PPACA, religious liberties and women's reproductive rights: an issue that isn't going awayBlog added by Vanessa De La Rosa on October 2, 2012
Vanessa De La Rosa

Vanessa De La Rosa

Denver, CO

Joined: September 24, 2012

“Is health insurance anti-life?” Forbes posed this paradoxical question in a recent article about the Catholic Church and its view of Obama’s health care reform. The article notes that the PPACA was designed to provide affordable health insurance for all U.S. citizens and decrease the amount of poverty caused by sky-high medical expenses. On the surface, reducing poverty is an ideal that health care reform and Catholic Charities seem to have in common. So then why does the article quote Father John, a diocese Roman Catholic priest, describing Obama as “the most evil President" of his lifetime?

Despite the glimmers of hope in the PPACA – decreasing medically induced poverty, reducing the overall costs of health care, potentially increasing American lifespans and life quality – Father John is against the health care overhaul because of the requirement that employers pay for all contraceptives, which he says is “bogus.” And as we all know, he is not alone in this opinion. The Catholic Church is against contraception on the grounds that it is not a human’s place to decide when a life is created or — in the case of abortion — terminated. This is the oldest of news.

Churches have been exempted from the requirement, but all other religious institutions are not. And they’re not going down without a fight. Numerous colleges, hospitals and other affiliated organizations have filed suit against the mandate, claiming it is an assault on religious liberty. The president did compromise back in January, stating that if a religious employer did not want to provide health care, then insurance companies would. It doesn't seem to be enough for the dissenters, though.

And it’s not just the Catholic Church that is fighting against Obama’s policy. Missouri lawmakers made history last month by voting to enact new religious exemptions from the policy. The Associated Press reports, “The new Missouri law allows individuals, employers and insurers to cite religious or moral exemptions from mandatory insurance coverage for abortion, contraception and sterilization.” Although the new Missouri law is currently facing a lawsuit, it is the “first time a state has directly rebutted a policy by President Barack Obama’s administration requiring insurers to cover contraception.”

An article in The Atlantic goes on to explore the claims of religious freedom versus claims of reproductive freedom, and even goes as far as comparing conscience or refusal clauses (allowing physicians to elect not to perform medical treatment if it clashes with their religious beliefs) to segregation, stating the clauses are “reminiscent of policies allowing white-only hospitals to refuse treatment to black patients, or accommodations to black travelers, in the segregated South.” It then poses an interesting and extremely controversial question: “What if belief in segregation were an article of faith, a matter of conscience, for some?”

Is it worth the risk to adhere to sectarian ideals? The article attempts to answer this question:
    Still, while the fate of American civilization doesn't depend on this debate about the obligations of church-affiliated institutions to abide by secular law, the stakes are relatively high. As government workers are laid off and government programs shrink, the public role of private, tax-exempt non-profits expands. The stronger their right to dispense public funds and deliver public services according to sectarian religious dictates, the weaker our rights to a non-sectarian public sphere. It's a zero-sum game.
A doctor can refuse medical treatment on the grounds that it conflicts with his or her religious beliefs. Should this same exemption be granted to religious institutions? The analogy is not perfect. A religious institution isn't standing over the patient with prescription pad or scalpel in hand, but would need to pay for the doctor performing those services. If certain employers are given an inch, who else will want a mile — and more exemption from health care requirements?

And more complex questions arise: Is the Church's opposition to the coverage of contraceptives worth, for example, Father John's unabashed hatred towards a fellow human being? Are religious beliefs worth the loss of women's rights, or are women's rights worth the sacrifice of religious liberties? Why do women's reproductive rights remain in the spotlight, when strengthening education and the economy could reduce the need for this type of coverage in the first place? The Atlantic harps "religious beliefs do not trump rights." Do you agree?
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