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The Bishops v. Birth Control: It’s Not About the Money

11:45 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Birth control pills

Religion, birth control, and Obamacare — it’s not about the money.

In announcing its final rule concerning the Affordable Care Act’s guarantee of access to birth control without a co-pay for all American women—including the Catholics and non-Catholics who work in religiously sponsored schools, hospitals, and social service agencies—the Obama administration bent over backwards to accommodate the Church’s concerns. The goal was to spare Church fathers from the anguish of getting their pristine hands dirty by, as the Bishops charged, being forced to sell, buy or broker birth control coverage for women, including students. The final rule allows that either the insurance company used by the institution—or, if it is self-insured, its plan administrator—will have to pay, with reimbursement coming through a series of convoluted steps.

In a repeat of the Church battle over the Affordable Care Act, Sister Carol Keehan, head of the Catholic Health Association, last week publicly approved the administration’s final rule, issuing an explanation for the association’s members about how to implement it. Not so the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The week before, its head, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, released his statement expressing dissatisfaction with the compromise, saying that the bishops are subjecting it to further “analysis,” feel their “religious freedom” is still under threat, and plan to continue “defending our rights in Congress and in the courts.” Count on the 60+ lawsuits by Catholic diocese and universities around the country, joined by secular employers who also don’t like birth control and want to exclude it from their insurance policies, proceeding apace.

It is maddening that the Administration had to go to such extremes to placate the Church fathers, who dare to put “moral” and “money” as it applies to this deeply compromised institution in the same sentence. How pure, really, were the hands of the Church fathers who began decades ago to secretly spend millions of dollars in hush money to silence child victims of clergy rape and sodomy, and rid themselves of the evidence of their paternal crimes? Hush money that came from the faithful in the pews, who paid for all those ever-escalating insurance premiums, and from selling the churches and schools out from under those same working-class Catholics? The victims merited all the compensation they got and more, but the Church fathers literally stole that money from the Catholics they served and lied about it.

When the Bishops realized how much money they had to lose by even these secret settlements, hiding the goods from the victims became the next best strategy. So how pure, really, are the hands of Cardinal Dolan, the leading voice claiming the moral high ground in the battle to keep any of the church coffers from supporting birth control for women? Files just released by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee turned up a letter showing that when Dolan served as the Archbishop of that diocese, he secretly and successfully, and even as the Archdiocese was preparing to file for bankruptcy, petitioned the Vatican to bury nearly $57 million in a cemetery trust fund in order to protect those assets “from legal claim and liability,” aka, child abuse victim compensation. And this was on top of his paying off some priest child sex abusers $20,000 a piece to leave the priesthood, reportedly defended by Dolan in one case as “an act of charity,” so that, irony of ironies, the priest “could pay for health insurance.”

And how pure, really, are the hands of the Church fathers regarding money when we look at the shenanigans at the Vatican bank? Still laughably named the “Institute for the Works of Religion,” the Vatican Bank is literally drowning in mounting accusations of money laundering and mobster connections. Most recently, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, an accountant for the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, which manages the Vatican’s property and investments (and a Vatican account-holder himself), was arrested and charged with conspiring to transfer some $26 million from Switzerland to Italy to dole out to his rich friends.

Given this sad financial state of affairs, how does paying for a health service like birth control for women become such a threat to Church fathers that they’ve made a major campaign out of it?

The bishops claim this mandate violates church teaching that artificial birth control is “intrinsically evil, “despite the fact that nearly 100 percent of Catholics don’t believe there is anything “intrinsically evil” about birth control and use it. The bishops claim birth control is the same as abortion; it isn’t. They claim to be protecting the institution’s “conscience,” thereby stepping all over Catholic Church teaching that defines conscience as “the most secret core and sanctuary” of a person, not an institution, and the Church not as the “men of God” but as “the people of God,” which would seem to include women. They claim the money at issue is “their” money, even though employees earn their health insurance as part of their compensation package, and many have to contribute to or pay the full amount of their health insurance premiums so this is at base a labor issue. And their claim that birth control is not a “health” service, in the face of current scientific knowledge and medical opinion, is tantamount to insisting that the sun revolves around the earth.

A hint of a far deeper motivator lies in a rarely regarded passage from Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s 1969 Encyclical letter, “On the Regulation of Birth,” which cemented the Church’s current intransigent opposition to birth control. The section on “Grave Consequences on Methods of Artificial Contraception” reads in part:

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Why I Refuse to Be Taken to a Catholic Hospital—And Why Other Women Should Too

1:48 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Erin Matson for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Hospital hallway

Erin Matson argues that pregnant women should refuse to be taken to Catholic hospitals.

The reason I don’t want to be taken to a Catholic hospital isn’t because of abstract notions about morality, the separation of church and state, or when different faiths say life begins. Rather, I refuse because in Catholic hospitals patients may be refused medical treatment on the basis of church teachings. That’s a pretty big deal if an ambulance or well-meaning relative brings you to one while pregnant, after a rape, or any time you need urgent medical care.

Refusal to Perform Abortions Allows Women to Die

In October 2012, severe back pain brought Savita Halappanavar to a Catholic hospital in Galway, Ireland. When it was revealed that her 17-week pregnancy was unsustainable, doctors ignored her pleas and refused to perform a life-saving abortion, citing Catholic doctrine. Savita died. Her death has implications for all women, knowingly pregnant or not, who enter a Catholic hospital anywhere in the world.

Here in the United States, Sister Margaret McBride was excommunicated after authorizing a life-saving abortion in 2010 for a gravely ill woman at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.

It is unreasonable to expect that every Catholic hospital in the country will have a dissenting nun willing to be excommunicated or a doctor willing to be fired to prevent women from being killed by “no abortion under any circumstances” rigidity. It seems it’s only a matter of time until the United States has its own Savita — a pregnant woman who dies needlessly in a Catholic hospital because the all-male Catholic hierarchy has decided barring all abortion, no exceptions, is the “pro-life” thing to do.

If Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) had gotten his way in 2011 and HR 358 had been signed into law, under federal law all hospitals would be allowed to refuse life-saving abortion care to patients; they also would be able to refuse arranging transport to another hospital that would provide such care. Pitts even had the nerve to name the bill the “Protect Life Act.”

It’s important to note that discrimination is dangerous and wrong, even when it doesn’t kill you. When we consider abortion only in life-and-death situations, we ignore the health and economic consequences women also face when they are denied constitutionally protected abortion care in the Catholic medical system.

Furthermore, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has claimed that abortion is, well, whatever they say it is. Scientific facts do not back up the bishops’ repeated assertion that emergency contraception is an “abortion-inducing drug”; in reality, emergency contraception prevents pregnancy before it occurs. When facts don’t matter, the next substance that the bishops deem an “abortion-inducing drug” could be anything — routine over-the-counter treatments, standard vaccinations — if the person controlling the medical care available to you is in a Catholic medical facility.

Scope of Problem Is Vast, Hits Rural Areas Hard

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Lady-Parts, the Church and Planned Parenthood: When I Became Pro-Choice

9:34 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by On The Issues Magazine for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post. Originally written by Sara Benincasa for On The Issues Magazine; cross-posted with permission.

I’m a comedian, not a scientist or another type of professional smart person, so I have a limited understanding of that which occurs at the microscopic level inside my lady-parts. However, I did once have a job at Planned Parenthood Federation of America for six weeks, which taught me a few things about the goings-on in the general vicinity of my undercarriage. Plus, I like to read the lady-blogs to learn more about these issues.

And lest you think I’ve only exposed my tender brain to leftist influences, I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church, where a very serious lady showed me very serious photographs of very serious fetuses when I was a very serious (and vocally anti-abortion) 13-year-old. It is a fact that I once told my mother she was “slutty” for failing to wait until marriage to have sex with my dad (never mind the fact that he’s the only guy she’s ever been with in the Biblical sense.) And I once begged my mom to let me take the day off from school to travel with our parish (that’s a Catholic word that means “franchise”) to the March for Life in Washington, where I would walk in memory of the millions of murdered babies who had perished at the hands of selfish mothers and evil doctors. To her eternal credit, she said, “No. School is more important. You can do that when you’re a grown-up, if you want.”

What I’m trying to say is, I’ve been on both sides of the reproductive rights debate – the side that thinks reproduction is not a right or a decision but a God-given duty; and the side that thinks birth control and abortions ought to be available to whoever the hell wants ‘em, regardless of age (within reason) or reason (within reason). I’ve spent my entire adult life on the latter side of the issue.

But never was the difference between my old way of thinking and my new way of thinking thrown into such stark contrast as the first time I took emergency contraception. I was an adult, sure, but a scared one, and a college student to boot. My boyfriend and I looked in horror at the broken condom, and I ran into the bathroom to shower and pee, as if that would help (some experts say it does, some experts say it doesn’t. In conclusion, the jury’s still out on that one.) Then, because I am excellent in a crisis, I burst into tears and was nearly unable to dial the number for Planned Parenthood. Finally, I got the hang of it and steeled myself to speak on the phone.

“Hello, Planned Parenthood,” came the voice on the other end of the line. Read the rest of this entry →

Kentucky Governor Firmly Rejects Hospital Merger with Catholic Health Initiatives

12:33 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check


Written by Rev. Matthew Westfox and Carol Savkovich for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear said January 9, 2012 for the second time in two weeks that he was rejecting a hospital merger of the publicly-funded University Hospital with a Catholic-oriented consortium, Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI).

The rejection of the Kentucky merger marked a welcome success story for people supporting reproductive options and it shows how concerned citizens, working together, can have a real impact in their communities. It also sends a clear message to Washington D.C. policymakers that ordinary Americans do not want their health care options limited by singular religious views.

The Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and others objected to the restrictions on reproductive health care that would have resulted from the merger. Particularly affected would have been the needy, for whom University Hospital is the main source of care.

The proposed hospital merger – or its rejection – didn’t generate much attention outside Kentucky, but it was big news in the state. The plan, first raised in the early summer of 2011, involved merging two hospitals in Louisville and one in Lexington into a single entity under the majority control of CHI, a Denver-based chain. In addition to University Hospital, which had been built with public funds, the others joining in the merger plans were Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s HealthCare in Louisville and St. Joseph Hospital in Lexington.

CHI indicated that it would operate under the Ethical and Religious Directives (ERD) of the Roman Catholic Conference of Bishops, and all of the merging hospitals would be required to conform to the ERDs, even if they or their patients did not subscribe to Catholic beliefs. This created a significant problem for reproductive health care since the ERDs prohibit or restrict a range of medical procedures related to reproductive health, including abortion (even when medically necessary), family planning, contraception, emergency contraception, tubal ligation, vasectomy and stem cell research. Employee health care options at these hospitals would have been similarly curtailed, regardless of employees’ personal religious beliefs.

The Board of the Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (KRCRC), a state chapter of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), headquartered in Washington D.C., voted unanimously in December to take a stand opposing the merger. In a letter to the editor, KRCRC wrote that the Catholic Ethical and Religious Directives were not compatible with providing the full range of reproductive health care services to the area’s citizens. The letter said: Read the rest of this entry →

Rep. Steve King: All Life Is Sacred…Except for The Woman’s Life That Is

9:06 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amie Newman for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Rep. Steve King, a Republican representative from Iowa,  has it all figured out – life, that is. It’s simple, he says, according to Lynda Waddington writing on the Iowa Independent. Each one of us has the right to life from the moment of conception and we have that right until natural death. Done and done.

Well, okay. It’s simple if you don’t take into account anything else but King’s unwavering commitment to his own religion, tended to within his cultural and social boundaries.

In this interview with (the conservative news site with a decidedly religious extremist perspective), Rep. Steve King expounds on how to “never lose a debate” when it comes to abortion.

His advice?

1. This is about God and Jesus, women. All women, regardless of religion, creed, culture, ethnicity, economic or personal circumstances or moral beliefs must abide by Rep. King’s personal, religious stance on abortion. Since according to King his religion teaches that, “Jesus got the right to life when God conceived him in the womb of Mary” then all of us ladies should just stand aside and when we’re impregnated by what I can only assume would be “mystical means” we should continue our pregnancy no matter what? Does this pre-suppose that the males in this situation are equivalent to God? Or only that a man can get us pregnant (i.e. “conceive a baby in our womb”) but it’s up to us to carry that pregnancy to term no matter what?

I suppose if a woman is Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Sikh, or Atheist, it’s irrelevant to Rep. King. He, as a Christian man, has the right to determine the legality of abortion access for all. Never mind that there are actually many women within the Catholic Church who do not believe as King does.

2. It’s easy, kids. Repeat after me – There is no woman in this scenario. Abortion is about me and my own personal belief system which we will now repeat. Read more

Life-Saving Hospital May No Longer Consider Itself Catholic

8:47 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amie Newman for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

It’s being characterized as both good news and sad news.

Bishop Thomas Olmstead of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix has formally stripped St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona of its status as an official Catholic hospital after Lloyd H. Dean, President of Catholic Healthcare West, the entity that runs St. Joseph’s Hospital, refused to submit to Olmstead’s demands that the hospital never again perform a life saving procedure on a woman–if said procedure is an abortion.

St. Joseph’s could not, as the Dude would say, “abide.”In a statement released today, Bishop Olmstead explained his reasoning,

“In the decision to abort, the equal dignity of mother and her baby were not both upheld,” Olmsted said at a news conference announcing the decision. “The mother had a disease that needed to be treated. But instead of treating the disease, St. Joseph’s medical staff and ethics committee decided that the healthy, 11-week-old baby should be directly killed.”

The hospital did, in fact, treat the mother’s “disease” because if they hadn’t not only would she have died but the fetus would have as well. Olmstead’s insistence on calling the fetus, in utero, an “11 week old baby” is not only disrespectful of this woman’s life and health, it’s medically incorrect and absolutely meant to condescend to a woman whose life was saved and whose chidren still have a living mother.

According to a statement from Linda Hunt, president of St. Joseph’s, the hospital does all they can to prioritize the lives of both the fetus and the mother but, “Morally, ethically, and legally we simply cannot stand by and let someone die whose life we might be able to save.” Read more