As a graduate of Georgetown University and advocate for women, I write to express my horror with the actions of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on the matter of contraceptive coverage and to ask you directly to initiate a conversation within the Georgetown community, as well as with the bishops who claim to speak on the behalf of women students, employees and our dependents.
Those of us who revere the constitution and the individual right to exercise freedom of religion enabled by the separation of church and state must stop the mass media procession that is now engaged in a responsive reading from the archbishop’s hymnal. These sounds you hear are not the chimes of freedom.
Religious freedom? Who’s zoomin’ who? As I noted in a piece published last night and now confirmed by further comments from representatives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the far right uterine police are aiming to exclude everyone from contraceptive coverage, not just religious institutions.
The arrogance of the 350 Bishops of the US Catholic Church is mind-boggling. Though they are facing bankruptcy in many states because of the shameful tradition of priests molesting children, they still have the nerve to claim a right to make moral decisions for women. It is time for the women of America to say no to the bullying of a tiny group of men who will never know what it means to make tough choices about pregnancy; or have a baby; or raise a child; or scramble to care for a family.
It seems that no reproductive justice victory can stand free of assault by the anti-choice set. On Monday, January 30, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla) introduced legislation that would overturn the Department of Health and Human Services mandate requiring religiously-affiliated organizations to provide free birth control with their employee health plan packages.
Although Georgetown’s student health insurance doesn’t cover contraception, it does cover birth control pills when they’re prescribed for medical reasons other than preventing pregnancy. But barriers to access illustrate the consequences for women’s health when university administrators dictate which reasons for a birth control prescription are the “right” reasons.
The Obama Administration has made a final decision on contraceptive coverage under health reform, ensuring that virtually all women with health insurance will now have access to the full range of preventive services originally recommended by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), including all FDA-approved forms of contraception.
So, what have we got in this latest reproductive rights crisis? The one where the Catholic bishops and the President are debating and deciding what rights we American women will have? Well, sadly, ad nauseum, and once again, what we’ve got is no woman sitting at the decision-making table.
The right of individuals to act on their religious beliefs should trump the right of institutions to enforce theirs on individuals. Introducing financial pressure on women to avoid contraception by refusing to cover birth control should be considered a form of religious discrimination.
Women’s groups working to save coverage of women’s health care under health reform are concerned that President Obama will cave as early as this weekend to demands by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (all 271 men) to eliminate coverage of birth control without a co-pay. The reason? The President thinks he “owes” the Bishops for help with passage of health reform.