Amid twin controversies involving healthcare, one regarding a new rule for employers and one embroiling the well-known Susan G. Komen foundation in a scandal, some people particularly women, have to marvel that yes, we are indeed living in 2012. All of this fueled further by the GOP presidential race becoming fodder for conservatives who now want to stand up and clamor there is an attack on religion by our sitting president; candidate Rick Santorum, fresh off wins in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, saying we are losing the freedom of conscience. What sparked the heated words, an Obama rule that all employers must provide birth control in their health coverage regardless of if their religious organization has an objection to its use. Adding to the debate, the Susan G. Komen foundation’s decision to pull all donated funding from Planned Parenthood, as it could no longer support changing ideologies and demands. Angering members of the public further, a reversal of that decision some saying it was political, others saying they were bullied, one donator saying to the AP all of the good they stood for, had done was now tainted and she was pulling her support. While logical people try to understand how we get from health insurance guarantees a debate on the legality, morality of contraceptives and from breast cancer research, prevention to another haggle over abortion what is lost is the growing gap in healthcare. Between the employers who don’t provide any at all, to the battle to enact the previsions that kept insurers from dropping people the moment they got sick, to denying those with preexisting conditions; now individuals, families, especially women, have to contend with something else, restrictions on reproductive services, appalling in the 21st century.
Yes if you are an employer you should have to provide a full range of health services, regardless of your religious compunction; because at that point, you are not just a charity, a church, synagogue, religious based hospital, you are an employer of employees, who may not share your rigid views on abortion, contraception, stem cell research and who are depending on you to provide health coverage that may one day save their life or that of their family. And where a doctor can refuse to perform a procedure on religious grounds, where people receiving care can be transferred out of a religious based hospital to one willing to perform the questionable procedure desired by the patient, employees don’t have that option first and foremost due to cost. Neither do people in today’s economy have the luxury of choosing where they work; they could easily find themselves working for a church, charity because it’s work, RN’s LPN’s, other medical personnel find themselves working in a religious hospital to keep their children in the same school, stay close to a support system, continue to live in the same city. Mergers of healthcare facilities can also mean you find yourself working in a religious environment that wasn’t one when you were hired on, and even with the high demand for medical staff, quitting isn’t so simple. Say your health coverage is better than that of your spouse, your child needs unique medical or mental health services only offered in select places or the program they are on is just starting to work, just starting to make a difference; changing insurance plans could detail all that, lead to substandard care compared to before with disastrous consequences. Independent of their religious affiliations these are places operating in a public space, many times with public dollars; to say nothing of this is already law in 28 states, meaning it isn’t a new idea. President Obama simply intends to make it uniform across all 50; a positive move considering a CDC poll revealing 99% of women use birth control at some time in their lives and 98% of Catholics will. Also meaning, despite what the Catholic Church says, the main denouncers of this rule, women are still doing what is right for them.
Part of what makes this so important has nothing to do with contraception, abortion, reproductive rights, reproductive services of any kind; rather it has to do with preserving all medical options, avenues regardless of who is providing your insurance. If we continue to let employers opt out of providing, i.e. paying, for certain types of care based on moral beliefs where does that leave us tomorrow, 20 years from now, are we without blood transfusions due to no coverage based on the Jehovah’s Witness belief it equates to drinking blood? Are we without coverage for organ transplants because other religions see it as desecrating the dead, without bone marrow transplants for either one of the above reasons, children sans productive lives, cures for their disease gene therapy, treatments for sickle cell anemia, cancer because it involves stem cells, something everyone associates with embryonic stem cells whether they came from cord blood, or in more and more cases, the patient’s own body? Do we lose the rights to experimental treatments not just based on how costly they are carrying no proof of enhancing quality of life, saving life, but on moral and ethical grounds of people who aren’t facing the issue? With that said how long is it also before religious grounds becomes another clever way for employers all to avoid costs of expensive albeit lifesaving procedures? Speaking of people whom these moral decisions are based on, many of them appear to need to acquaint or reacquaint themselves with the medical applications of contraceptives; they are not just for teens wanting to indulge in carnal appetites, not just for adults who want the same thing without the responsibility of potential pregnancy. The pill, arguably the most popular contraceptive, is used by teens to control acne, reasonably because it’s one of the safest treatments. Women suffering from mild PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome), heavy menstrual periods may find relief, alleviation of symptoms taking the pill. A verity of hormonal imbalances are also often treated with so called birth control pills along with complications from fibroids, pre-menopausal and menopausal symptoms like hot flashes.
At some point we have to ask which is the greater sin; families that keep having so many children they need welfare and food stamps to support them, families where both parents are working a total of 5 jobs to keep everyone housed, clothed, fed and they really have no time to raise them? Are we really for engineering a situation that leads to more abused, neglected children let loose on society to become criminals, psych cases because parents who would have taken birth control had no access to it, being thus forced into a responsibility they didn’t want, couldn’t properly cope with? How about over taxing the already strapped foster care system, a system known for causing kids to trade one form of abuse for another, a system plagued with people just in in for the money; now let’s add an influx of abused and neglected children the product of parents who didn’t want them, couldn’t do anything about having them, a foster system recently under attack for over medicating kids with powerful psychotropic drugs, using similar drug cocktails unsafe for adults, because it is a quick Band-Aid for the patients, care and stability of loving parents, something they can’t have. Is the goal honestly to make that worse because the Catholic Church says contraception is wrong, because our pastor, our church, religious affiliation says the same? Making it more insidious is this is not a debate about free healthcare for poor people, services provided by free clinics but allowing employee insurance, something people are no doubt paying a premium to keep, not to pay for not only birth control, but requested sterilizations, abortifacient drugs; meaning no tube tying, no vasectomies done on her insurance because it’s the better coverage, no morning after pill. How dare we even think about sending a bill to a rape victim, incest survivor saying we will pay for the ER visit, the exam, any procedures, but not the cocktail of STD preventatives, due to it containing the morning after pill. Something that is not an abortifacient, does not damage an existing pregnancy, only prevents pregnancy, just like the pill. How dare we say you have to carry the living, breathing consequence of a horrific event you had no choice in for 9 months before you can give it up for adoption. How dare we demonize a pregnant incest survivor saying you can’t have an abortion even though the child could have any number of genetic issues, as result of being conceived from 2 first degree relatives, or didn’t Catholic Church leaders pass 10th grade biology?
What about women with any of the aforementioned disorders and more; do we deny these up to 58% of people taking it the medical “birth control” when intercourse and pregnancy have nothing to do with it; do we likewise put others in the position of being in a committed relationship, being married and saying you can’t enjoy sex, that could lead to pregnancy because you have PCOS, we won’t give you birth control, won’t pay for you to tie your tubes and therefore the miscarriages, caused by an unhealthy womb, are on your conscience? Again are we honestly for creating more instances like Andrea Yates, cases of postpartum psychosis because we have a moral hang up giving people the tube tying they asked for; particularly mentally ill people who can’t handle taking the pill, who are set to get married, are already married but don’t want children, however they still want a healthy relationship as man and wife, including sex? Or by defacto saying no to them are we also saying, because you are mentally ill, are being treated for a chronic mental health issue you can’t get married, can’t be in a committed relationship because it might lead to sex and pregnancy? Is that seriously the implication, the message we want coming across? This is not Obama acting like a reigning king, usurping the constitution, only doing things by executive order because congress won’t act. This is not a battle for religious freedom. Nor is it the result of big government, the inevitable outcome when government decides it’s going to make healthcare decisions for you, for everyone, despite what conservatives claim. It’s a fight for women to have complete range healthcare; this is Obama making sure that happens. We are losing a freedom, but it’s not the freedom of conscience; it’s the freedom to be well informed, to make intelligent decisions for ourselves and our families, as opposed to going along with conservative, religious rhetoric, what national, world leader for your religious affiliation says on a subject this week, this month, this year, this decade.
As for the Susan G Komen foundation, it appears the public was shocked to find the breast cancer charity was giving money to Planned Parenthood at all, but why they were giving it is what’s important. They were not giving it for abortions, Planned Parenthood’s most known portion of reproductive services, but for breast cancer screening, breast exams performed by a doctor, mammograms done where machines are present and referrals in cases where there is no machine in the facility. A referral, incidentally you must have to receive the test to begin with, no matter where it is done. Remaining a mystery is exactly why Komen decided to pull funding from the controversial clinic in the first place unless it was politically motivated resulting from this being an election year, trying to win over conservative dollars from donators that might have gone to a GOP candidates election campaign or trying to get the attention of a GOP runner for president in order to call attention to the organization and get more funds in this still struggling economy. Supporters, would be supporters considering donations in light of the shift, represented in Komen’s first announcement suggest their motivation was to escape continuing bad press generated by Planned Parenthood being under investigation in Florida; while the reason for the reversal seems obvious, what is lost on everyone but the angry public is who this controversy short changes. No not just the unborn, the yet to be born but women looking basic, preventative health services. So if Planned Parenthood is the only women’s services, women’s specialty clinic in your area under the original decision you could have been denied everything from a breast exam, mammogram, to a mammogram referral for lack of money; under the current decision you’ll get your exam possibly, be diagnosed with breast cancer, but the research that could save your life will be stymied by a debate many women are calling ridiculous, nonsensical owing to the facts of what medical conditions contraceptives like the pill also treat.
Maybe the solution is to get the politics out of healthcare, to have some simple rules applying to everyone regardless of religion, like most of our laws; no matter your religion you can’t murder people, steal things. But when this is exactly what President Obama tried to do, analysts are saying it might cost him reelection. Even his opt out option no longer putting the burden on religious institutions, instead saying insurance would provide it to women at no cost garnered uproar and whining; uproar from catholic leaders saying the compromise doesn’t meet their standards, insurance company representatives whining they actually have to pay for something, both complaining they weren’t consulted on the issue. One church leader appearing on Fox News admonishing the president for doing things geared toward reelection when what he needed to do was the right thing, but the right thing is to guarantee people all healthcare options no matter where they work. Because, for all the talk of rights, freedoms, religious or otherwise, the right to choose, the rights of women are once again pushed aside; just as you have the right to choose not to use certain medicines, refuse certain procedures, you and others equally have the right to use any and all medicines, procedures, techniques at yours, your doctor’s disposal in treating your disease, keeping you in good health. Just as women have the right not to use contraceptives in preventing pregnancy, to have a come what may attitude in what happens to their body in that regard; other women have the right to choose to use whatever contraceptives are on the market, prevent pregnancy in any medically approved way, including implanted devices and tube tying. Both things equally tied to allowing women to say what happens to their own body, something that shouldn’t change because you are biologically capable of bearing children.
If you are a church, religious organization, perhaps you should learn to get by with volunteers not workers thereby avoiding the insurance conundrum all together. If you are a school, private, religious k-12 or college, university, consider paying your teachers and staff with donations then you can dictate what you will and won’t pay for in all aspects, the least of which being health insurance for employees. However good luck getting students to come to your school with no federal ranking, no standard battery of statistics comparing them to others, no accreditation. However if you are a hospital you must realize you operate in a public space, end up somewhere along the line accepting either government standards or dollars, translating into you’re just going to have to deal with the rules. Keeping in mind, no one is saying you suddenly have to offer birth control, abortion, sterilization to every patient walking through the door asking for it sans standard screenings before said procedures, only that the health insurance you provide to employees gives it as an option to women and their families. Neither is anyone saying religious entities, organizations, hospitals will now be required to shove these medications, procedures down the throats of women; it still remains a choice, their choice. Your religious school can still not offer free condoms at health services, birth control or anything else under that heading you object to, you can refine how you teach sex ed. k-12 with an emphasis on chaste until marriage, abstinence as pregnancy preventative; that hasn’t changed. Returning to the Susan G. Komen foundation, here again we are losing the battle of the well informed, the intelligent decision because you don’t have to agree with their philosophy, everything they do to give money to some portion you do believe in. When you make a donation of any kind, you can earmark it to a project you want it to be used for, specific research, equipment, rendering most of the controversy null and void. But as a citizen, a donator you have to know that. It’s a sad say that we live in 2012, more than a decade into the 21st century, have some of the most cutting edge medical breakthroughs and yet political conservatism, religious conservatism seems to be pushing us backwards, taking our rights not giving them, restricting our freedom not expanding it. One final thought on religion, if Jesus were here now, I and many, could easily imagine him saying, there are some things I shouldn’t have to tell you.