Religious Freedom or Women’s Healthcare

Where are the Women???

The ongoing debate around contraception and its connection to women’s health is quickly becoming the epi center of the debate that has been ragging in the Catholic Church since Humane Vitae. The Rainbow Sash Movement firmly believes is outrageous assault on women’s health. As people of faith we believe that health benefits of new technologies and drugs should not be used as a tool to impose religious belief on those who do not believe the same. Additionally, we believe the same debate is be used by prolife elements within the Catholic Church to use the government as a tool to impose the US Conference of Catholic Bishops will on the broader Catholic World in the United States.

Sadly this debate is also be used by such groups as ETWN, and the Beckett Foundation to promote patrician politics within the Catholic Church. Even George Weigel is using it as way to attack the National Health legislation referred to as “Obama Care” by Republican detractors in his latest issue of the National Review On Line.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops recent attack on Catholic Health Association and its president, Sister Carol Keehan just the latest example of the Bishops ethics lite strategy. Instead of attacking Sr. Keehan up front they use surrogates such as George Weigel and Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

Sr. Keehan needs no protection she is quite able to defend herself against this old boys club mentality. The HHS mandate had nothing to do with religious freedom, or, later, that the “accommodation” met any legitimate religious-freedom concerns? It is about women’s health, and the benefits of contraception beyond family planning.

Cardinals Dolan president of US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)  and Cardinal Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington DC, are more comfortable attacking her from behind; shaking her hand while stabbing her in the back at the same time. Also in their sites are HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Senator Patty Murray, Representative Rose DeLauro or Nancy Pelosi just to name a few.

In his testimony at the February 16th, 2012 House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on the contraceptive coverage mandate under health reform, the Most Reverend William E. Lori, the Bishop of Bridgeport and spokesman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), defended the claim of “religious freedom” by comparing the provision of essential primary health care for women to a kosher deli being forced to serve pork. So much for intellectualism, or for that matter a unbiased testimony.

The high point of this patrician political restricted old boys club mentality was a hearing on women’s health care that featured nine male members of the religious right and only two female witnesses all of whom in any case are opponents of the birth control mandate, and the majority of whom oppose the use of contraception per se; saw the constant and intentionally misleading re-definition by the religious right of modern methods of contraception as “abortifacients”; shut out not only the many religious leaders who support both the mandate and women’s moral agency, but also medical and health professionals and witnesses who’d experienced denial of contraceptive care; and also featured constant and strident chiding by the Committee Chair, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), of his Democratic Party counterparts that the hearing was “not about women’s health, contraception, or health reform,” while allowing all the anti-contraception, anti-health reform witnesses to speak about nothing but denying women health care, contraception, and health reform. The Democratic women representatives walked out of the hearing in protest.

Not a single witness provided a compelling case for granting “conscience rights” to institutions, for why providing women insurance coverage for birth control would violate religious freedom, nor for why the accommodation created by the Obama Administration to make sure women working in religiously-affiliated organizations that object to contraception can still get coverage of birth control without a co-pay created a burden for said institutions. In fact, not a single one provided any compelling reason whatsoever that any one’s “conscience rights” trump access to a proven health intervention.

The Rainbow Sash Movement believes that USCCB is viewing the First Amendment to the US Constitution “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Seem to view the First Amendment as a theological document a sort of dogmatic decree that lays down a rule of faith. The Bishops are only supporting the First Amendment on the grounds of expediency and not “in principle” on grounds of conviction.

The Catholic Bishops are trying to make the First Amendment do the very thing that Congress is forbidden by the First Amendment to do, namely, to play the theologian and promulgate articles of faith. Promoting the theology of religious liberty is not supporting buy it should not be read into the First Amendment.

Nancy Dupre
Rainbow Sash Movement

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