First there was the kerfuffle over John Piper’s comments about the “masculine feel” of Christianity. The fact there even was a kerfuffle over them is encouraging, but let’s face it: John Piper’s influence far exceeds 100 angry blogs’.
Then there was the craziness over President Obama’s effort to make sure all women covered by a health insurance plan have access to free contraception – an important goal because access to birth control is a constitutionally protected right, it has health value beyond its stated purpose, and its stated purpose is far preferable to unplanned pregnancy, 30 percent of which end in abortions.
Well-intentioned people can disagree about whether the initial proposal was a good idea – it would not have forced a single Catholic to use birth control, so the reaction to it seemed a tad overwrought to me, especially since many states already had the exact same mandate without religious institutions falling into the abyss – but the compromise worked out by the Obama administration exempted religious-affiliated hospitals and universities while requiring insurance companies to provide it for free in those cases. Issue solved, right?
The bishops want every Catholic employer everywhere to be able to opt out of the contraception mandate, but this is another example of Christian leadership evincing a position that oppresses women – one clearly not supported by the women affected by that position.
This is the problem with hierarchalism in our church. My wife and I have three children; I’ve been an eyewitness to three full-term pregnancies and three labors, each with their own unique challenges and difficulties. I know as well as any man how hard it is to carry a baby to term and deliver it. Which still means I know just about nothing about being pregnant or having a baby.
The much-ballyhooed figure is this: 98 percent of Catholic women have used birth control. Even assuming that number is a little high (it’s actually 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women who are able but not actively trying to have children, so nuns, the elderly and the pregnant, among others, are not included), it indicates yet another divorce between the assumptions of the men who run our churches and the women whose fealty they demand.
It seems wrong to me that a group of celibate men should call the shots on reproductive health for sexually active women, so let’s see what the women think.
It has been heartbreaking frankly to see women’s health treated as a political football in the national media, while around my campus I instead see the faces of the women affected by this policy. Everyday I hear from another woman who has suffered from the lack of contraception coverage. … Contraception can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school. … Forty percent of students at Georgetown Law told us they suffer financially as a result.
In the worst cases, women who need this med for other medical reasons suffer dire conseuences. My friend has polycystic ovarian syndrome and has to take birth control to prevent ovarian cysts. In theory, her prescription should have been covered by Georgetown insurance because it is not intended to prevent pregnancy. At many schools, it still wouldn’t be covered. … But these exceptions, when they exist, are ineffective. Because when you let university administrators or other employers, rather than women and their doctors, dictate whose medical needs are good enough and whose are not, a woman’s health takes a back seat to a bureaucracy focused on policing her.”
There are many reasons to support the use of contraception. It can help teenagers avoid the cycle of poverty. It allows women to plan their educations and careers. It can help with overpopulation and strain on our environment. Contraception helps a myriad of medical conditions.
This week has been dominated by religious voices speaking out against contraception. I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise since Christianity has been controlled by men for over 2,000 years, and there has been a strong belief in both Catholic and Protestant traditions that women were created solely for childbirth. But there are way too many voices, speaking in the name of God, who target health services for women, and especially poor women.
As people of faith, we need to make our voices on behalf of women clear.
I believe in religious freedom. I believe that Muslim women should be allowed to wear a burka if that is her choice. I believe that a Catholic woman should not use contraception if that is her choice. But I resent the loud and constant religious voice that threatens the rights of women.
There is another voice. We aren’t hearing it much in this national dialogue, but there are women and men of faith who believe that women are created for more than bearing children. We support contraception and women’s healthcare.
God is concerned with the health of women. God cares about teenagers who end up in a lifetime of poverty. Jesus healed the bleeding woman two thousand years ago, and I think if he walked the streets today, he just might hand her a packet of pink pills.
This gets at the unfortunate cycle of dependance created by Christian policies on subjects that have little to do with what should be the core of our message.
Many Christians are on record opposing. We oppose birth control. We oppose sex ed in schools. We oppose abortions. But what do we support? How does this trio of opposition work itself out in the lives of the people Jesus cared about? Lack of birth control – and an absence of discussion about it – lead to unintended pregnancy, and a significant number of unplanned pregnancies end in abortion. Our oppositions, well-meaning though they may be, lead to more poverty, more abortions, more heartache and heartbreak for the poor.
In the meantime, the message of Jesus is sublimated to our message of puritanism, and our eagerness to play the victim distracts us from focusing on those in our society who are the true victims.
When I tell people that I am a Christian, I’d like their first thought to be that this has something to do with Jesus and love, rather than having them say to me, “Oh, so that means you’re opposed to well-woman visits, screening for gestational diabetes, HPV testing, STD counseling, HIV testing and counseling, breastfeeding support and supplies, contraception, and screening and counseling for domestic violence, right?”