Back to Barefoot and Pregnant

Say I am a female Protestant employee hired by a Catholic institution that accepts federal funds (I’m not talking about working directly in a house of worship—I’m imagining a Catholic hospital or university). This institution has advertised for a job, interviewed me, found out I’m Protestant and am not about to convert to Catholicism, and decided they want me anyway. I have the talents they need, so they go ahead and hire me.

As part of my employment at this Catholic institution, I am offered health insurance. That’s the American way, right? After all, we have come up with the wonderful system—the envy of the world—whereby we individuals mostly obtain health insurance through individual employers.

Up until now, most employers’ insurance plans have covered birth control as part of their plans, mostly with no co-pay required of its employees. But this will change if the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which overtly loathes birth control, and Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who overtly loathes President Obama, have their way.

The female Protestant employee, if she wishes to keep her job, can say goodbye to the normal medical care she would expect to obtain through her employer—namely, a health-insurance plan that includes full coverage for artificial birth control (again, in many cases, this means birth control without a co-pay).

While Catholics and Boehner cry foul at the Obama administration’s recent ruling that Catholic-affiliated institutions (not actual churches, mind you) must abide by the same health-insurance rules that the rest of the employer world abides by (citing “religious freedom”), non-Catholic women like me cry foul even louder. We cite the need for women’s healthcare without the interference of religious ideas. I’ll grant that Catholic institutions would have a case were they never receiving any federal dollars. But that is not the case.

How is it, I ask, that Catholic institutions get to suck at the federal trough and then, when certain table manners are required, turn around and cry “religious freedom”? There are many, I know, who will say, “Well, your Protestant woman need not apply to work at a Catholic institution.” Fine. Then your Catholic institution need not accept my Protestant woman’s tax dollars—which come in the form of your grants and subsidies.

Note that nothing in the Obama administration’s plan forces Catholics to use birth control. It simply says that when it comes to women’s health-insurance plans, all employers must play by the same rules.

For a long time, those of us who support planned parenthood (that’s “planned parenthood” with lower case letters, indicating “the modern idea that men and women have the right to use artificial means of birth control) have argued that this includes artificial methods of birth control. The rhythm method just doesn’t cut it. We believe that by letting men and women who want to plan the number and spacing of their children do just that through artificial birth control, we let them exercise their freedom. We who believe this do not force birth control on anyone. (That doesn’t keep us from believing that women who end up as brood sows are a sad and sorry sight.)

Many who are opposed to abortion rights are, it turns out (surprise surprise) also opposed to contraception. It’s hard to fathom, but we are truly going backwards in history.



Return to Top