Obama and the Bishops: Is the White House Caving on Birth Control Coverage?

VIDEO: Anti-Choice Conservatives Target Birth Control

Congresswoman Diana DeGette talks about the battle for women’s reproductive rights as conservatives take their war on abortion ever further to challenge birth control.

See all our coverage of the Birth Control Mandate 2011 here

This week, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) threw itself a pity party in Baltimore. According to the bishops, their “religious liberty” is threatened unless they are able to ensure that every single person in the United States (well, actually the world) is made to follow Catholic canon law to the letter. According to the New York Times, the bishops are “recasting their opposition” to same-sex marriage, birth control, and other fundamental aspects of public health and human rights, because they view both government and culture as infringing on the church’s rights.

“We see in our culture a drive to neuter religion,” Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the bishops conference, said in a news conference Monday at the bishops’ annual meeting in Baltimore. He added that “well-financed, well-oiled sectors” were trying “to push religion back into the sacristy.”

But the sacristy is where the vast majority of Catholics appear to believe the bishops should be focusing their efforts. The Times notes that in light of the ongoing evidence of massive cover-ups by the Vatican and the USCCB of the priest pedophilia scandal, the bishops’ “pronouncements on politics and morality have been met with indifference even by many of their own flock.”

The bishops issue guidelines for Catholic voters every election season, a document known as “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” which is distributed in many parishes. But the bishops were informed at their meeting on Monday that a recent study commissioned by Fordham University in New York found that only 16 percent of Catholics had heard of the document, and only 3 percent had read it.

Nonetheless, the Bishops believe their own right to practice their religion is threatened by your right to practice yours or to act as a moral agent in your own life. Their freedom of religion is threatened unless they can ensure that all LGBT persons are denied the right to marry or adopt children. It is threatened unless all women are denied the rights to decide whether and when to have children. It is threatened unless a Catholic hospital can let a woman die from complications of pregnancy rather than provide her with or even refer her on an emergency basis for a life-saving abortion. It is threatened unless a two-celled fertilized egg has more rights than the living, breathing woman in whose body it floats.

They are not “free” until you are not free.

And they certainly are not “free” unless women are denied access to affordable birth control. 

An integral part of the Affordable Care Act is the new benefit requiring health plans to cover preventive health care, including cancer screenings, immunizations, and birth control, with no co-pays.  Inclusion of these benefits came about through dogged efforts by female legislators, including an amendment authored by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), known as the Women’s Health Amendment. The Department of Health and Human Services, tasked with implementing health reform through regulations and oversight, took the advice of an expert panel of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and recommended birth control be covered as a women’s preventive service because it is basic health care, and because it improves health outcomes for women and their families. Research shows that improved access to birth control is directly linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality among other health benefits. The IOM recommendations are supported by a vast amount of research and affirmed by the World Health Organization, the International College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Public Health Association among many other medical and public health bodies.

Regulations promulgated by HHS this summer mandate coverage in all employee-based health plans of contraceptive methods without a co-pay. The current provision includes what many already consider to be a sweeping refusal clause, exempting certain religious organizations for which religious values are their primary purpose; that primarily employ persons who share the religious tenets of the organization; that primarily serve persons who share the religious tenets of the organization; and that are nonprofit organizations. The regulations would still require institutions such as Catholic hospitals–for which one assumes the primary purpose is evidence-based health care–and universities (primary purpose, education?) to offer insurance that covers contraception without a co-pay. Nothing (repeat: NOTHING) in this new benefit requires an organization to dispense birth control, or an individual to take it. This is simply a matter of ensuring women have access to affordable preventive care by providing it with no co-pays. For an excellent and thorough review of this issue, read the testimony of Catholics for Choice President Jon O’Brien.

Still, this has so riled the USCCB that Archbishop Timothy Dolan took his lobbying straight to President Obama, with whom he met privately at the White House last week. In what I take to be a somewhat ominous comment, Dolan stated at a news conference that he “found the president of the United States to be very open to the sensitivities of the Catholic community.”

“I left there feeling a bit more at peace about this issue than when I entered.”

By “Catholic community,” Dolan clearly means the USCCB, the Vatican and the male hierarchy, certainly not the community constituted by the people–or the women–of the church.

Word on the street now–through off-the-record conversations with health groups–is that the White House is considering caving on the exemptions for contraceptive coverage.

This would be a grave mistake on Obama’s part.

For women, birth control is about as controversial as toothpaste and as widely used. According to the Centers for Disease Control, between 2006–2008, 99 percent of ALL women who had ever had sexual intercourse had used at least one method of birth control.  This includes, as O’Brien of Catholics for Choice pointed out, the 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women in the US who have used a form of contraception banned by the Vatican.

Moreover, while the most common reason U.S. women use oral contraceptive pills is to prevent pregnancy, 14 percent of pill users—1.5 million women—rely on them exclusively for non-contraceptive purposes, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute called “Beyond Birth Control: The Overlooked Benefits of Oral Contraceptive Pills,” by Rachel K. Jones. More than half (58 percent) of all pill users rely on the method, at least in part, for purposes other than pregnancy prevention–such as reducing cramps or menstrual pain, to help prevent migraines, for treatment of endometriosis—meaning that only 42 percent use the pill exclusively for contraceptive purposes.

The contraceptive coverage provision under health reform is widely-supported by female voters, a critical constituency in the 2012 election. Public polling shows seventy-one percent of American voters, including 77 percent of Catholic women voters, support covering birth control at no cost.

So caving to the USCCB on something as fundamental to women’s health, lives and pocketbooks as contraception will not sit well with women, as a recent poll by NARAL Pro-Choice America notes.

“There is a group of women who voted for President Obama in 2008 but are not currently supporting him, and these data suggest many of them should be in his camp,” according to Al Quinlan, president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a firm that conducted a recent survey for NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“Choice provides an opening for President Obama and other Democrats to create a sharp contrast with anti-choice Republicans,” he continued. The “women defectors” are defined as having voted for President Obama in 2008 but are currently not voting for him, weakly supporting him, or holding back from turning out in 2012.

“While the economy is the dominant issue, this survey shows that choice is a stronger, more persuasive issue for bringing key women voters back to President Obama’s camp,” said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Contraceptive coverage also is an equity issue. As many state contraceptive equity laws make clear and as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled, failing to provide women with coverage for contraception in health plans that otherwise cover prescription drugs and devices is sex discrimination.

State supreme courts in California and New York have both found that contraceptive-equity laws with narrower employer exclusions such as the one put forth by HHS, do not substantially burden a religious belief or practice. In a majority opinion in one of the cases, the justices write:

“[W]hen a religious organization chooses to hire nonbelievers it must, at least to some degree, be prepared to accept neutral regulations imposed to protect those employees’ legitimate interests in doing what their own beliefs permit.”  [Catholic Charities of Albany v. Serio, 859 N.E.2d 459, 468 (N.Y. 2006)].

If the requirement for coverage of birth control is weakened, nearly one million people (and their dependents) who work at Catholic hospitals would lose benefits they already have. In addition, the approximately two million students and workers now attending universities that have a religious affiliation would also lose this important benefit.  It would mean a further weakening of women’s health and one more step toward theocracy. And it would raise health care costs and result in more unintended pregnancies.

What the Bishops really want is to strong-arm government into imposing restrictions on people’s choices and lives that they can’t even get Catholics to follow. They want to be able to receive federal funding, federal grants and contracts, get tax breaks and special treatment over other groups for building Catholic hospitals, maintain tax-exempt status while flouting lobbying rules, and play the victim card whenever they can’t avoid laws meant to advance health and human rights.  And they are aided and abetted in their efforts by other far-right my-way-or-the-highway-on-religion organizations like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, as well as a considerable number of GOP and Tea Party members of Congress. New efforts by conservatives to pass the Regulatory Accountability Act, for example, also threaten women’s health.  Nothing drives the patriarchy more batty than the notion of women being anything other than breeding cows.

So it takes some imagination–and I have not mustered anywhere nearly enough–to understand why the Obama Administration would EVEN. THINK. TWICE. about caving to the Bishops. Obama needs women to come out for him in the 2012 election, he campaigned on and promised adherence to science and evidence in the creation of policy, and he promised that under health reform people would not lose benefits they already had, a promise he has already broken once–big time–when it came to women’s health coverage on abortion care.

There is nothing more fundamental to women’s choices than choosing whether, when and with what partner to become pregnant. There is nothing more fundamental to ensuring the best prospects for all children than to work to ensure every child is a wanted child. And there is nothing less controversial for women than birth control.

If the White House does cave to fundamentalist organizations like the USCCB, (led, it should be underscored, by men), it would appear to have an even more fundamental problem with re-electing this President.

[Several calls to the White House on this issue were not returned by time of publication.]


These groups urge you to take action:

Catholics for Choice

National Women’s Law Center

Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health

Feminist Majority Foundation

Emily’s List

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

NARAL Pro-Choice America

Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health


Follow Jodi Jacobson on Twitter: @jljacobson

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Follow Jodi Jacobson on twitter: @jljacobson

  • leah-taylor

    Please join us in calling the White House tomorrow to voice your support on birth control without co-pay. Remind the President that women-identified voters will not be thrown under the bus.

  • colleen

    The WH and the ‘New’ Democrats believe that women voters will have no choice but to vote for their increasingly corrupt and non-responsive  candidates. This WH fully intends to make massive cuts to Social Security, medicare and medicaid and then force us to listen to their claims of helplessness and cries for “shared sacrifice” untill this time next year.

    The notion that Obama or anyone in his cabinet gives a damn about women or the poor is as absurd as the notion that the Catholic Bishop’s increasingly shameless and obvious bid for money and power is motivated by love for all mankind.

  • freetobe

    I will never vote for anyone who has a history of denying women full rights the same as men enjoy just by being born. if Obama caves so shall I. I won’t ever be voting for those moron GOP ers.

    if all women did this we would not have such a wimpy Democratic party because there would be none. Women for years have supported the Dems but recently their have been way to many anti-choice dems or that call themselves dems. and they need to be ousted at the next election.

    Without women there goes the dems. Sad really since we are still paid only 77 cents to a mans dollar and could not even get our own party to pass the paycheck fairness act because i am trying to remember if there was a Rep filibuster on that? Probably

    obama and dems you better not fail us now!

  • jp

    I stopped reading after….

    It is threatened unless a Catholic hospital can let a woman die from complications of pregnancy rather than provide her with or even refer her on an emergency basis for a life-saving abortion.

    That is simply NOT TRUE.  A blatant lie.  Of course during complications, an act (read: abortion) can be made in order to save the life of the mother.  I have no idea where you read this or found this information, but you can check Catholic doctrine up the wazoo and find this is NOT an INENTIONAL abortion…

    As for the White House… separation of church and state right??? A vote getting move I would say…

  • goatini

    whose life was saved ONLY through the mercy of a compassionate woman who was stripped of her job, her career, and her community for doing the RIGHT thing?  



  • jp

    Thank you goatini for pointing these articles out.

    I will say the second article does support what I was trying to say, when it says the nurses didn’t hesitate to say they would save the mother’s life.  This is not a “direct abortion” where the purpose is to kill the infant, rather this is to save the life of the mother.

    As to the story, very unfortunate, it’s a very trying time for Catholics — when Bishops peddle porn (Germany) and make irrational decisions to excommunicate people. 

  • crowepps


    Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services

    45. Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus) is never permitted. Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion, which, in its moral context, includes the interval between conception and implantation of the embryo. Catholic health care institutions are not to provide abortion services, even based upon the principle of material cooperation. In this context, Catholic health care institutions need to be concerned about the danger of scandal in any association with abortion providers.

    46. Catholic health care providers should be ready to offer compassionate physical, psychological, moral, and spiritual care to those persons who have suffered from the trauma of abortion.

    47. Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child.

    48. In case of extrauterine pregnancy, no intervention is morally licit which constitutes a direct abortion.31

    49. For a proportionate reason, labor may be induced after the fetus is viable.

    50. Prenatal diagnosis is permitted when the procedure does not threaten the life or physical integrity of the unborn child or the mother and does not subject them to disproportionate risks; when the diagnosis can provide information to guide preventative care for the mother or pre-or postnatal care for the child; and when the parents, or at least the mother, give free and informed consent. Prenatal diagnosis is not permitted when undertaken with the intention of aborting an unborn child with a serious defect.32

    51. Nontherapeutic experiments on a living embryo or fetus are not permitted, even with the consent of the parents. Therapeutic experiments are permitted for a proportionate reason with the free and informed consent of the parents or, if the father cannot be contacted, at least of the mother. Medical research that will not harm the life or physical integrity of an unborn child is permitted with parental consent.33

    52. Catholic health institutions may not promote or condone contraceptive practices but should provide, for married couples and the medical staff who counsel them, instruction both about the Church’s teaching on responsible parenthood and in methods of natural family planning.

    53. Direct sterilization of either men or women, whether permanent or temporary, is not permitted in a Catholic health care institution. Procedures that induce sterility are permitted when their direct effect is the cure or alleviation of a present and serious pathology and a simpler treatment is not available.34


    Yes, some nuns and nurses and doctors are indeed willing to risk their immortal souls, and their jobs, by disobeying the bishops.  The bishops are going to do everything they possibly can to stamp out such independence and make sure women are sacrificed.

  • crowepps

    May 18, 2010CONTACT:


    Rob DeFrancesco, Director of Communications

    O: 602-354-2130 / M: 602-751-2720



    Questions and Answers Re: The Situation at St. Joseph’s


    Is abortion ever allowed, even to save the life of the mother?

    No. Abortion is never permitted as an end or as a means. Abortion is always immoral since it constitutes the direct killing of an unborn child.


    What can be done when a pregnant woman’s life is in danger?

    The underlying condition should be treated. Her life is not in danger from her child, it is in danger from an actual pathology or illness. That illness should be treated and managed with due regard for the child’s health as well. We must always remember that in a situation like this we are dealing with two patients.


    If the baby cannot survive outside the womb and the mother may die, isn’t it better to save at least one life?

    First, we have to remember that a physician cannot be 100% sure that a mother would die if she continued the pregnancy.

    Second, the mother’s life cannot be preferred over the child’s. Both lives are equal, both have an eternal soul and both are created by God. No one has the right to directly kill an innocent life, no matter what stage of their existence. It is not better to save one life while murdering another.  It is not better that the mother live the rest of her existence having had her child killed.


    What if the treatment provided to the mother results in the death of her unborn child? 

    Why was Sr. McBride excommunicated?

    Sr. McBride held a position of authority at the hospital and was frequently consulted on ethical matters. She gave her consent that the abortion was a morally good and allowable act according to Church teaching. Furthermore, she admitted this directly to Bishop Olmsted. Since she gave her consent and encouraged an abortion she automatically excommunicated herself from the Church. “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2272) This canonical penalty is imposed by virtue of Canon 1398: “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.

    Does that mean that all women who have had an abortion are excommunicated?

    Yes, anyone who has had an abortion is automatically excommunicated. But so are those who encouraged the abortion, helped to pay for the abortion, or performed the abortion, including those who directly assisted in its performance.


    Certainly a physician should try to protect both lives equally. If the child can grow past viability and then can be delivered, that is always preferable. If, however, a necessary treatment brings about the death of the child indirectly it may be allowable. A Dilation and Curettage (D&C) or Dilation and Extraction (D&E), however, would never be such a treatment since it is the direct killing of the unborn child and is, morally speaking, an abortion.



  • jp

    New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia

    However, if medical treatment or surgical operation, necessary to save a mother’s life, is applied to her organism (though the child’s death would, or at least might, follow as a regretted but unavoidable consequence), it should not be maintained that the fetal life is thereby directly attacked. Moralists agree that we are not always prohibited from doing what is lawful in itself, though evil consequences may follow which we do not desire. The good effects of our acts are then directly intended, and the regretted evil consequences are reluctantly permitted to follow because we cannot avoid them. The evil thus permitted is said to be indirectly intended. It is not imputed to us provided four conditions are verified, namely:

    • That we do not wish the evil effects, but make all reasonable efforts to avoid them;
    • That the immediate effect be good in itself;
    • That the evil is not made a means to obtain the good effect; for this would be to do evilthat good might come of it — a procedure never allowed;
    • That the good effect be as important at least as the evil effect.


    Thomas Aquinas’s “Double Effect” indeed leaves a huge amount of room for interpretation, as many Catholics argue that procedures to save the mother would not “directly” cause an abortion, while the Catholic leadership think otherwise.  



  • jennifer-starr

    If I’m ever pregnant and in distress I hope I never have to go to a Catholic hospital. In a situation that often calls for quick action,  a patient could die while waiting for them to dig through dusty books in an effort to work out what’s morally and philisophically correct in the eyes of the Church. 

  • colleen

    I suggest that it’s not just pregnant women who should avoid Catholic hospitals, at least if you have money or insurance and wish to see your non-Vatican approved end of life instructions respected and complied with. And then, of course, rape victims should always avoid Catholic hospitals. And then, we really need to ask ourselves if we wish to financially support  institutions which, as a matter of hospital policy, believes women with unsustainable pregnancies are entitled to a lower standard of medical care than a dairy farmer provides for his cows.

  • colleen

    Thomas Aquinas’s “Double Effect” indeed leaves a huge amount of room for interpretation, as many Catholics argue that procedures to save the mother would not “directly” cause an abortion, while the Catholic leadership think otherwise. 

    No, jp. Here is what you said in response to the the established fact that the Catholic heirarchy prefers to see women die from complications of pregnancy rather than allow a life saving abortion or even provide an emergency referral for one and are attempting to change the laws so that they will be able to kill women with impunity.

    The opinions of the laity (or, as this case suggests, nuns) are of no importance at all.


    That is simply NOT TRUE.  A blatant lie. 

    No one here is lying and the least you can do is acknowledge the fact that the Catholic hierarchy is attempting to make killing women  with unsustainable pregnancies a matter of hospital policy and be allowed to do so with impunity. Because, according to them, it’s better that women die. So what you need to do is apologize for calling us liars when we were and are speaking the truth.

    What really angers me is the notion that killing women with unsustainable pregnancies is a moral solution. There’s nothing moral about it. A policy like this is motivated by genuine and deep seated hatred and contempt for women. It’s unnecessary, unimaginably cruel and about as moral as mandating burning at the stake for crimes of heresy.

  • prowomen

    These politicians should be voted out of office:  Fifteen Democrats who voted for the “Let Women Die” Act.  They are anti-choice Congressmen Jason Altmire (PA), Sanford Bishop (GA), Dan Boren (OK), Jerry Costello (IL), Mark Critz (PA), Henry Cuellar (TX), Joe Donnelly (IN), Tim Holden (PA), Dan Lipinski (IL), Jim Matheson (UT), Mike McIntyre (NC), Nick Rahall (WVA), Mike Ross (AR), Collin Petersen (MN), and Heath Shuler (D-NC).


    The Democratic Party should offer them no support and find preferably pro-choice women to take their places.  No money should go to them.


    If anyone should be marching in the streets it’s women, who are clearly third-class citizens who don’t have the rights of dogs, which benefit from more shelters than women who have access to battered women’s shelters.


    Please provide petitions on issues such as this one so people can vote on them with the results going to the president and other appropriate parties.  It does little good for pro-choice people to simply express dismay to one another.

  • jp

    Okay, now I think people are collasping my comments for the sake of collasping them…

    As to my first comment, my scope of Catholic hospitals did not include the Phoenix case, which I had not heard of.  I apologize for jumping to gun to call out a lie but it is still false to a certain extent, maybe not blatant as I previously said.  Catholic hospitals do perform “abortions” to save the life of the mother (they are just not called abortions).  If the life of the child is taken while trying to save the mother then that is an indirect reaction of the procedure.  This has happened at other Catholic hospitals where the termination of the child was justified as a procedure to save the mother.  

    Look, did Sister Margaret all of a sudden have a change of faith and said I will go against what I believe to save this woman.. No! She found it perfectly reasonable within Catholic cannon to go ahead with the procedure.

    I’m not going to get into politics with what Bishops think and sexism, etc…, obviously many Bishops within the Catholic community have a huge disconnect with reason and logic and some may very well have sexist motives behind their decisions.  My point was to back the Church, not necessarily these clergy members, on it’s stance on trying to save lives, whether it be the mother’s, child’s or both. 

  • jennifer-starr

    My point was to back the Church, not necessarily these clergy members, on it’s stance on trying to save lives, whether it be the mother’s, child’s or both. 

    The thing is, JP, I’m not so sure that you can really separate the two–if there are a lot of Bishops with no connection to reason or logic (and there seem to be quite a lot) and nothing is being done about it, then perhaps the system itself is corrupted.  Any church is made up of people–and since it’s the people who carry out the edicts, I don’t think you can really make a distinction. 

    If I come into the hospital pregnant with my health and life in immediate jeopardy–that’s where I want the doctor’s focus to be–on doing whatever he can to help. Of course I would like the child to be saved if possible, but if it’s clear that it is not possible, I don’t want to be hanging around with my life in the balance while a bunch of people decide  whether or not treating me is in line with ‘Catholic Canon’–more worried about risking the wrath of some bishop and the possibility of excommunication than with my health. 

  • colleen

     it is still false to a certain extent

    The Bishops are trying to change the law so that they can kill women unfortunate enough to end up in a Catholic hospital with impunity and  for no other reason than that her body cannot sustain a pregnancy. It’s not limited to just one case, they are trying to change federal law so that they can make this barbarism a matter of hospital policy. This matter is not false to any extent.

    Look, did Sister Margaret all of a sudden have a change of faith and said I will go against what I believe to save this woman

    She was summarily excommunicated and denied her right of conscience just as the ‘pro-life’ movement denies all women their conscience or the right to disagree with them even if it kills us or destroys our lives. Sister Margaret is no longer a ‘Sister’. That’s because the only conscience  allowed women within the Catholic church or outside of it is a conscience that agrees with the all male hierarchy.



  • jp

    This looks like its getting slightly off topic, just slightly.

    @Jennifer, I agree with you that it is scary to just walk into a hospital (Catholic) and fear for your life if a complication occurs.  In regards to the system being corrupt.. that’s a whole nother dialect.  Most Bishops I believe do sincerely have the best intention when refering to these matters but as we have seen (http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/313924) some make horrible decisions.  

    @Colleen In regards that the Bishops are solely sexists and want to kill women if certain circumstances arrive might be a little too misguiding.  True, the Church has traditionally been an all male dominated structure, save for the sisterhood.  But to blanket all the reasons under sexism might be a bit much.  I do agree that there might as well be Bishops that let sexism slip into their judgement.

    I will gladly be open to more discussion but these topics are now kind of tettering off the main subject that Catholic hospitals don’t allow abortions (my stance was that I don’t agree with the blanket statement, and I do agree that options, including abortion should be open when the life of the mother or child is at risk).

  • crowepps

    The topic, as I understood it, was your claim in reference to Catholic hospitals wanting the law to allow them to refuse treatment to women: “That is simply NOT TRUE.  A blatant lie.”  When presented with evidence that not only was the statement the truth, an incident clarifying it over the body of a dying woman had ALREADY HAPPENED, you made the bizarre statement that “it’s a very trying time for Catholics — when Bishops … make irrational decisions to excommunicate people”.  Ooooh, POOR Catholics.  Golly, those out of control bishops sure are making all Catholics look like misogynists and that’s just not FAIR.  You might get more sympathy if it weren’t a much MORE trying time for women who are pregnant and unlucky enough to be stuck living near a Catholic hospital with a local bishop who is itching to teach selfish women a lesson by requiring their martyrdom.

    Now you’re saying that it’s your opinion that “Most Bishops I believe do sincerely have the best intention”.  What evidence do you have that their “best intention” includes the woman’s life?  I sure haven’t seen any evidence of that.  “It is not better for the woman to live” seems pretty clear to me.  Also, there are approximately 435 bishops in the United States.  What exactly is the distribution between those with “best intention” and those who “make irrational decisions”?  I mean, is it 50-50, flip a coin and see if the hospital lets you die on the floor?  Or do women only get unlucky and end up without medical care 25% of the time?

    Your statement about sexism is, frankly, a hoot.  If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck — The Church has always been male dominated (and traditionally kept the sisterhood firmly under their thumb by ‘enclosing’ them in prison like cloisters) and the male members of the heirarchy feel entitled to order around everyone in the world while insisting women should be self-abnegating and subservient and live entirely for others, but, oh, golly, it’s not like that’s SEXISM.  It just sort of accidentally turned out that the ability to be an actual thinking ‘person’ with an opinion that matters is reserved solely for men, and that a woman got the leftovers of being obedient breeding stock, encouraged to glorify herself by dying in childbirth.  Those bishops sure do honor their female martyrs.  In fact, all a woman has to do to be respected by the Church is drop dead.

    It’s real nice that you’re generous enough to personally make an exception and allow dying women to have abortions that save their lives, but the bishops don’t agree with you.  The bishops don’t think there should be any abortions, at all, for any reason, and that women ought to ‘offer up their suffering’, and to ensure that they do, are going to make them suffer as much as possible.  The point that you seem to be missing is that while the Catholic laity and Catholic scholars and Catholic bishops argue about what is ‘licit’ and what is ‘illicit’ and what is ‘moral’ and what is ‘sin’, it isn’t just a philosophical discussion.  They are discussing how many real actual women they agree among themselves it would be okay to allow to die.

    You might not have heard the name Olga Reyes, but she was a woman who died an entirely unnecessary death because the Church refused to allow her life to be saved.

    Nicaragua last year became one of 35 countries that ban all abortions, even to save the life of the mother, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York. The ban has been strictly followed, leaving the country torn between a strong tradition of women’s rights and a growing religious conservatism. Abortion rights groups have stormed Congress in recent weeks demanding change, but President Daniel Ortega, a former leftist revolutionary and a Roman Catholic, has refused to oppose the church-supported ban.

    Evangelical groups and the church say abortion is never needed now because medical advances solve the complications that might otherwise put a pregnant mother’s life at risk.  But at least three women have died because of the ban, and another 12 reported cases will be examined


    I don’t see any reason whatsoever why woman who aren’t even Catholic should have to be in fear of their hospital or consider for even a second what compromises the Catholics and the bishops reach.  Women suffering pregnancy complications don’t go into the hospital looking to be judged by moral arbiters and perhaps condemned to death, but instead for actual scientifically sound, standard protocol medical care.  Women unfortunate enough to host ectopic pregnancies shouldn’t be required to halve their fertility by unnecessarily losing a tube so that the medical staff can attempt to doubleshuffle God by pretending it was an ‘oopsie’ and the fetus was only removed ‘accidentally’.

    Right now the law REQUIRES Catholic hospitals to provide treatment to women in emergency situations and the bishops had their sockpuppet congressmen present and pass H.R. 358, a bill which will remove that requirement, leaving women in emergency situations without care, because the bishops think if pregnancy results in death that’s just tough.  Of course, the bishops will be very, very SAD and do a lot of PRAYING over it, but most women don’t think that will be much consolation to their orphaned children.  In my opinion if the Church thinks it is entitled to ENFORCE its particular theology on doctors, nurses or patients who are entitled to a religious freedom right to make their own different choices, and believes that the opinion of the bishops on theological questions is more important than the provision of competent medical care, then the Church needs to get out of the business of running hospitals.

    You might keep in mind when coming to a site like this that the people here have been intensely focused on these issues for quite a while, and have done extensive research (reflected in the many articles in the searchable archives that explicate them going back a number of years), and that it comes across as pretty arrogant for you to show up and call us liars because you were ignorant of your own church’s policies and actions.  Your statement that you “will gladly be open to more discussion” would be better received if there were any reason to believe you actually had something to contribute besides apologetics.

  • suburbangrrrl

    Great article!  Can you clarify this statement:


    If the requirement for coverage of birth control is weakened, nearly one million people (and their dependents) who work at Catholic hospitals would lose benefits they already have. In addition, the approximately two million students and workers now attending universities that have a religious affiliation would also lose this important benefit.

    What benefits would these people lose that they now already have? Presumably such institutions do not currently provide birth control under their insurance plans to hospital employees and students so how could they lose something they don’t already have?  Or did you mean the benefit they will have when the regulations go into effect in the coming years? (I forget the year.)

  • jodi-jacobson

    Most insurance plans now cover birth control and in fact most cover abortion care.  Because the Affordable Care Act was meant in part (generalizing broadly here) to save money and in part to ensure specific things be covered, certain mandates were put into the system to ensure that these were covered.

    In fact, there are institutions already covering or offering coverage of both abortion care and birth control which now, because they had the chance to get the law written to allow them to opt out, saw it as a chance to eliminate these things altogether.

    One example is that the Republican National Committee (I think it was this body of the party) covered birth control and abortion care as a regular aspect of their employee-based coverage.  Once it became something they could use to upend health reform, and once they made an issue out of it themselves, they then eliminated that part of their coverage last year and therefore women who were already covered for these things lost them for purely political reasons. 

    In states, for example, where laws already mandate coverage of contraceptive care, people are covered because the broad exemptions now being sought by the Bishops have been found to be unconstitutional according to State Supreme Court decisions as per the mention in the article.  As we shift to federal requirements for specific coverage under the Affordable Care Act so that everyone everywhere gets a minimum basic package of care, and if broad exemptions are written into the law, then those folks will lose their coverage unless and until this gets taken to court.


    Hope that helps.




  • prochoicegrandma

    This bugs the hell out of me:

    “The bishops issue guidelines for Catholic voters every election season, a document known as “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” which is distributed in many parishes.”


    Why isn’t the tax exempt status removed from every Catholic church that does this, as well as all the Teavengelical churches?  That law is a joke, because no one enforces it.  In 2008, I was appalled at an article in which a Catholic priest (Kansas or Missouri?) would not give Communion to anyone who voted for Obama, and pressed the parishioners to say who they voted for.


    Now to my point.  President Obama has said he supports Kathleen Sebelius’ decision about Plan B.  Can someone please explain why in hell would he do this, when the anti-choice anti-birth control Catholic Church is NOT going to swing any votes his way, and neither will the Religious White?!

    I feel like all the ProChoice women have been kicked in the gut.  Is his campaign war chest sufficiently rich enough that he no longer needs the contributions from the millions of women who donated to him in 2008?  I am upset that he has risked losing supporters in exchange for something he was never going to get from the Catholic Church or the Religious White.  

    I think Obama is a great President and has accomplished an extraordinary amount of good work, considering the tremendous obstruction by the GOP.  However, this Plan B decision and extending the Bush tax cuts last year were major mistakes.