Miamians believe contraceptive mandate will play prominent role in election
Published: Sunday, July 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, July 2, 2012 16:07
As political advertisements have taken over media channels, Miami University students are reminded that November’s upcoming election is near. One of the issues likely to be discussed on the campaign trail is the contraceptive mandate proposed by President Barack Obama’s administration, which would require all new private health insurance plans to cover birth control at no cost to the employee. This provision is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, which was upheld by the Supreme Court Thursday, June 28.
Miami Comparative Religion Professor John-Charles Duffy said Republicans and Democrats will debate the contraceptive mandate in extreme terms in order to sway the votes of the issue’s supporters in the upcoming election.
“Conservatives are going to cast this as ‘the Obama administration is making an assault on religious freedom,’” Duffy said. “Liberals will cast it as ‘conservatives are waging a war on women.’ It’s framing the issue in those inflamed terms for the issue of rallying their respective bases.”
The contraceptive mandate does not require houses of worship to offer contraception coverage to their employees, but does require employers who are affiliated with religious institutions such as hospitals or universities to provide coverage to their employees.
Roman Catholic bishops have contended that the contraceptive mandate violates religious freedom because it forces Catholics to provide contraception to others, when contraception is against Catholic Church teaching, according to Duffy.
“Catholics spearheaded [the movement against the contraceptive mandate] but it was framed as an issue of religious freedom so various other kinds of religious voices joined in on that as well, including groups that really didn’t have a problem with contraception but who were willing to rally behind what they saw as Catholics’ religious freedom,” Duffy said.
Senior Colten Kidwell said the contraceptive mandate violates religious freedom.
“I think when you tell a religious organization to provide something that they don’t want to provide because they are morally against it I think that’s violating religious freedom,” Kidwell said.
According to Kidwell, while many Americans believe contraceptives can be important for women’s health, religious organizations and institutions should have the freedom to decide whether or not they want to provide contraception.
“Whether or not you would argue that contraceptives are important for women’s health really isn’t the debate here, because it might very well be,” Kidwell said. “But to be forcing religious organizations and institutions to do something that goes against their moral principles is very dangerous territory and it’s another example of how the ‘Health Care Tax’, as the Supreme Court has called it, or ObamaCare is endangering those freedoms in creating a government that has gotten too big, too controlling and too dominating.”
The Obama administration proposed a compromise in March that would allow a patient who is employed by a religious institution such as a Catholic hospital to receive contraception directly from their insurer rather than their employer.
“So it’s this way that you are still getting the coverage but you are sort of bypassing the religious employer, so the religious employer can sort of say that their hands are clean, but you still get the coverage, which is crucial from the administration’s point of view,” Duffy said.
Institutions representing Catholic hospitals favored the compromise, but U.S. Catholic bishops rejected it, according to Duffy.
“One of their arguments, for example, is that Catholics working in the insurance industry are still sort of going to be tainted by contraceptive services,” Duffy said. “They argued that the only way that insurance companies are going to be able to provide this service is by raising premiums for everyone. So people who don’t believe in contraception will nevertheless be paying for contraception.”
Duffy said the reason Catholic bishops have been assertive in opposing the contraceptive mandate is because they want to inform American Catholics about why the Catholic Church does not support the use of contraception.
“I think for the Catholic bishops this has become an occasion to send a message to American Catholics,” Duffy said. “American Catholics are notorious for ignoring the Church’s ban on birth control … it’s an effort on behalf of the Catholic bishops to reinforce the Church’s teachings to a laity that is not convinced that those teachings are all that important.”
Director of the Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Program Madelyn Detloff said the debate over reproductive rights can be seen as early as the 1910s when contraception advocate Margaret Sanger was indicted in 1914 for providing information on birth control and family planning to women and men.
Sanger’s motivation was to prevent the negative side effects multiple pregnancies can have on women, according to Detloff.
There are still risks associated with pregnancy today, Detloff said.
In 2010, 287,000 women worldwide died due to pregnancy or childbirth complications according to the World Health Organization.