President Obama announced a distinct compromise to the firestorm over Catholic and faith based health organizations to having to pay for contraceptive services for employees. Catholic religious teaching instructs believers not to use contraception. Now, even the Catholic Health Association has signed on along with Planned Parenthood to a deftly orchestrated compromise sensitive to Catholic and faith-based groups. Health insurance companies will now make these health services available to women employed by the Catholic Church. Further, any woman who objects to contraception is not forced to use it. The religious freedom of millions of Catholic Christians is now being respected fully.
The reaction of Republicans? The moral evil of contraception has now been shifted on to insurance companies and the compromise and this in no way solves the problem. And the religious freedom of all Americans enshrined in the First Amendment is seriously compromised by the availability of contraception and having it subsidized in health care. Here, Republican conservatives are far behind where almost all Americans are at. Over eighty percent of Catholic women choose to use contraceptive health care services but simply did not want their church being told to have to support it. Oddly, most Catholic Universities and Law Schools have paid for these services in the health plans they have offered for years. Whether that is theologically and morally right is a matter for the Catholic Church to decide. The President’s compromise announced today might allow the Church to backtrack from where they are now.
It would seem that in the 21st Century and considering the very same rights of millions of women who do not accept Catholic teaching, and who should themselves be entitled to the very same religious freedom not to accept it and use contraception should be unquestioned. The benefits of the pill and the full range of contraceptive care for women is not only a matter of preventing pregnancy for women who want some control of when they bear children, but it may be dictated by their doctors for health reasons.
Just last week it was the Susan G. Komen Foundation and its defunding of Planned Parenthood because they could not provide funding to organizations under investigation by Congress. Here, the political views of a Republican Pro-life Congressman are the reason for the investigation. There has been no suggestion of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood at all. The investigation is simply further harassment of organizations that provide much needed health care to women. Planned Parenthood screens thousands upon thousands of women each year for breast cancer. The funding from Komen was geared to helping further not only research into ending this scourge but in helping to detect it when it still occurs much earlier for better health outcomes for so many women who need these services.
In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker has withdrawn funding for Planned Parenthood and funding for women’s reproductive health screenings generally. Note here, in both cases, no money from the private foundation nor the State of Wisconsin has been used to fund any abortions at all.
If you support the Republican Party and its candidates this November you do have the advantage of supporting a strong Pro-life Party. But it is also a party that is committed to inhibit abortion by massively cutting millions of women off from essential health care across the board in matters of reproductive health. Women are going to die if Republicans win the White House and stay in charge of State Houses around the nation after 2012. It’s that simple an equation. While we may either laud or condemn the Pro-life position on the abortion question, a deeply moral one for all Americans, quality women’s health services are essential and not connected to that question at all.
The Republican Party did not complain about the way contraception services were paid for under the President’s Affordable Health Care Act, and the laws of 28 States in place already that contradict them until this week. The Catholic Bishop’s who took a look at this issue and directed that the Catholic Clergy instruct their members at Mass on Sunday acted well within their prerogative as the leaders of the Church. It ought to be fully respected. But the Republican Party’s war on women’s health services is something that is NOT a part of that faith community.
It seems that the improving economy, the disaster that is the Republican Presidential Nomination Process, Obama’s surprising strength on foreign policy, required them to at the CPAC Convention in Washington D.C. to engage in an orgy of absurdity and silliness that occurs anytime a large group of them gather. Just last night, conservative columnist Cal Thomas outright said that Rachel Maddow, or Dr. Rachael Maddow, the talented host of an MSNBC Television program was an argument for the use of contraception by her parents: it would be better she had not been born. Maddow’s response was to suggest that the new American greeting can be “Hello, I’m so glad you were born.” Dr. Maddow, a Rhodes Scholar and a graduate of Oxford University probably has made her parents glad they had her. This is just the kind of silliness and meanness too, that we are seeing.
But women are more important than playing politics. Our mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters are worth far more than that. The nation has moved well past Republican conservatives on the fundamental issue of contraception and women’s health during the latter portion of the last century. Must we revisit the old Comstock Act of the 1870’s and raise up an entirely new set and generations of Margaret Sangers, and Betty Friedan’s? Should we go back to Jim Crow and raise up a whole new generation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s? This is 2011 and not 1911.
Women want full access to insurance covered reproductive health care by huge majorities. Their fathers, husbands and boyfriends and now female partners want it too. CPAC conservative Republicans are a century behind the times and are completely tone deaf to women in the United States. They ought to be held fully accountable for this in November.