President Obama and the Democrats put forward a provision in the 2010 Healthcare Law- presumably this was done in 2010, you know, a full year or more ago-that would force all insurance companies to offer at least basic birth control under their healthcare plans. This, to me, seems perfectly reasonable, yet Republicans and religious groups are up in arms because some of the employers who co-sponsor these benefits are Catholic Universities, Hospitals, and other institutions under the Diocese-as well as various other religious groups that hold on to the ridiculous belief that practicing birth control is an immoral act.
The healthcare law currently makes exemptions for churches, diocese, and other religious organizations that do not serve the wider public. What it doesn’t do is exempt religious organizations that offer services outside of the church proper.
The argument is that a Catholic hospital, for example, should not be required to contribute to an insurance plan that affords benefits for services that contradict the conscience of the corporation. Other writers have done a better job than I ever could at pointing out the flaw in this reasoning, so I will point you to two of the better articles I have read on the subject- here and here.
What I want to ask is not whether religious organizations have a right to decide what services their employees have access to as part of a comprehensive national healthcare plan (Hint: they don’t.). What I do want to ask is whether or not they see the fantastic irony of being on the front line of the battle to end abortion while fighting against one of the most effective ways to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.
I don’t think any reasonable person can argue that family planning is one of the best possible ways to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in America. Making family planning choices accessible and affordable to every sexually active (or potentially sexually active) American is an initiative directly targeted at giving people the resources to make mature and informed choices regarding when or whether to reproduce. Reductions in unplanned pregnancies results in fewer people choosing to abort a pregnancy. This issue, for me, really draws the line in the sand between those who are “anti-abortion” and those who are “pro-life”.
How can any person, regardless of their religious convictions, call themselves pro-life while denying people the right to control their ability to get pregnant or impregnate others? How can you simultaneously refuse to support preventative family planning while decrying the end result of your refusal? That is not pro-life. That is anti-abortion. Pro-life, to me, entails trying to reduce the number of abortions in this country by any means at our disposal- be it better sex education, preventative family planning, or proactive social programs designed to reduce the burden on expectant and new mothers. If you cared about life, you would want to avoid putting people in a position to have to consider abortion as an option.
Remember, as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, they want to bow out of paying not just for the birth control pill, not just for diaphragms, condoms, IUDs and birth control shots- they want to avoid paying for vasectomies and tubal ligation. This is not about abstinence. They want employees to shell out their own money to responsibly decide to stop having children. Theologically though, they of course don’t want people shelling out their own money for these services- they want people to have as many children as “God wills”.
They want to put the people with the least financial resources to pay for a child (I assume, since they hypothetically can’t afford to shoulder the cost of family planning) in a position to either have an abortion, have an unwanted child, or choose abstinence. This is what I mean when I say that limiting choices forces people to make choices they don’t want to make. We can arguably create a society where abortion seems about as logical as pulling your toenails out for fun-at least for the vast majority of women. We can make abortion a non-choice. We cannot do this by trying to increase or maintain the current number of unplanned pregnancies.
If you are really against abortion- if you really want to try and save the lives of millions of aborted children- you should be trying to make every pregnancy a planned and wanted one, to whatever degree that is possible.
If you think that there is something sinful or immoral about choosing the right time to bring a child into this world, then there is something truly wrong with you. Period.