As I'm making the slow drive to New Hampshire last Friday to see one of my besties home from Switzerland, I am listening to the "breaking news" on NPR about Obama's plan to allow ALL women to obtain birth control in the year of our Lord, 2012.
In a political move called compromise, the President bows slightly to the right and instead puts the onus on the insurance companies to cover the costs of women's birth control. If you haven't followed the story, a quick recap: Obama wanted to give all women in the U.S. birth control coverage under their health insurance no matter who was funding that insurance. Previously, if a woman worked for a Catholic owned (or other religious affiliated institution) organization, they could set up the health insurance to only provide services that did not conflict with their religious views and beliefs.
The compromise forces insurance companies, who are contracted with these religious institutions, to cover the birth control so the organization won't feel as if it's "religious freedom" is being messed with. The outcry by bishops was all the rage that Friday as I drove slowly toward Rt. 3 North. And this outrage was expressed soley as Obama messing with religious freedom, the very foundation of our country.
Hmmmm. So let's break this down. We are forcing the Catholic Church, the majority of whose female members USE birth control, to allow insurance companies to provide this birth control. I didn't hear any women complaining about this. The only people whining on the radio where men who felt that their religious freedom was being called into question. Statistically speaking, Catholics are also the highest percentage of any religious group to get abortions. (I wonder if this is connected to their inability to obtain birth control).
I am very uncomfortable with the term "religious freedom" being used in this matter. For me, religious freedom allows anyone in this country to practice whatever religion they choose. It does not, however, allow an institution like the Catholic Church to supersede federal laws providing equity for the protected class of women in this country.
And lastly, because you know I could really drone on and on about this topic, I ask when will the Catholic Church and some of these right wing fundamental organizations come in to the 21st century and realize that controlling one's family size and fertility should be in no way connected to anything religious? This is an economic issue and one that speaks to the very core of women's equality. If a woman is not allowed to choose when and if to have a family she cannot be considered equal.
This whole topic is ONLY a debate because it lies on the backs and belly's of women. I keep thinking this issue of reproductive rights will be resolved in my lifetime, but as I add 43 to my birth years, I am amazed at how now we are pitting reproductive rights opposite religious freedom. It's time the male leaders of the Catholic Church step back and leave women's bodies out of their doctrine.
And while I am not happy with Obama's compromise, I have to give him credit for actually giving a damn that women weren't getting equal coverage in birth control. He's the first one to take this on and that itself is worthy of note.