May 6, 2013
“State of the Uterus”
Religious beliefs and restrictions are increasingly limiting women’s access to reproductive health care. Large corporations that are owned by anyone with a certain religious belief system are imposing their beliefs on women in order to save money on insurance premiums. This prevents women from fully making their own medical decisions for themselves. Women are expected to receive health care as a benefit, not refusals, restrictions or inaccurate information. Women should be able to access quality health care and make informed concise decisions about their own reproductive health care, after all, are our bodies not our own? Certain political parties and powerful religious organizations are making this difficult for women. Religious discrimination in the workplace harms a women’s health and her future fertility.
By refusing to cover contraception, employers are, in effect, imposing their religious beliefs on their female employees (Laurence). Not only are their rights compromised, their health could be in jeopardy as well. Catholic organizations are claiming that the laws that require them to provide contraceptive health care infringe on their religious beliefs. Religious freedom does not include the “freedom to discriminate against women,” The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers to provide women with cost-free coverage for preventive care and routine screenings. The Obama administration wrote this provision to require coverage of sterilization and the full range of contraceptive methods approved by the US Food and Drug Administration; this also includes emergency contraception after a rape. Now that several religious institutions squawked at Obama’s (ACA), the president had to write in a clause in order to pass the (ACA), a sort of “safe harbor” for church affiliated hospitals, schools, and other religious employers (Laurence). In the JAMA journal Mr. Lawrence states that, “despite this compromise position, more than 35 lawsuits have been filed challenging the rule as a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which prohibits the federal government from “substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion” unless it advances a compelling government interest and is the “least restrictive” means of achieving it. The lawsuits fall into 2 categories: those filed by religious and nonprofit groups that qualify for the temporary “safe harbor” and those filed by private for-profit employers with no religious affiliation.” These court cases will most likely be heard in the Supreme Court by 2014.
Both men and women attain employment for health benefits. The added benefit of contraception and reproductive services has no bearing on another’s religious preferences, nor does it impair the work production of a female employee. The Justice Department’s position in these cases is that the federal government has a “compelling” interest in mandating contraception coverage: to improve the health of women and children and to promote greater gender equity (Laurence). Women’s health needs are different from men’s, and many women may not be able to pay for contraception services. No such restriction is posed on men. Contraception coverage, moreover, enables some women to pursue their careers and serve productively in the workforce (Laurence). What is the reason for men wanting to take these rights away from women? A good point to argue would be that men are covered for vasectomies, what is the difference in contraceptive coverage, isn’t that a man’s right to reproductive freedom? Men decide every day whether or not they want to have children Women have had uphill battles for equality forever, and it looks like something new has been added to the political pot, reproductive rights.
Across the nation there is a reproductive justice movement on the rise. The reproductive justice movement places reproductive health and social justice within the human rights framework. These movements believe and support the right of an individual to have as many children as they want, raise the children they have, and plan their families through safe, legal access to abortion and contraception (Lapidus). They support reproductive freedom. Several nonprofit organizations such as; the American Nurses Association, Doctors for America, and the YWCA, have put their signature to a letter that was written representing millions of health care consumers, patients and providers, these organizations strongly supported the passage of the Affordable Care Act and are working to protect the Act from efforts to undermine or repeal it (New York Times). They asked President Obama to stand “sentry” against a more broad expansion of the issue from religious conservative groups. These non profits oppose this religious exemption, because it undermines the very principle of the Affordable Care Act, that all insurance plans must meet federal standards. Federal standards for the ACA are that employers are to provide women with cost free coverage for preventive care, screenings, and a full range of contraceptives (Laurence).
The First Amendment protects religious freedom, an individual’s right to practice or not practice any religion and an individual’s right to be free from religious coercion; this also includes the right to be free from a religion and does not include a right to impose one’s religion on another human being. Yet hospitals and pharmacies that refuse to provide reproductive healthcare to women do impose their religion on others. Are women human beings, or are women political chattels for commerce trading? Catholic affiliated health care facilities are refusing women emergency care and refusing to tell them of alternative treatment, leaving the women misinformed and seeking additional out of pocket health care, or not seeking medical attention at all, leaving a women stranded in her own body without proper care due to a religious belief. In 1942 the Supreme Court declared the right to bear children a “fundamental right” (Feldt). Reproductive rights allow men and women to make informed meaningful decisions about whether to become parents or not, free from intervention from the government. The United States Supreme Court has observed that “the ability of women to participate in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives (Lapidus). Reproductive freedom in other words is the cornerstone of women’s equality and the foundation for building healthy families (Feldt 198). Reproductive rights are to protect access to a full spectrum of reproductive health services, such as, sexual education, birth control, prenatal care, infertility clinics, abortion counseling and legitimate services. Contraception has only been readily available for about forty years (Feldt 199). In the first half of the twentieth century, involuntary sterilization was permitted by our government in thirty states; tens of thousands of people were sterilized against their will. The psychologically imbalanced, the poor, and people of color were affected the most. Women were still being sterilized as recently as the 1960’s without knowledge or consent (Feldt 200).
Women have been struggling with all forms of equality, the minute there is any progress, another issue is deemed necessary to argue before past issues can be resolved. In the preamble when it says all men are created equal, does that include the women who bore these men writing the constitution? If the United States Supreme Court mandates what rights we have and don’t have, why isn’t anyone following the law and getting away with it? Red tape and loopholes create new arguments for, let’s face it, profit. Republican representative Joe Walsh of Illinois insists that, “this debate isn’t about women, this isn’t about contraception, and this debate is about religious freedom.” This is total injustice for anyone to speak this way when all of the cards are on the table and the government has already spelled it out for everyone. We cannot be discriminated for believing, or non- believing in a religion. No one person has the right to do so to another according to laws of the United States. There have been only two law suits so far that were thrown out by the state of California in 2011; the judge dismissed the two cases because he found no relevance to religion and performance on the job. What a person believes is his own personal right and should not be imposed on company employees (Laurence). Religions simply condition followers with fear and guilt, obey or else. Studies have shown that Catholic affiliated businesses are not only refusing treatment for women’s emergencies, they are also refusing to give them information about alternative procedures and medications, some hospitals don’t even refer other hospitals to go to, simply because they are told that it is not their problem (Feldt). Having attended Catholic school from kindergarten to my second year of high school, never, ever was any type of sexual education taught in the schools, only abstinence. We were told that any type of fornication without marriage would lead to damnation and a dysfunctional life. Some of these practices are in place today in some Catholic parishes (Feldt). When women are denied healthcare it can lead to harmful effects for the body and emotions.
What right do men have to impose such restrictions upon women? Women cannot help that they were born without a penis. The argument and treatment of this condition is simply a good ol’ boy mentality. Here are two quotes from former leaders of our government, “I am outraged that the abortion issue is viewed from a perspective of women – a femme-centric perspective that condones the self-indulgent conduct of the woman who was damn careless in the first place”. Dick Army, former U.S. House Majority Leader, (R-Texas.) “I will do everything in my power to restrict abortion.” George W. Bush (Feldt). Every time this issue is up for debate by our government, it seems to be that only a few women are selected to speak on the subject, and those women are randomly selected to make sure they say all the right things that the rightwing conservative men want to hear to help them prove their point. For these men to not even consider women’s reproductive rights is an outright crime. The comments that many white haired warlocks make puts us back to medieval times. We are not vessels for baby making. Women are as equally intelligent as the male species, I have to ask, why do we let these antiquated men decide what is best for us? Why do we not fight back on a greater scale? Why can’t we eliminate these men who put such idiocies into law? Margret Sanger fought for women’s freedom in 1914, “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her own body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother” – Margaret Sanger, (Feldt). It makes better sense to deal with factual evidence than it does sticking religion in the mix. Religion is just an excuse. Facts are that it only costs an insurance company to pay $360 a year for the “pill,” It costs them $20,000 for an unwanted pregnancy carried to term (Feldt). We have been fighting this issue for just about a century if not more. Reproductive rights and choice remains the most intense personal and heated debate that our country faces today. Men have imposed certain restrictions in our government to make life difficult for women, and now it is time to take a stand and take charge of our lives and our bodies. Men do not own us, nor should they tell us what we can and cannot do to, or with our bodies. Still the powers that be, are still telling us what we can and cannot do. There is something we can do.
Women are not second class citizens. Women are to be respected and treated equally, just as a man gets treated equally. Women should not be demeaned or humiliated when trying to obtain reproductive health care. Women can change the religious conservative perspective. Take a stand and be vocal, write letters to congressmen and representatives. Join an action group and attend local meetings. Don’t give up, commit to win, it might take a while, just like the right to vote, and status power in the workplace. We did it once we can do it again. Women need to remember that if we believe in a cause, action is necessary for change. Support without action gets us absolutely nowhere (Feldt).
How long will it take for women to have complete reproductive freedom? There can be no estimate of time for this debate. The political conservatives, along with the religious conservatives will be continuously and blatantly refusing to look and analyze the big picture. They have big money. They have big guns, and plenty of propagandist mumbo jumbo to drag this on for decades. My beliefs are that religion needs to stay out of this argument completely, according to the ACA outlines and the constitution of the United States; a woman should be treated equally according to law. My uterus does not interfere with my neighbors life, my uterus does not interfere with my classmate’s religion, or my performance on the job. It is my right to quality health care just as much as a man. If this continues many women will suffer the consequences of inadequate health care, as well as their offspring (without prenatal care). Religious discrimination towards women’s health care will most certainly harm their heath and their future. The reproductive movement needs a man to represent them, maybe then someone will listen. Together we should encourage all women, young and old to make a stand, before we become barefoot and pregnant again.
Feldt, Gloria. War on Choice: The Right Wing Attack on Women’s Rights and How to Fight Back. Westminster, MD: Bantam Books, 2004. Ebook.
Lapidus, Lenora Luthra, Namita Martin, Emily. Rights of Women. New York: New York University Press, 2009. Ebook.
Laurence, Gostin. Women’s Health, Contreception, and the Freedom of Religion. New York: JAMA, 21 November 2012. newsatjama.jama.com/jama-forum-womens-health-contreception.
New York Times. Growth of Catholic Hospitals May Limit Access to Reproductive Care. New York, 7 November 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/…health/…growth-of-catholic-hospitals-may-limit-acce.