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Contraceptive rights debated by Miamians

Campus Editor

Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 03:10

As political advertisements have taken over media channels, lawns and billboards, Miami University students are reminded that the Nov. 6 presidential election is nigh. One of the issues that has been 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.

The contraceptive mandate is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, which was upheld by the Supreme Court June 28.

Miami Comparative Religion Professor John-Charles Duffy said Republicans and Democrats tend to debate the contraceptive mandate in extreme terms in order to sway the votes of the issue’s supporters in the upcoming election.

“Conservatives cast this as ‘the Obama administration is making an assault on religious freedom,’” Duffy said. “Liberals 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.”

Duffy said he noted during the vice presidential debate Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan alluded to the contraceptive mandate.

“He talked about the ‘assault on religious freedom,’ he called it, that the Obama administration is waging and the examples he cited were the way he felt the administration was trying to take away the religious freedom of Catholic hospitals, Catholic charities, which was very clearly a reference to the contraceptive mandate,” Duffy said.

According to Duffy, the contraceptive mandate is not a new concept.

“What some journalists have been pointing out is the fact that mandates like the one that the Obama administration had originally wanted or like the compromise that is now being proposed are already in place in many states and have been supported by Republicans in the past,” Duffy said. “Republicans have lined up against the Obama contraceptive mandate because of course, it’s Obama, so it became a useful political tool in the election.”

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.

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