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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Religion and Health Care - Contraception and Blood Transfusions

Roman Catholic Church hierarchy made a big deal about a federal provision to mandate contraception coverage in health coverage plans, even though 22 states already include this provision in their insurance law. But this opposition flies in the face of other health care interventions objected to by different religious beliefs where the church either supports mandated intervention or takes no stand.  (Church sponsored institutions are opposed to paying for contraception which is contrary to natural family planning.)

Blood transfusions, for example, are opposed by Christian Scientists, although courts routinely intervene to mandate them when petitioned.  Roman Catholics would be in conflict with protecting life by refusing a blood transfusion when needed.  

How would right wing religious conservatives respond if Islam were the religion opposing the contraception health insurance mandate? Yet, Islam opposes the use of birth control.

Although the church opposes artificial birth control, many and perhaps most, women employees of child bearing age who work for Church institutions, probably buy contraception, without insurance coverage, using salaries earned from the Catholic institutions where they work.

A Maine pediatric physician responded to my blog, posted last week, about the Roman Catholic Church's position against including contraception coverage in health insurance plans.  

With the physician's permission, I'm posting the comments here:

"What if a group, for religious reasons or other, demanded an exception to the mandate because they don't want to pay for treatment for erectile dysfunction (which, one could argue, can cause more women to have unwanted sex, more rapes, etc), or they don't want to pay for infertility treatments, including those that are medically-related (women post-cancer treatments), or they don't want to pay for medically-recommended breast reductions, or they don't want to pay for obesity-related surgeries ('since diet and exercise should do')." 

(Moreover)..."And, the insurance mandate does NOT force ANYone to use birth control!! The Church can still preach natural methods and implore its members not to take birth control pills, for instance. I suspect the real issue is that data appears to show the vast majority of Catholics do use birth control not approved by the Church. So, with insurance actually covering it, likely that percentage will even increase."

Roman Catholics are important providers of health care through hospitals, community care organizations and charities. It makes no sense for church clerics to oppose an insurance coverage mandate that improves the health and well being of at least 50 percent of the employees who work hard to create the quality care systems provided by Catholic organizations.

It's a good political move for the Obama administration to compromise with the Church on the dicey and contentious contraceptive coverage issue.  Nonetheless, changing the rule is not the right thing to do, because paying for contraception should be part of routine women's wellness care. Political conflicts with health care is certainly not a freedom of religion issue, as right wing conservative groups profess. It's just politics at its worst.

After all, it's entirely up to the free will of women, whether or not they choose to access contraceptive coverage.  


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