Okey-dokey. I need to think this thing through and I’m going to use this handy-dandy blog of mine to do so. Bear with me here, because I suspect I’m about to reveal some inconsistencies in my own belief structure. Or maybe just areas where different facets of my belief structure overlap in ways that make me choose loyalties.
Those of you who follow such things may have heard that a few months ago, acting on the advice of non-partisan medical experts, the Obama administration ruled the prescription contraceptives for women count as preventative medicine and therefore must be covered by insurance, with no co-pay, under provisions of the Affordable Care Act. My feeling on that was an unequivocal “Boo-yah!”. Finally, your Nuva-ring has the same medical standing as Cialis and you can afford not to get pregnant by the boner that insurance-covered erectile dyfunction medication built. This is a win for women, for sure. Removing barriers to access to contraception is a BIG thing for me and I’m prepared to hug HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebiliius for saying “Make it so” on this one.
Predictably, there are religious factions that don’t approve of mandated coverage of birth control. Most of them are the same flap-your-gums-every-time-a-woman-has-an-orgasm-for-fun reactionaries who are behind the execrable “conscience clauses” that allow snoopy pharmacists to tell women they can’t have their birth control because they think it’s wrong. My head explodes whenever I think of those laws because, well, yeah. The religious right has no place in my pants and I have no place in theirs. Better that we should all have access to contraceptives and those who object to them can abstain. But as a nod to religious organizations, there are some exemptions to the mandated contraceptive coverage rules. I believe that organizations that are religiously based and employ a majority of members of that faith do not have to offer contraception coverage as part of a group insurance plan if it violates their faith. That seems cool to me because everyone involved is clear on the situation and is signed on to the morality they espouse.
However, religious colleges and universities are NOT exempt. Schools like Fordham, and Georgetown, and Catholic University will not have to include coverage of contraceptives to their employees and students for the first time.
That’s the part where I’m not sure how I feel.
On the one hand, I think the conservative religious take on sexuality and contraception is regressive, anti-feminist and doesn’t take into consideration modern realities, I also think – and think it passionately – that they have every right to believe as they do. Every right to conduct themselves as they please with regard to personal sexuality and contraception. I’m not interested in partaking on a crusade to change the views of any church on sexuality and contraception. For that reason, I’m not celebrating religious universities being forced into covering contraception. I’m actually leaning toward thinking that they should have an exemption.
Now, I think that if a university is granted an exemption to contraception coverage mandates, that should be made plain as day on their website and in enrollment and employment materials. There should be no surprises for a student who goes to the health center looking for a refill on birth control pills or the professor seeking an IUD. But a Catholic school is a Catholic school. If it is part of the Church, it should be allowed certain concessions.
However, I wasn’t consulted and I’m wondering what I’m missing in this larger picture that I’m siding with the more restrictive side of this argument in which I am generally Team Permissive. I know that as little as I want to be forced to comply by the rules of a religion to which I do not subscribe, religious leaders have an equally strong wish not to be forced to conformed to my more secular stance. Like I said, I’m not willing to partake in a crusade to undermine religion or religious institutions and I’m pretty sure religious schools should count as religious institutions.
One thing I can say for sure is that I hope that any school that flouts the ruling gets slammed for violating the law. The Catholic Church and adherence to US legal code are not synonymous in my mind ever since that whole thing where priests who were accused of child abuse were sent to another city instead of to questioning by a DA. Religious organizations are entitled to their own beliefs but they are not exempt from civil or criminal law.
I may come to a giant epiphany about this at any moment and I’ll alert you if I do. Meanwhile, it’s a lot to ponder.