23 Aug 2014
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Birth Control Is About Choice, Not Religious Freedom

A 2010 survey showed that 71 percent of American voters believe insurers should be required to fully cover prescription contraception.

Birth Control Is About Choice, Not Religious Freedom


Last Thursday’s hearing on whether religious institutions that use federal funds should provide health insurance that would cover birth control was a farce.

There was an outcry from religious groups and institutions initially when President Obama’s healthcare plan required coverage for birth control and health care for women, but his compromise to allow health insurance companies to cover the cost as long as it was offered by institutions continues to be debated. Although some groups, such as the Catholic hospital association and Catholic Charities, accepted the proposal, a hearing was held on Capitol Hill for other religious leaders to outline their views on the issues.

However, it seems that instead they have shot themselves in the foot, bringing more attention to who is making these decisions about women’s healthcare and the future of American families. The panel, made up of all men, included Lutheran and Baptist clergymen, an Orthodox rabbi and a Roman Catholic bishop.

Now, keep in mind, the policy does not force anyone to use birth control. That is their choice. But if you work for a Catholic or other religious institution, such as a hospital or college, you have the right to choose to use a form of birth control and have that covered by your health insurance.

There were two women on a later panel, Allison Garrett, the senior vice president for academic affairs at Oklahoma Christian University and Laura Champion, a doctor at Calvin College Health Services, but it was the picture of the all-male panel that raised the question in many headlines about where the women were in this discussion.

According to a Planned Parenthood survey from 2010, 71 percent of American voters believe insurers should be required to fully cover birth control pill and other forms of prescription contraception as well as other preventative health care services. The survey also found that one in three women voters (34 percent) have struggled to pay for prescription birth control at some point in their lives.

It is seriously disturbing that there weren’t women on the panel or more women involved in the hearing. Another columnist pointed out that it shows a scary lack of women leadership in religious institutions. Obviously there isn’t going to be a female Catholic bishop or rabbi, but with the religious hospitals and colleges affected by this proposal are you telling me there aren’t more women involved who could speak to this issue?

Their insurance policies cover Viagra, but not birth control? Seriously? Because it solves a medical problem? So does birth control _ it can solve irregular periods, and umm, not getting pregnant. Combination hormone birth control pills have been shown to reduce menstrual cramps, make periods lighter, protect against bone thinning, protect against endometrial and ovarian cancers and cysts in the breasts and ovaries, among other things.

I was on birth control in the form of the pill for about 15 years, before I had children and during the time between my two children. Although my husband has since had a vasectomy, I am considering going back on birth control pills to normalize my periods.

When on insurance, my pill pack cost about $10 a month. According to Planned Parenthood, birth control pills cost between $15 and $50 a month at a drugstore or clinic. Other forms of birth control, such as an implant, a patch or a shot can be even more expensive.

It is a lot more expensive to cover pregnancy and additional children than birth control. If for religious reasons people choose not to use birth control that is their choice. But people who work for churches, hospitals and colleges that are religious institutions have the right to make that choice, and if they choose to use birth control to have that choice supported by their health insurance.

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