' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Bishops bally-hoo over over birth control is a blow against my freedoms

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bishops bally-hoo over over birth control is a blow against my freedoms

So a group of old white guys aka, Catholic bishops, are having a major snit over whether they have to provide contraception to their workers of all faiths, as the Obama administration is demanding. Since a great many Catholic institutions--hospitals and universities--were already providing contraception to their workers of all faiths--including a good many Catholic women--this ought to be a no-brainer. And no problem. Instead the bishops are stomping around like a bunch of angry kids who have just had spring break cancelled.

The Catholic Conference of Bishops in the U.S. say including contraception as a benefit of their insurance policies this violates their faith, since contraception of any sort other than just saying No is against the rules. And it doesn't matter if the workers they are talking about are Catholic or not. The bishops don't want to let them have The Pill. Hell, if I'd had The Pill back in the day I wouldn't be spilling my
guts out here to the lifelong reaction of having relinquished a child. I'd be, you know, a tad more relaxed. Something like that turns you into a rather radical believer in need for all insurers to provide The Pill, an I.U.D., or whatever kind of contraception--including Plan B, or the Morning-After Pill--to anyone who wants it.

Just to be clear: Obama right off exempted parish churches and all houses of worship from insisting that these workers get contraception coverage. When the bishops squawked and said that's not enough--we don't want to have to cover anyone for contraception since we are against all artificial contraception, he came back with a compromise that said, Okay, you won't have to pay for the coverage, the insurance plan that Catholic institutions use will pick up the cost. The insurance companies were more than agreeable, because contraception is a whole lot cheaper than pregnancy and, uh, children.

A great many Catholic leaders said, Let's do it. The heads of several large Catholic organizations that work directly on poverty, health care and education have welcomed the president’s plan as a way to basically satisfy the bishops, while allowing employees who request it to have contraceptives covered by their insurance plans. We are not talking about fringe Catholic organizations, but the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, also known as nuns; the Catholic Health Association, which represents 600 hospitals and 1,400 health care facilities; Catholic Charities, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. They added that details like what to do about those institutions who “self-insure” could be worked out.

Band of Boys against birth control
The bishops response: Not good enough. Instead, they announced they plan to work with other religious groups, including evangelical Christians, on an election-year public relations campaign that may include TV and radio ads, social media marketing and a push for pastors and priests to raise the subject from the pulpit. Good luck with that one, as every survey of Catholics, when asked if they have ever used artificial birth control (that's anything other than the infamous Rhythm Method, notoriously ineffective) indicates that 98 percent of them have, the same percentage as non-Catholics. And artificial birth control has been against the official rules since the beginning of artificial birth control. 

A New York Times/CBS poll of Catholics found that 57 percent of Catholics supported religiously-affiliated institutions to provide contraception coverage, and there was almost no difference between Catholics and non-Catholics on this question. I'd like to see the polling data broken down further along gender lines; my best guess is that it would be more like 98 percent of Catholics (see above) who believed in contraception coverage for all--including, say,  Catholics and non-Catholics who work at a Catholic hospital. 

Having been schooled by nuns for twelve years, I can hear the bishops response: The Church is not a democracy run by the will of the people. Well, nice try, but that means that 98 percent of your flock is not listening when you pontificate about pelvic politics, and going its own way. The bishops are stomping around saying that having to provide contraception for their Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Sufi, Shinto et cetera workers is a "war on religion" and violates the separation of church and state.

If you want to go that route, then all the Catholic institutions that hire non-Catholic workers should stop putting their hands in the till for federal funds. That comes from my taxes, too, and I believe in true freedom of religion, one that allows those whose conscience calls for contraception to follow their own beliefs, not a "freedom of religion" tethered to the bishops' sensitivity to a rule from Rome that most Catholics patently ignore.--lorraine


  1. My first born daughter suggested this site to possible help me with my guilt and depression but the first writing was off-putting. I do not want to read angry comments about bishops & Obama right nor the second angry missive by this writer. There were other writings that I could identify with but this was a step backward for me. I won't be back.

  2. Lorraine,
    You are exactly correct on all points. The bottom line is if they don't like it then quit taking federal money.
    No man or woman for that matter should be allowed to have any say over what I do or don't do in the matter of my personal healthcare.

  3. Do you buy the argument (advanced by Andrew Sullivan & other bloggers) that this was all Machiavellian strategy by Obama admin to get bishops & right-wing Christians out of step with most of America? Or did they make a real fumble & then correct?

  4. Last week in my church a letter from the Bishops on this subject was read at the end of Mass. I was so disgusted I walked out in the middle. What ever happened to separation of church and state?

    Pretty much all the practicing Catholics I know used or are using birth control. Nobody can afford to raise ten kids any more, and only fanatics that many now. For the Catholic laity, birth control is pretty much a dead issue. For most parish priests as well except the ones who are a hundred years old, or some of the new ultra-conservatives hoping to rise in the hierarchy of the Church. On this issue, like the pedophile scandal, the Bishops are horribly out of touch with the parishioners.

    Lorraine, one point I am confused on in your story, earlier you said you did use birth control pills and it may have contributed to your daughter's epilepsy, but this post sounds like you did not have access to them. I know birth control was hard for unmarried women to get in those times. I did not even try.

  5. Oh yeah,another thing criticize the Catholics all you want(and they certainly deserve a lot of criticism) but Catholic schools, hospitals and other institutions provide many services that others won't do(especially to the poor and sick). Watch the deficit skyrocket even more if these institutions are forced to close.

  6. Maryanne, you are a close reader. I did write about this in Birthmark but I can understand your confusion as what you say is correct about the post we're discussing here.

    As you know in 1966, The Pill was still a New Thing; and as a girl just released from virginity and with lots of Catholic instructions roiling around in my head (THOU SHALT NOT HAVE SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE!!!), I did not take the initiative as I should have and gotten some real contraception the minute Jane's father and I achieved coitus. (That's a story in itself.) Fast Forward seven/eight weeks. Oy, I was stupid, but we were, er, using the Rhythm Method.

    The instant I thought I might be pregnant, I went to a doctor I did not know, as I was living in a new city, far from where I grew up, and insisted on a pregnancy test. It came back negative. Then, to hide my embarrassment over having sex OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE, I lied and said I was engaged to someone in law school and could I please have a prescription for The Pill. I felt incredibly feel creepy for asking, but he did give it to me.

    I took The Pill religiously. But the test was done too early, and I was pregnant the whole time. And therein may have been the cause of my daughter's epilepsy because there are some medical indications between what the hormones leech out of your body and a treatment that works for some epileptics. So Yes, I could have had The Pill but as you say, the times, the guilt, the whole shebang about asking for contraception before marriage...and there I was. And that is where the Bishops want women to stay.

  7. My first comment was not posted, Maybe you didn't like it or maybe I forget to send it. This article makes me angry. As a Catholic and reunited firstmother,I am getting tired of all the Catholic bashing(and they certainly deserve criticism for some things). Contraception and abortion are legal No one's stopping you. But to force a religion to violate it's beliefs and pay for it violates the First Amendment. Slowly we are losing our freedoms. A law was sneakily passed at the end of 2011 that gives the government the right to haul anyone in for questioning and hold them indefinitely. I voted for Obama in 2008 but not sure if I'll vote for him again

  8. Anon: Of course we don't want Catholic schools and hospitals to close; we just want them to abide by the rules for everyone and not cry "war against religion" because they are asked to supply medical care to all across the board, and not suddenly get all sensitive about asking everyone to abide by their rules, when even their own members do not.

    If Catholic institutions take federal funds, they need to provide equal medical care, including contraception coverage--for their workers like everybody else--who takes federal money.

  9. As a practicing Catholic I certainly do not want Catholic schools, hospitals, or other charitable institutions performing the Corporal Works of Mercy to close! But if they were to close over the issue of providing contraceptive coverage in their health care programs for workers, I would say that they were at fault, not the government. The Church should do even more to help the most helpless in our society, and less to nitpick and threaten when they do not get to enforce their will on everyone.

    Contraception is NOT abortion, and in fact can remove the need for abortion. I would not like to see religious institutions forced to perform abortions, nor religious persons forced to participate in abortion. I for one would not. However, that is a very different issue.

    But seriously, does anyone still think the majority of faithful Catholics do not use contraception at some time in their lives? I think Obama's concession was more than fair, and I am sick of the Bishops trying to dictate how to vote and how to think to me and other Catholics. It is not the 19th century any more.

  10. I don't know you and I don't know what causes epilepsy, but I've had some medical training and I seriously doubt the pill caused your daughter's epilepsy. You certainly didn't intend that to happen. We're just going to have to agree to disagree on this one I'm all for contraception-abortion,not so much Not that I think it should be illegal(don't want to go back to the coat-hanger days and they'll always be some scared girls who might resort to that) But I do think partial-birth abortions should be illegal How barbaric are we. Enough said. Yes, it is hell giving a baby up, but I'm still glad I had him, and I,for one, am not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater

  11. Re epilepsy and The Pill:

    The Pill leeches B6 out of the body, and in 1966, the dosage of hormones was at least three times (and probably several times more) what it is today; some epilepsy treatments involve a high dose of B6.

  12. It's very simple for me reading this: If the Catholic run hospitals, clinics, etc don't like being told what to do, then get out of that business..period. We all have rules and guidelines we have to follow in life; some are ones that we don't like or necessarily agree with. What these businesses fail to understand is that it is HEALTHCARE that they are SUPPOSE to be doing first and foremost. Religion second. This argument is no different than than the one about a doctor who doesn't want to perform an abortion or a pharmacist who won't fill a prescription for Plan B. Their SOLE JOB(s) is(are) to provide a service..period. Leave your personal politics at the door..they have not place in healthcare. They definitely have no place near, in or around my uterus and vagina.

  13. Lorraine, thank you for your latest blog entry. I agree with you on all major points. The solution is simple: if Catholic hospitals don't want to provide their employees with contrapceptives, then don't accept federal subsidies and handouts. This country separates church and state, one of the most amazing and successful things about our democratic republic. I personally don't want to see America become a theocracy, nor do I want to see ultra-right-winger groups turning back the clock on women's rights. I know that some of you are too young to really remember what your older sisters and mothers went through to gain those rights. But you better wake up and smell the coffee before it's too late. I'm sure the women of Seneca Falls are rolling in their graves when they see women just throwing it all away. STAND UP AND BE COUNTED...don't let them take away our hard-won rights that so many of us took to the streets to fight for back in the 1960s and 1970s.

    First abortion, then contraceptives...what's next on their agenda? The right to vote perhaps?? I never thought I'd live to see the day that our rights were in jeopardy, not after we've come so far.

    To the Anonymous poster who has such a problem with reading this blog: take what you need and leave the rest. There are plenty of other blogs and pro-adoption forums that you can join. I'm sure you can find some other Kool-Aid drinkers who will tell you how wonderful you are and how adoption is the answer to all of life's problems. I also suggest you read "The Girls Who Went Away" by Ann Fessler.

    I resent the heck out of the Bishops ordering that letter to be read at the end of Mass last week. It should never have been part of the sacred Mass...it should have been delivered after the Mass had ended.

    As far as oral contraceptives causing epilepsy, it is a well-known fact among the medical profession that the early forms of The Pill (especially the "sequential" type) that were used in the mid-to-late 1960s caused some horrible things to happen to offspring, including severe seizure disorders. Before blasting Lorraine about this issue, do your homework and check the peer-reviewed medical journals from that time period.

    Lorraine, I apologize for fomenting so much on this comment...but I'm angry as hell at the current atmosphere in this great country of ours.

  14. Raven--Hey thanks for the comment. And for backing me up on The Pill and my daughter's seizures. I was told by a lawyer I might have had a case to sue the doctor who gave me no advice, no help, who said nothing, as I left his office the day the pregnancy was confirmed. But it was a zillion years later and I didn't even remember the bastard's name.

  15. RE Anon: "Catholic schools, hospitals and other institutions provide many services that others won't do(especially to the poor and sick)."

    Yes they do, but they are also provided with an enormous amount of state and federal funds to perform those services. Catholic hospitals receive so much money from Medicare that they could be viewed as a de factor government hospitals.

    I wish women of all faiths would stand up to the male hierachy of these medieval religious institutions.

  16. @Raven,
    Thank you for the reminder. I did not have to live through the bad old days and from what I've heard I wouldn't want them to come back. The thinking of the times is what caused me to be separated from my own mother. Unfortunately, I do think that public sentiment is leaning towards "there is no need for abortion when the "unwanted" child can always be given up for adoption".

    It annoys me that the feminist movement seems to only focus on abortion being legal and the solution to an unplanned pregnancy. They seem to be unwilling to focus on the expectant mother having the baby and KEEPING the baby.


    I agree with you about Plan B but I do believe that any physician should be able to refuse to perform abortions or to work someone where they take place if abortion goes against his or her conscience.

  17. Why does a conversation about 'birth control', contraceptives.. ALWAYS devolve into a conversation about abortion?! Abortion is not the same as taking a contraceptive regimen..i.e. birth control pills. I don't know a single woman who has used abortion on a regular basis as prescribed birth control regimen. I know of women (including myself) who have used abortion one time in their lives. I don't believe that to be the same as a prescribed regimen of contraceptives. Condoms can also be used as a 'contraceptive'...men need to absolutely be involved in that conversation.
    And btw...if BC pills had been available to me in 1964, I would have used them, but they weren't. Nor was a legal abortion...if that had been legally available to me, I would have opted for that also. But because these options were not available to me in 1964, I was forced to remain pg. OK..I got use to the idea, I even then very much wanted my baby. Yeah...so I remained pg and then the only choice I was given, was the supposed *choice* of surrendering my newborn for the act of adoption. Not much choice in my book! And I Pray to all the Gods and Goddesses in The Universe, that women today, never have to experience...The Good Old Days.

  18. Chris wrote:
    Why does a conversation about 'birth control', contraceptives.. ALWAYS devolve into a conversation about abortion?!"

    If you research the organizations and individuals who are opposed to abortion you will find that many of them are also against contraception. Many in the pro-life movement believe that birth control pills (and I believe the IUD as well) act as defacto abortifacients. The two issues are not quite as separate as you might think. It is a slippery slope.

  19. You are right Robin and sad to say the Catholic Church and ultra Orthodox Jews are the worst offenders opposing both birth control and abortion. The worst of it is trying to impose their extreme religious views on the rest of the world.

    I feel that anyone who sincerely is troubled by abortion should be 100% FOR birth control, as it removes the need for abortion in many instances.

  20. Maryanne said: "I feel that anyone who sincerely is troubled by abortion should be 100% FOR birth control, as it removes the need for abortion in many instances."


    I find no slippery-slope when discussing contraceptives vs abortion. Contraceptives stop the fertilization of an egg...therefore no life has been conceived. Thus abortion is a moot subject.

    birth control: deliberate limitation of childbearing by measures to control fertility and to prevent conception.

    abortifacient [əˌbɔːtɪˈfeɪʃənt]
    (Medicine) causing abortion
    (Medicine) a drug or agent that causes abortion

    So for those people who believe a contraceptive regimen is an abortifacient...they really need to pick up a dictionary once in awhile. And quit making up their own definitions of words and actions.



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