Ren's Ramblings & Writings

Contemplations on things tangible and intangible

Friday, February 1, 2013

Petition submission to Planned Parenthood re: birth control and the Affordable Care Act

For millions of us (including more than 90% of Catholics) birth control is a deeply personal and serious health 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. 

Single men and women are not the only people who use birth control.  The personal 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.

It has already been determined in many recent cases that providing benefits to employees does not jeopardize the employer's religious rights, since, as an employee, I can choose to spend my salary on whatever I choose, but I can also choose which medicines I get thru my benefits, to which I contribute.
 “The burden of which plaintiffs complain is that funds, which plaintiffs will contribute to a group health plan, might, after a series of independent decisions by health care providers and patients covered by [an employer's health] plan, subsidize someone else’s participation in an activity that is condemned by plaintiffs’ religion. . . . [Federal religious freedom law] is a shield, not a sword. It protects individuals from substantial burdens on religious exercise that occur when the government coerces action one’s religion forbids, or forbids action one’s religion requires; it is not a means to force one’s religious practices upon others. [It] does not protect against the slight burden on religious exercise that arises when one’s money circuitously flows to support the conduct of other free-exercise-wielding individuals who hold religious beliefs that differ from one’s own.”

“[T]he health care plan will offend plaintiffs’ religious beliefs only if an employee (or covered family member) makes an independent decision to use the plan to cover counseling related to or the purchase of contraceptives. Already, [plaintiffs] pay salaries to their employees—money the employees may use to purchase contraceptives or to contribute to a religious organization. By comparison, the contribution to a health care plan has no more than a de minimus impact on the plaintiff’s religious beliefs than paying salaries and other benefits to employees.”

“A key insight in this opinion is that salaries and health insurance can be used to buy birth control, so if religious employers really object to enabling their employees to buy birth control, they would have to not pay them money in addition to denying them comprehensive health insurance. An employer cannot assert a religious objection to how their employees choose to use their own benefits or their own money, because religious freedom is not a license to “force one’s religious practices upon others.””

Employers receive income tax deductions for the contribution, so their out-of-pocket cost is less than the value of the benefit to the employee. Self-employed individuals can deduct 100 percent of their health insurance premium costs as a business expense. They can deduct 100 percent of premiums for their employees. If the business is incorporated, all costs for the owner’s own insurance as well as his/her employees' are deductible.  Therefore, the employer’s contribution to anything that specifically benefits an employee that might be against the employer’s religious beliefs is minimal, and, once again, no different than the employee using their salary to purchase contraception, or marijuana, for that matter.
Economically, families, society, and this country benefit from contraception, and this is proven. What would you do if your employer believed only in the power of prayer and refused to allow you access to ANY medical coverage? What if I, as an employer, believe ONLY in the power of sweat lodges and shamanic practice for healing?

No one is calling for an end to coverage for hysterectomies or vasectomies, both of which prevent pregnancy, but are costly and invasive, OR Viagra.... Men want Viagra, but extremists want women to "put an aspirin between their knees," as recommended by Santorum supporter Foster Friess.  The argument that Viagra promotes life doesn’t hold water, since it is marketed primarily to older men whose women are largely at the end of or beyond their child-bearing years, and for whom their sexual intimacy and ability to perform dramatically affect their wellbeing, and the wellbeing of their relationships.  Furthermore, the same men who state to “put an aspirin between our knees are the same men who desire Viagra and expect a sex life with their wives.  So this burden of controlling family status falls equally on the husbands and men in our lives, though society is not talking in those terms, focusing on the misconception that only single women use birth control.   

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.”
This extreme religious agenda is not only about women’s health rights. This agenda will not just affect what jobs women can get; it will affect all areas of our family’s life, and will even affect our families through the jobs our husbands have, if the husband’s job provides health coverage for the family.  During a time when employment and unemployment are already difficult, even distressing, the thought of introducing MORE employment problems by allowing employers to choose what health coverage we should have is directly in opposition to the best interests of families and society economically, as well as mentally and emotionally.  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.  And for the families that need two incomes, this is a critical component of their lives that no church or government has the right to interfere with. In a time when many families are in dire need of two incomes, these religious contraception issues are not as cut and dry as the Vatican would like you to believe.

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, no one gets to force their beliefs, which work for them, on others.  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.  The issue of contraception is a political football, and is a strong moral issue.  People get to define these things ONLY for themselves.  The government does not get to define these things, nor should an employer.  If a person chooses to live by his or her religious law, that works for him/her, but employers, government, and churches, DO NOT 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, using contraception for prevention IS BEING RESPONSIBLE.  That is their choice.  It is MY family's choice.  Family planning is a critical economic issue for families, society, and the country at large.

Namaste and Great Spirit Bless,
Reverend Renée Lynn Ten Eyck

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