Contraceptive issue a complex one

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

The national health insurance plan has created another controversy with the Obama administration’s proposed rules mandating that charitable religious agencies (hospitals, colleges, etc.) provide preventative women’s health options (contraceptives, morning-after pills). Religious people with strong opinions are angry, indignant and inflexible.

Here are some positions being staked out:

  1. DEFEND FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS. The United States Catholic bishops have unanimously portrayed these new rules as an egregious violation of the right to practice their faith. The Catholic Church strongly opposes artificial methods of contraception and these new rules would force the church to sponsor what is sinful.
  2. STAND WITH THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS EVEN IF YOU DISAGREE WITH THEM. This argument proposes that an attack on any group’s religious freedom is an attack on every group. Thus we must jealously guard the religious rights of every group so these rights are not slowly eroded.
  3. BE WARY OF PORTRAYING THIS AS A WAR AGAINST RELIGION IN AMERICA. The image of “making war against religious people” is being employed by some politicians. But not everybody in the Catholic Church - or the larger faith community - opposes these rules. The Catholic Health Association, which represents Catholic hospitals across the country, welcomed the rules as laid out in the Obama administration’s compromise. Religious persons are themselves divided.
  4. BE WARY OF THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS. This group of men has traditionally been at odds with the Catholic Health Association over reproductive health issues. Furthermore, Catholic women apparently pay little attention to the church teaching here, using contraceptives at the roughly same rate as Protestant church women. Under this line of argument the government should not allow the bishops to deny the right to health care for women.
  1. STAND WITH FAIRNESS FOR WOMEN ON THIS ISSUE. Some religious populations, out of their deeply held moral and religious values, see this as an issue of fairness for women who should be able to decide whether to use this insurance option. Some segments of the church have historically supported civil rights issues, for example, even when a majority of church members advocated segregation.
  2. RECOGNIZE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHURCHES AND CHURCH AGENCIES. Churches and religious bodies engaged in worship are exempt from these guidelines under their First Amendment Rights. The national insurance plan recognizes that many faith-based colleges and hospitals are only tenuously connected with the group that originally founded them. These agencies, already receiving large amounts of government money, serve and hire vast majorities of non-Catholic clients. The line distinguishing a church and an agency founded by a church is somewhat indistinct.
  3. REDUCE A HIGHLY COMPLEX ISSUE INTO A FEW INFLAMMATORY PHRASES. Unfortunately this will be the tactic of persons on both sides of this complex issue.

Does one or more of these positions describe where you are? Is it possible that you can begin to develop at least an understanding and appreciation for where your debating opponent might stand?

Contact the Rev. Creede Hinshaw at Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church in Savannah at creede@wesleymonumental.org.


agirl_25 3 years, 9 months ago

It is no one's business how religious a person is. One's religious beliefs or lack of them have nothing to do with whether one supports the freedom of religion. I believe that the true separation of church and state means that the state cannot dictate religious beliefs. If the government persists in mandating that the Catholic Church provide insurance coverage for contraception, is a mandate for insurance coverage of assisted suicide far behind? Just because it's required to be covered in the health insurance doesn't mean you have to use it. Condoms are a form of contraception but I'm sure plenty of practicing Catholics use them. Leave it up to the individual to decide. What one does in their private non-public personal life is of no concern to their employer. If a person is free to decide whether or not to use them, why do they have to pay for them? How about including a free bible in health insurance - sure it'll increase your premium, but you're free not to read it - same logic. You want it - you pay for it. Simple. Right? Jehovah's witnesses don't believe in transplants and transfusions. Should we all lose this coverage because of them? What if a person objects to fertilty treatments on moral grounds. Should others beliefs dictate the beliefs of others? The whole thing is a red herring anyway because the insurance companies will GIVE birth control services at no cost because it is cheaper for them. Nobody is paying for something they don't support.


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