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.
This week, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Obama campaign senior advisor David Axelrod signaled that the White House, having finally decided to include coverage of birth control as part of primary health care benefits under health reform after studying it for well over a year, is now “willing to compromise.” Many of my colleagues disagree with my take on the situation, but I am worried that in the end the White House may not hold firm.
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.
NCJW and our colleagues in the faith community understand that this is an issue of religious liberty — although there are differing religious views on the use of contraception, it should be up to women to decide on whether and when to use contraception based on their own beliefs and needs.
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 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.
According to a New York Times article today, the White House has now publicly confirmed that President Obama is considering caving to demands by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and other far right religious groups on the requirement that insurance plans under health reform cover birth control without a co-pay.