Contraception is not only about preventing pregnancy.
For millions of us (including more than 90% of Catholics) birth control is a deeply personal and serious issue. It allows us to have control over our lives, bodies, financial security and health. During a time when employment and unemployment are already difficult, even distressing, republicans want to introduce MORE employment problems by allowing employers to choose what health coverage we should have. It is not simply a matter of finding an employer who offers the health coverage that we desire. For those with jobs, it would be a painstaking task to try to find another job, and for those of us without jobs, this would be one more frustration, fear and obstacle to finding suitable employment. This is not just about women’s health. This is also about family income, wellbeing, and survival. My family has two children because we do not want more. We already have one child with special and medical needs that are a health coverage issue.
I use birth control, which my husband and I both agree on, not only to keep my family stable with two children, which is very important to us financially, but a specific birth control was prescribed to me to control hormone issues that my body does not control on its own. In addition, birth control has contributed to reducing the severity of cycles, which is not only convenient to me, but which my husband also benefits from! These are standards of living and well-being that neither the government nor employers should interfere with.
Single men and women will not be the only ones to suffer if this republican, religious-fanatical agenda succeeds. The personal sexual lives of many married couples will also suffer if they don't want more children, or if the health of wives suffers due to inability to obtain simple birth control which is known to help with many female medical issues.
No one is calling for an end to coverage for hysterectomies or vasectomies, both of which prevent pregnancy, but are more costly and invasive, OR Viagra.... Men want to take Viagra, but extremists want women to "put an aspirin between their knees," as recommended by Santorum supporter Foster Friess and our nation’s embarrassment, Rush Limbaugh. This is a contradiction, and women are not property for whom religious law is needed to make decisions.
Here are two excerpts about Dr. John Rock, a devout Catholic who pioneered contraception:
"Another opponent of the Catholic ban was John Rock, a devout Catholic doctor who taught at Harvard Medical School and who would become one of the leading clinical researchers responsible for developing the pill. Rock held that contraception was sometimes medically necessary and often personally desirable for maintaining happy marriages and well-planned families. He also believed that birth control was essential for those who could not afford many children. Rock was by no means a radical. He was a solid Republican and didn’t approve of sex outside of marriage. But he openly defied the Catholic Church and state laws." “Today, according to the Guttmacher Institute, more than 99 percent of sexually experienced women report having used contraception. But we are once again debating whether women should have access to birth control. Fifty years ago, John Rock, the socially conservative, Catholic, Republican doctor, insisted that birth control was consistent with church teachings. He believed that contraception was essential for women’s health and well-being, family happiness, and the good of society. The vast majority of Americans of all faiths and political parties agreed with him at the time. And they still do.”
“Rock had witnessed the suffering women endured from unwanted pregnancies. He had seen collapsed wombs, premature aging, and desperation caused by too many mouths to feed. The experiences of his patients had a profound impact on the man. Despite his faithful Catholicism and the church's opposition to contraceptives, Rock came to support contraception within the confines of marriage. Although he never went as far as to endorse birth control purely as a woman's right, Rock believed in the power of birth control to stem poverty and prevent medical problems associated with pregnancy.”
Banning or otherwise limiting birth control because someone might use it outside of marriage is like prohibiting Sony or Panasonic from manufacturing recording devices because someone might abuse them and fraudulently record movies and music they are not authorized to record. That does not make good economic sense.
This extreme republican agenda is not only about women’s health rights. This agenda will not just affect what jobs women can get; it will affect several areas of our family’s life, and will affect the jobs our husbands get, especially if the husband’s job is what provides health coverage for the family. Our efforts need to keep the government out of our family planning, out of our medical decisions, and out of our finances which are affected by how large our families are and what kind of employers are available. Don’t let this extremism turn our country into a country ruled by religious law. People do not have the right to determine, based on their personal beliefs, whether I have the right to use birth control. The time is now to vote and speak out.
I received this response the next week:
An Open Letter to Reverend Ten Eyck In your letter about contraception (printed last week), you raise several important issues that I’d like to address.
First, I sense a fair amount of pain in what you say, so as a Catholic, I’d like to apologize to you if anyone in the Church has ever hurt you concerning this or any other issue.
Second, I agree with you that “fanatical” elements are throughout society; the Church, the political parties, labor unions, corporations, etc. As a Catholic and a conservative, I repudiate any fanaticism that drives people away from the truth, but at the same time the truth must be continually affirmed. The Italians have a saying, Tivolio Bene; generically this means “I love you,” but actually means, “I want what’s best for you.” If I want what’s best for another person, that’s what “love your neighbor” is all about. If I force my neighbor to do something or pay for something against his or her wishes or moral convictions, then that ceases to be a kind and loving act and becomes an act of hate. The best I can do is invite another to what is better and allow that person to accept or reject that something.
The issue of contraception is indeed a political football, but I believe the problem is moral, not political. Your letter connects availability of contraception to stress of unemployment, financial burdens and survival. I agree with you that “put an aspirin between their knees” is a callous thing to say and Limbaugh has no business hurling epitaphs, but there is an obvious truth about sex: we are not animals--we can choose to have sex or not. Our bodies are supposed to be at the service of our intellect, not the other way around. If a husband and wife feel they cannot afford a child, should they have sex? Can’t they decide to abstain? If abstinence would cause their marriage to fail, then what is their marriage founded on anyway, total self sacrifice or sexual pleasure? The same is true for an unmarried couple. If they don’t have sex, will one reject the other? A major problem with society today is that we tend to want pleasure without responsibility. I agree with you that the government has no right to interfere with such personal decisions, but aren’t we involving the government when we want a government mandated health care system to subsidize these same decisions?
I absolutely agree with you that women (and men, too) are not property. We are persons with freedom to make moral or immoral choices and accept the appropriate consequences. Religious law, however, involves what is required to be a member in good standing within a particular religious community. Within the Catholic Church, artificial contraception is rejected as “intrinsically evil and morally wrong” because it prevents a total union of the husband and wife. In effect, the spouses are not saying to each other, “I give all of me to you,” or “I desire all of you.” Instead they’re saying, “I give all of me to you except my fertility,” or “I desire all of you except your fertility.” The Catholic Church has taught this truth since the first century (in the Didache), but unfortunately many of us go along with the teachings of John Rock by rejecting what our Church Fathers teach. This is because we tend to desire pleasure without responsibility.
In 1968 Pope Paul VI predicted government involvement (via contraception) in the most personal aspects of married life; this is what the health care act does today. We Catholic taxpayers are being forced to pay for something we find reprehensible. One might argue that the Church makes sex too big a deal. However, I say our society has reduced sex from something holy and fruitful to something no more significant than saying hello. Just look at the magazines at the checkout stand. We think more and better sex means better quality of life; never mind the welfare of the person and the emotional wreckage that comes from sex without lifelong commitment or sex in marriage deprived of its true meaning. Contraception is at the root of the problem. As Pope Paul VI predicted in 1968, contraception has led to turning the other person into an object of sexual pleasure (property) that can be discarded when no longer pleasurable or when things get tough. When contraception fails, the result, unborn babies get murdered more than 3,500 times each day and their bodies thrown in the trash or used for cosmetics and foodstuffs.
We as Catholics are bound to oppose this evil if we want to remain in good standing (able to receive the sacraments) with the Church and walk the life of self sacrifice to which Christ calls us. (Note to any Catholics reading this: if you are married and contracepting, or are single and having sex, depending on the circumstances, you could be committing a grave sin and should not receive Holy Communion. I suggest you talk to a priest.)
Finally, I agree with you that the government must be kept out of these decisions, but that goes both ways. As a Catholic, I must not be forced to pay for anything the government does that runs counter to the moral teaching of my Church. I repeat, this is not left or right, Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal--it’s a moral issue of how far the government will intrude in our personal lives by denying us the freedom to live our respective faiths. The government’s responsibility is to protect this freedom so we can choose to be a true gift to each other, sacrifice ourselves for each other and want the best for each other. The government that does not protect that basic freedom is immoral.
Here is my response to Mr. Zkiab:
First, I grew up in the Catholic church, and have questioned its doctrine my whole life because I see the pain it inflicts on others. I, therefore, honor everyone for their beliefs, and subscribe only to the Constitution for governing authority over the general citizenry.
Amendment 1 of the Bill of Rights:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
This also includes freedom from religion. In other words, you do not get to force your beliefs, which work for you, on others. You words in your letter state that you want “what’s best for another,” but what you think is best, your definition, based on your beliefs, you do not get to force on others.
I've been told that this country is not truly a melting pot, since we are in many ways, separated by economic status, culture, religion, and race. Never the less, All peoples of all cultures, religions and races and belief systems make up this country, and no one religion or religious belief system can dominate everyone else. Live and let live.
You are correct that the issue of contraception is a political football, and it is a strong moral issue, but not in the way you think. Neither you, nor anyone else, get to define marriage, or sex, within or outside of marriage, for others. You get to define those things only for yourself. As for the rules of intimacy between a husband and wife, you get to define those rules only for your own relationship, not for others. The government does not get to define these things, nor should an employer. If you choose to live by your religious law, that works for you, but neither you, nor your church, get to force those beliefs on others in a country that not only is a melting pot of different cultures, races, religions, belief systems, and even varying degrees of belief and observance within the established religions. In the perception of many who think differently than you, using contraception for prevention IS BEING RESPONSIBLE. That is their choice.
Your statement that “We Catholic taxpayers are being forced to pay for something we find reprehensible,” is misrepresentative, and does not represent all the truths.
· “Catholic taxpayers,” are not paying for health plans that employees, male or female, pay for through their employers. I will not answer to any employer, my husband’s employer, or you, about mine or my family’s medical decisions. Why I use any medicine is not an employer’s business. What would you do if your employer believed only in the power of prayer and refused to allow you access to medical coverage?
· Consider a $10 per hour wage-earner, anyone you know: that's $1600 per month (before taxes), at best. The house/trailer payment is $800 per month, car $200 per month, insurance, utilities, two kids, groceries, and gas in the car is $200 per month right now. The family qualifies for health coverage from the state of Colorado because the wage-earner doesn't earn enough from his/her job to cover the kids. At the end of the day, you and I, TAXPAYERS, are paying for those children to have health coverage and food assistance. And there are things that employer’s coverage and the free health coverage don't cover; as we all know-there are some prescriptions health coverages won't cover, and that family can't afford to pay out of pocket. This whole thing is not as simple as it seems on the surface. Should we let that family continue procreating, so there are more kids for us to pay for their food and health coverage, or might it be prudent for us to ensure that the employer doesn’t interfere with that wage-earner’s personal health coverage, that HE/SHE pays for, so he/she doesn't keep making babies that you and I have to pay to feed and provide state sponsored health coverage? The Guttmacher Institute states that “Nine in 10 employer-based insurance plans cover a full range of prescription contraceptives…” This is an economic as well as a survival and well-being issue.
· How married couples view their intimate life is not yours, or anyone else’s business, and to say that they view sex as “something no more significant than saying hello” is a horrible statement that you cannot apply to everyone because you are not in their relationships. Just because many couples do not want to procreate, it is a horrible degradation to many couples for whom their intimate life is a very personal and special thing. The intimate lives of other couples do not have to fit yours or your religion’s definitions.
The bottom line is that your beliefs, to which you hold yourself accountable, do not govern others. No one religion’s laws govern this country, as it should be.
Reverend Renee L. Ten Eyck