I think it’s extremely ironic, since ‘Catholic’ actually is a word that MEANS universal and yet historically the Church has spent a tremendous amount of energy identifying and excluding heretics and apostates.  Their definition of ‘universal health care’ is totally congruent with their definition of ‘universal Christianity’ – inclusive only of those who agree 100% with the tenets imposed by the heirarchy and harshly punitive toward everyone who does not.

  • savannah

    This is only my personal opinion, but I think that churches that openly preach or have certain political agenda’s should lose their tax-exemption status. Maybe through that we can afford to replenish the education systems budget, pay for this new health care system that Obama is proposing, and help provide access to women and men to free contraceptives such as birth control and condoms. What on earth would this country look like if we didn’t have abortion? How many more people each year would we add to our population? We’re concerned about global warming, emissions from the “gass guzzling” automobiles, and telling people how to live their life behind closed and private doors. What happened to church and state being seperate?

  • frolicnaked

    I’m not sure how much of it is expecting bishops to support pro-choice items. However, it would be nice if they at least admitted that it’s not "universal" health care if it doesn’t cover key services for a significant portion of the population.

  • julis

    That’s really ridiculous! How can the bishops be so openly biased? Want to cover everything except for those that they don’t support. Now, it wouldn’t be universal anymore if it doesn’t cover the interest of certain groups right?

  • last-minute-reise

    Catholic church is to deal with caution. Churches in general do many good things for poor people but you also come to the conclusion that they are very conservative and it seams that they have no ear for young people and their wishes. This is only my own opinion.

  • larry-j

    I find it extremely ironic that you consider abortion health care at all.  Pregnancy is not a disease and terminating a life is not a cure.

  • julie-watkins

    I’d like to remind anyone who thinks pregnancy isn’t a disease so pregnant women shouldn’t acting as if they have a problem …

    From Nature’s [sexist] point of view, an individual woman’s life is fungable — as long as enough women survive enough pregnancie to perpetuate the species. So course of evolution became an interplay of "big enough brain to have an advantage" and "small enough brain at birth not to kill the mother". It may not be a disease, but it is

      still dangerous. Maternal deaths in childbith range from 1 in 5000 to 1 in 20 birth, the world average being 1 in 250.

      Another point for consideration: injury less than death is still injury. Harm less than permanent handicap is still harm.

      Julie

  • jgbeam

    I believe the Bishops do favor universal health care for all but how can you call a service "health care" if it requires ending another person’s life?  That, as briefly as can be stated, is the issue.

    Jim Grant, Pro-lifer

  • jgbeam

    Access is not the issue, imo.  Promotion of contraception is.  Access is plentiful.  If the goal is to reduce the number of abortions, contraception is not the answer.  "54% of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant." (Guttmacher).  Seems logical to conclude that the more widespread contraception becomes the greater the number of abortions will be.  Why promote contraception if it leads to more abortions?  "8% of women who have abortions have never used a method of birth control." (Guttmacher). 

    Jim Grant, Pro-lifer

  • jgbeam

    There is a growing interest within the Catholic Church to get rid of tax-free status so that the Church can have a voice.  The Bishops, to my chagrin, hold back from forceful preaching for fear of interference from state authority.  As to what this country would look like if we didn’t have abortion I can only say that we will never know, but you see people as parasites, the fewer the better, and I see them as contributors, the more the better. 

     

    Jim Grant, Pro-lifer

  • jgbeam

    .. of the Catholic Church.   From the Pope on down, young people are held as the great hope for building the Church in faith and in numbers.  But if you are expecting the Church to relax its standards and morals to satisfy the wishes of today’s average teenager, look for another church.

    Jim Grant, Pro-lifer

  • jayn

    You’d have to prove that not promoting contraception would result in less sex happening.  Sex with contraception results in a pregnancy far less often than sex without contraception.

  • colleen

    From Nature’s [sexist] point of view, an individual woman’s life is
    fungable — as long as enough women survive enough pregnancie to
    perpetuate the species.

     

     This is also true of the anti-abortion movement and the Catholic church and many of the conservatives (male and female) who post here.. 

     

     

    The only difference between the American anti-abortion movement and the Taliban is about 8,000 miles.

    Dr Warren Hern, MD

  • paul-bradford

    … you won’t make an issue of funding abortions.

     

    There are plenty of conservatives who want to sink Health Care Reform and, to them, the abortion dustup is simply an excuse to speak out against an idea they don’t want anyway.

     

    As Gilgoff’s excellent commentary points out, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops holds that access to adequate health care is a basic human right, no less than life is.  Their position is far removed from the Republican position which is that we shouldn’t have Universal Health Care in any case.

     

    It is sad that so many people conflate access to abortion services with women’s health.  Is it really so hard to believe that women’s health can be maintained without putting the health and the life of others at risk?  The person who claims that women can remain healthy only if certain people lose their lives is preaching a gospel of hopelessness. 

     

    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • paul-bradford

    From Nature’s [sexist] point of view, an individual woman’s life is fungable

     

    Julie,

     

    Nature (and by that I assume you mean ‘Natural Selection’) has no ‘point of view’, sexist or otherwise.  It neither values nor devalues life.  It simply is.  You might as well say that gravity is sexist.  

     

    Darwinian evolution is an elegant explanation for biodiversity.  It has no goal or purpose.  It’s definitely not picking on you!

     

    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • stacee84

    Seems logical to conclude that the more widespread contraception becomes the greater the number of abortions will be.

     

    That is not logical at all. Jayn is right.  Correlation is not causation.  It is entirely possible that women (like conservative Catholics) who are less likely to use birth control are also less likely to choose to have an abortion.  That doesn’t mean that reducing the availability of contraception to all of the other women would make them less likely to choose to have an abortion- but it does make it more likely that they’ll become pregnant.  Just think it through.

  • stacee84

    I’ve been suggesting on another thread that even though women’s reproductive choice is important, it is only one aspect of health care- and we’re better off with 90% success than nothing.  That’s not a very popular position, but I think it is the realistic one.  We don’t want women to go into debt to pay for abortions- but there are so many other health care trahedies that we want to avoid, that I think we might just have to swallow a bitter pill for the welfare of the uninsured who need all of the other kinds of health care.

  • frolicnaked

    … a legal abortion in the U.S. is safer for the adult woman than is childbirth.

     

    Carrying a pregnancy to term is not a disease, no, but it does pose risks. To some women, those risks are considerable, and for all women, they should be risks that a woman may choose to accept — or not — voluntarily. 

  • julie-watkins

    But the end result is still results in sexual discrimination. Especially when human communities (and individuals & communities *can* have agendas) magnify the sexism by saying "that’s the way it is" and taking advantage.  I mostly wanted to make the point that it’s not fair to presume biology will be fair, so don’t complain if you don’t like it. Specifically, the clueless comment about how pregnancy isn’t a disease, implying women were silly to consider it a problem. Anthropomorphizing was a clearer way, I thought, to describe the process that — without any bad intent — the unfortunate outcome of making a natural biological process (childbirth) significantly more dangerous in humans than  in many (most?) other species.

  • eternalskeptic

    Ms. Richards appears to be equivocating on the word “universal.” “Universal” health care refers to health care for all citizens, not *all* procedures. Controversial and downright unethical procedures performed for psychosocial reasons should have no place under this plan. These would include not just non-medically indicated abortion, but also what the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists refers to as “maternal choice cesareans” and “elective” inductions performed for “psychosocial” reasons. It would be equally absurd for universal health care to cover female genital mutilation, which many women of other cultures are requesting by *choice.*
    http://www.amnestyusa.org/violence-against-women/female-genital-mutilation–fgm/page.do?id=1108439
    (We could argue these women be better off if it were “safe and legal” and done by doctors).

    Incidentally, a number of Catholic Church leaders are courageously pushing for a single-payer system. As such, they are advocating for much greater strides in health care reform than any of those insurance-funded members of Congress who have the gall to label themselves as “progressives” while pushing for this latest “reform lite.”

  • eternalskeptic

    This post appears to be a patent admission that women are by nature biologically inferior creatures.  At least we have a male-dominated squadron of abortionists to rescue us via corrective surgery.  Our feminist foremothers fought so hard to debunk this mythology of biological inferiority that it’s a shame to see it resurface on this site.    

     

    (Edited for spelling)

  • ahunt

    Not following. How does recognizing the social context of biological reality suggest an admission of biological inferiority?

  • jgbeam

    "You’d have to prove that not promoting contraception would result in less sex happening." 

    The proof is probably out there, but in absence of such proof, would you agree that promoting contraception results in more sex? I believe that this is an undeniable truth which supports my contention.

     

    Jim Grant, Pro-lifer

  • jayn

    No, I would not agree.  So you’re going to have to prove it.  Good luck.

     

    Edit: You’re also forgetting that contraception isn’t necessarily jsut for intercourse.  It can also be useful for other sexual acts to prevent disease spread.

  • savannah

    Wow Jim – I didn’t know that you were such a fantastic mind reader; because no where in my post, did I say that I had a view that people were parasites. You my friend could be a dung-beatle perhaps? You may say that you see people at contributors, and the more the better; however, how do you expect to help pay for all of these "contributors"? Abortion goes hand in hand with family planning. Pro-lifers claim constantly that abortion is used as a way of escaping a "mistake". I’m sorry, sometimes condoms don’t work, sometimes birth control doesn’t work, sometimes some people just can’t afford either of those 2 and result to other methods, and so on and so forth.  But what it comes down to, is that if women do not feel that "now" is the right time to start a family, for whatever the reason, then that is exactly how it should be. So even though your view is that these people are "contributors", until they can start contributing back to society, someone, such as their parents, has to pay for them. The funds just don’t magically appear.

    Furthermore, when you grow a man-gina and a uterus, then I think you should be allowed to speak on behalf of women and their reproductive rights. Until then, stay out of it and don’t tell me and others what to do with our bodies. You don’t own it. We do.

     

    "If you can’t trust a woman with a choice; then why would you trust her with a child?"

  • eternalskeptic

    I’m really unable to answer your question until you defned the
    assumption that as a “biological reality,” women are inferior. Julie’s uncited statistics do not take into
    account human-made, iatrogenic factors contributing to global maternal
    mortality. Do you have some other proof that biologically speaking, we women
    are indeed of “the weaker sex?”

  • julie-watkins

    That’s going to be the same anywhere on the globe. I found the numbers on wikipedia, which has references. I’m sorry I forgot to put in the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maternal_death 

     

    Human females are biologically forced to expend resources toward the next generation while human males are not so biologically forced. I am not saying that a woman is inferior,  I’m saying she is being treated as inferior because of Nature’s sexism. Coercing or forcing a woman so she may not expend her resources as she believes best for her priorities is wrong. If a culture blocks or limits access to contraception and abortion and demands more from women than men in caregiving and pays her less for equal work, then she is at a disadvantage. If not, then she isn’t. In the first case you might call her "weaker", I would call her "discriminated against".

     

    Julie

  • eternalskeptic

    Thanks for providing the link, Julie. 




    From what I’m seeing on it, it’s not women’s biology that is causing most of these cases but oppressive conditions (e.g. malnutrition and substandard health care) where 90% of them are living.  Other causes mentioned in your link are far from "natural," including pregnancy-associated homicide and even induced abortion.  So maternal mortality is hardly attributable to the "biological reality" that Ahunt suggests.  Before blaming "nature" (and ultimately the victims, women), it might be better to look at social factors.  The true sexism appears to exist not in nature, but in different societies.  I apologize for getting grossly off-topic from the original blog post, but I couldn’t let this issue go without saying anything. 

     


  • ahunt

    ES…you did get the part about "social context," didn’t you?

  • janine

    I read the link and under "Major Causes" it lists things such as pre-eclampsia, obstetric hemmorrhage, ectopic pregnancy.   Much of the danger (as Julie had referred to) is part of nature. 
    Poor nutrition and substandard medical care are only listed in the link under "Associated Risk Factors". Medical treatments, not just abortion, also override nature.

    I can’t see how ahunt or Julie have blamed women for anything.

     

  • julie-watkins

    maternal mortality is hardly attributable to the "biological reality" that Ahunt suggests.

    Regardless of the level of maternal death, fathers don’t die from childbirth; mothers can. Pregnancy and childbirth make a woman more vulnerable to other factors — including a lot of sexual discrimination against women — and classist discrimination against the poor. Especially if poor families are blocked from contraception and other reproductive health care.

  • crowepps

    A pregnant woman is exposed to biological risks which do not affect either a non-pregnant woman or a man. This does not mean that she is ‘inferior’. It means she is at risk. The ‘pregnancy is not a disease’ slogan seems to ignore the fact that there ARE diseases which arise as a result of pregnancy and which may require medical intervention to save the woman’s life or health, including abortion, and the fact that pregnancy puts extraordinary stresses on a woman’s body which women who are unhealthy for some other reason are unable to tolerate. In addition, a focus on the fetus entirely ignores any damage done to the woman by the pregnancy as being ‘for a higher cause’. Women are not ‘weaker’ as a sex because of this, but instead uniquely exposed to a stressor with which men never need to cope. The ‘sexism’ seems to me to come from the fact that those who are exempt want to define and control the process to their own advantage and then are outraged when the women who are actually at risk reject their definitions and resist their control. This discussion isn’t about women being ‘weaker’ but instead about their being ‘uppity’.

  • crowepps

    Controversial and downright unethical procedures performed for psychosocial reasons should have no place under this plan.

    Psychosocial
    A term referring to the mind’s ability to, consciously or unconsciously, adjust and relate the body to its social environment.
    http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/psychosocial

    The fact that a procedure is ‘controversial’ doesn’t matter since only the patient and physician are involved and if they are in agreement the opinon of strangers is irrelevant. The fact that some people consider it unethical doesn’t matter since the patient and physician have freedom of conscience and if they are willing the ethical stance of strangers is irrelevant. But I’m having a hard time grasping how abortion is performed for ‘psychosocial reasons’ or why this matters to your argument. Please explain?