“Pro-life” Catholic colleges are all salty about a new law requiring insurance plans to cover birth control. Because even though 98% of Catholic women will use contraception at some point in their lives, and even though birth control is widely accepted in the medical community as an important preventative tool (and often an important treatment for a variety of medical conditions), male Catholic leaders have decided that a baby is a gift from God and expecting medical insurance to cover medication is like expecting pork to be served at a Jewish barbeque:
Senior Catholic officials said that students at Catholic universities should know what to expect, and that those who disagree with the policies can choose to go elsewhere. “No one would go to a Jewish barbecue and expect pork chops to be served,” Mr. Galligan-Stierle said.
Birth control for women of reproductive age: Kind of like expecting bacon at synagogue. Right?
This is an issue, of course, because Catholic colleges and universities don’t just cater to religious Catholic students. Institutions like Fordham in New York and Georgetown in DC are hardly hyper-religious centers of the faith, sought out by Catholic students seeking a Catholic education. The reality of those schools is that they have a diverse student body, and I would venture to guess that the majority of students are not practicing Catholics. It’s also a cold hard fact that birth control is widely used even among practicing Catholics.
The United States has one of the highest abortion rates in the developed world — that is in large part because of lack of birth control access. And if you’re a student who relies on your school insurance plan for coverage, that is often your only option for birth control. Yes, there’s Planned Parenthood, but Republicans are intent on getting rid of PP, too — and if you have health insurance, you really should be able to use it for the most common and necessary medications. Yes, there are condoms, but (a) they are not as reliable as hormonal birth control, and (b) they require that a male partner agree to use them consistently and correctly. While in my dream world all young women would feel entitled to demand that their partners use condoms and simply wouldn’t have sex with men who refuse (or who badger or guilt them), that isn’t the world we live in. And it’s women who end up paying the price.
Birth control is also medically necessary for many women. Take this woman, for example:
One recent Georgetown law graduate, who asked not to be identified for reasons of medical privacy, said she had polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition for which her doctor prescribed birth control pills. She is gay and had no other reason to take the pills. Georgetown does not cover birth control for students, so she made sure her doctor noted the diagnosis on her prescription. Even so, coverage was denied several times. She finally gave up and paid out of pocket, more than $100 a month. After a few months she could no longer afford the pills. Within months she developed a large ovarian cyst that had to be removed surgically — along with her ovary.
“If I want children, I’ll need a fertility specialist because I have only one working ovary,” she said.
How very life-affirming.
The Republican presidential candidates naturally fall on the side of “religion > bitches.”
But the Republican candidates have said that moral and religious values weigh heavily in birth control issues. Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Mitt Romney, said in an e-mail that he regarded the administration’s rule requiring religious employers to furnish birth control as wrong. “This is a direct attack on religious liberty and will not stand in a Romney presidency,” she said. Mr. Romney has also pledged to end a federal program, Title X, that provides family planning services to millions of women.
Mr. Santorum has taken the position that health insurance plans should not be required to cover birth control. He also favors allowing states to decide whether to ban birth control. He and Mr. Gingrich both support “personhood” initiatives that would legally declare fertilized eggs to be persons, effectively banning not just all abortions but also certain contraceptives, including IUDs and some types of birth control pills.
Mr. Gingrich wants to withdraw government money from Planned Parenthood because it performs abortions in addition to providing contraceptives, though the federal money cannot be used for abortion.
The emphasis on birth control over the past year or two is fascinating. Birth control has always been on the radar screens of the most extreme anti-abortion activists, but the hostility toward it in mainstream politics is relatively new. The vast majority of American women use birth control at some point in their lives. The vast majority of Americans support birth control access. The vast majority of Americans are able to put two and two together and recognize that more birth control equals fewer abortions. That opposition to birth control is now a mainstream GOP position — the fact that hostility to female autonomy and women’s rights have gotten this extreme, and are only headed rightward — should strike more than a little terror into all of our hearts.