The War on Women: Accommodation and Compromise? Medical Care is a Right, not a PrivilegePosted: February 12, 2012
I spent most of the day Saturday reading items about Friday’s contraception Accommodation and Compromise announced in a press conference by President Obama. I’ve also spent the day procrastinating about having to write this post, and I will tell you why.
However, my feelings about this are conflicted and convoluted. I do not feel this “solution” is something that should be seen as a slam dunk for Obama and for women. And because I am filled with emotions that go against the majority of women and women’s groups who are praising Obama and this accommodation and compromise as some kind of major win for women’s rights, getting these words on paper… …or in this case on the blog, have been intimidating.
Let’s just start with a quote from Kevin Drum, I really don’t always agree with the man, and I can’t stand those cat blog post of his, but this post he wrote prior to the announcement about the compromise really makes a point. Why I’m Feeling So Hard-Nosed Over the Contraception Affair . I would like you to read the entire post, but I want to highlight a couple of paragraphs.
Some matters of conscience are worth respecting and some aren’t. If, say, Catholic doctrine forbade white doctors from treating black patients, nobody would be defending them. The principle of racial nondiscrimination is simply too important to American culture and we’d insist that the church respect this. I think the same is true today of the principle of nondiscrimination against women, as well as the principle that women should have control of their own reproduction. Like racial discrimination laws, churches that operate major institutions in the public square have to respect this whether they like it or not.
Exactly…Drum goes on to say,
This new policy doesn’t apply to churches themselves or their devotional arms. It applies only to nominally religious enterprises like hospitals and universities that serve secular purposes, take taxpayer dollars, employ thousands of non-Catholic women, and are already required to obey a wide variety of secular regulations. At organizations like these, the money that pays for employee health care doesn’t come from the church, it comes out of the income stream they get from their customers and clients.
What’s more, this is hardly a unique matter of conscience. Anyone who pays taxes, including Catholic bishops, ends up financially supporting things they disapprove of. Public regulations often involve financial commitments too, and this one is no different. It’s also pretty minuscule. This is an issue that’s very clearly being blown up for partisan political reasons far beyond its actual impact on religious organizations or religious conscience.
So… I want to preface my post today with the explicit announcement that I am writing my own feelings and opinions about the accommodation. As you read the words below, remember that this opinion comes from my own personal experiences that have shaped my views on women’s reproductive health.
Perhaps I should just give a little bit of information and background. Yes, it is personal. Yes, it is my own god damn business. Yes, it will be TMI…and dammit, that the religious right is forcing itself into my privacy is beyond comprehension to me.
Here it goes…
My reproductive health has given me problems since the day I got my first period. Migraines, heavy flow, painful cramps, extreme moods, breast lumps, ovarian cyst, hormone problems, infertility, low progesterone levels, high risk pregnancy, epilepsy, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, pre-term labor, pre-term births, cesareans, uterine biopsies, breast biopsies, precancerous breast tumors, precancerous ovarian tumors the size of grapefruits, anemia, periods that last over 30 days, severe bleeding, lemon sized blood clots…do I really need to go on?
Why do I bring these personal, very personal, details out in the open? Because, everything I have ever experienced in my reproductive life would be controlled by the decisions and hypocritical beliefs of religious right extremist who would make healthcare treatments a privilege and not a right. (And I want to specifically say, I am also talking about life and death healthcare treatment.)
At some point the craziness has to come to an end. At some point, these religious assholes need to shut the fuck up. At some point the loud enormous praise for standing up and protecting my rights and the rights of millions of women and girls should be silenced. At some point, women need to say no…this is about our rights as human beings…there is a simple answer to all the shit.
Just do what is right.
I still feel slighted. Women’s reproductive healthcare is a right not a privilege.
Should I feel fortunate and thankful that my husband does not beat the shit out of me?
No, that is the way it should be…it is a woman’s right to be treated with respect, and to not be physically, sexually or mentally abused by anyone.
Should I feel fortunate and thankful that Obama has made it possible for women to get affordable or free birth control if their employers will not pay for it?
No, because it is a woman’s right to have access to medical care, whether or not someone else “believes” in it or not.
That may be a bit of a strong comparison, but I am trying to prove my point.
I am going to take this a step further…
Remember the example from Kevin Drum? Should African Americans be denied medical care because of their race? No, because it is their right to be treated equally and not be discriminated against.
We could list many examples of discrimination…or examples of human rights…but the focus is on this:
Should women be discriminated against by their employers denying insurance coverage of essential reproductive healthcare and treatments and birth control?
Because that is what this is about.
As Dakinikat has discussed…the legality of such a move by the Catholic Church, to deny healthcare coverage to women who work for their religious affiliated organizations is not in question here.
From the ACLU website:
For days now, the bishops and some other religious leaders have been claiming that their religious liberty is under attack. Let’s be clear: it isn’t. The bishops have been trying to use their religious beliefs to discriminate against the female employees of religiously-affiliated organizations like universities and hospitals. While everyone has a right to their beliefs, the promise of religious liberty in this country doesn’t create a blanket right to deny critical health care to the female nurses, custodians, and administrators that work for these organizations. While the original policy was constitutional and already in place in many states, this compromise allows women to receive the care they need at an affordable price, while signaling that this administration is open to the concerns of the bishops and others.
Many hospitals and universities were offering birth control in their insurance plans already. There is no, absolutely no encroachments on religious liberty within the Obama mandate requiring birth control coverage.
The idea that all employers should have the right to deny health care coverage to employers is out-of-step with public opinion and is unconstitutional. Recent polling shows that a majority of Americans agree that “employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost.” Further, the Supreme Court long ago explained that excusing individuals or institutions from neutral and generally applicable laws would devolve into a system “in which each conscience is a law unto itself.”
In coming days, on the talking heads shows and in the press, we fear you will see the bishops and others saying that they don’t even want insurance companies reaching out to their employees about birth control. You may hear them say that people of faith are under attack. But they will be wrong. Real religious freedom gives everyone the right to make personal decisions, including whether and when to use birth control, based on their own beliefs. It doesn’t give one group the right to impose its beliefs on others.
Obama should have come out and said, “no compromise” to the Catholic Paternal Order…
Obama should have stood firm and supported the rights that have already been granted to women so many years ago. Most of Obama’s “Controversial” Birth Control Rule Was Law During Bush Years
…the central mandate—that most employers have to cover preventative care for women—has been law for over a decade. This point has been completely lost in the current controversy, as Republican presidential candidates and social conservatives claim that Obama has launched a war on religious liberty and the Catholic Church.
Despite the longstanding precedent, “no one screamed” until now, said Sara Rosenbaum, a health law expert at George Washington University.
In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn’t provide birth control were in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex. That opinion, which the George W. Bush administration did nothing to alter or withdraw when it took office the next month, is still in effect today—and because it relies on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. Employers that don’t offer prescription coverage or don’t offer insurance at all are exempt, because they treat men and women equally—but under the EEOC’s interpretation of the law, you can’t offer other preventative care coverage without offering birth control coverage, too.
“It was, we thought at the time, a fairly straightforward application of Title VII principles,” a top former EEOC official who was involved in the decision told Mother Jones. “All of these plans covered Viagra immediately, without thinking, and they were still declining to cover prescription contraceptives. It’s a little bit jaw-dropping to see what is going on now…There was some press at the time but we issued guidances that were far, far more controversial.”
Obama should have demanded the Church follow the EEOC laws upheld by the Supreme Court regarding employers, employment and employee’s rights.
Now, as we move to implement this rule, however, we’ve been mindful that there’s another principle at stake here –- and that’s the principle of religious liberty, an inalienable right that is enshrined in our Constitution. As a citizen and as a Christian, I cherish this right.
This is an issue where people of goodwill on both sides of the debate have been sorting through some very complicated questions to find a solution that works for everyone. With today’s announcement, we’ve done that. Religious liberty will be protected, and a law that requires free preventive care will not discriminate against women.
He came out and justified the smoke and mirror show put on by the Catholic Church, which was also adopted as a cause celebre by the GOP and the religious right. He formally addressed the issue as a principle of religious liberty. Furthermore, he labeled the accommodation’s change in policy as a response to protecting religious liberty .
No. No. And. No.
By doing this, it gives credence to the religious asses who know full well this is not a question of religious liberty…it is a question of control and domination over the female sex. It is the same old thing, women are second class citizens and do not deserve to be treated equally.
So, should I be shoveling praise on Obama and his administration for finding a “technical accounting provision” that “gives” us something that was our right anyway? No, he does not deserve it, in fact…I think he made the situation worse by officially addressing the religion issue, and making the accommodation so that religious affiliations can object to providing women birth control because of religious conscience. It is going to make our battle against these incredibly crafty and conniving and cruel religious right/GOP Conservatives even more difficult.
Now we have an extra step involved in getting the medical treatments we already have a right to. Like everything else, we are yet again pushed into jumping through more bureaucratic hoops, simply because we are women.
And how will this compromise affect other areas of women’s reproductive healthcare. I’m going to use my own personal medical history as an example of where this Obama fumble can lead us.
I mentioned my ectopic pregnancy. Well, mine was located up near the opening of the fallopian tube. Because of this, the pregnancy was going along normally. All my blood test showed a rise in the HCG hormones, I was even showing and feeling movement. There was no pain. There was no symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy. I was 17 weeks, already into my second trimester, when my first routine ultrasound was given.
It took a week to get the full diagnosis. I was scheduled for laparoscopic surgery and required three days hospitalization. I remember waking up in recovery, with the salt stains from my tears encrusted down my face. My tube was saved…My life was saved. The doctor told me everything was developing fine, it was perfect, it was a boy, it was just in the wrong place.
A year later I became pregnant with my son and when I was admitted to the same hospital for pre-term labor at 13 weeks, I found out that the hospital had been bought out by a Catholic organization. They no longer performed the procedure I’d had a year earlier, which by the way, saved my life. If the church had run the hospital when I suffered from the ectopic pregnancy, I would have had to wait until the pregnancy progressed to the point of bursting my fallopian tube and damaging my uterus. It would have been only then, that the hospital could remove the perfectly growing fetus from my body…you see, it would have been against the church’s religious conscience to approve the surgery until my health deteriorated to the point of risking my life.
Do you see where my rights to adequate and timely medical care would be violated? They would wait and put my life in jeopardy just to avoid aborting the fetus.
My doctor was able to perform the “abortion” on my ectopic pregnancy before the fetus grew large enough to tear my fallopian tube away from my uterus. If this ectopic pregnancy had occurred a year later, he would have had to wait until my conditioned worsened…which means I would have risked losing way more than the pregnancy itself. Because my doctor was able to remove the fetus when he did, he was able to save my tube, my uterus and my ability to get pregnant and have a child.
What would be the hospital’s reasons for not performing the surgery until the woman’s life is in danger?
Religious Conscience and Religious Liberty.
It is this kind of sick, twisted, disgusting, cruel, inhumane domination and control that disguises itself as devoutly adhering to one’s religious beliefs.
I want to quote this article written by Pace University Professor, Bennett L. Gershman. It reiterates the opinion that Obama had no reason to accommodate and compromise with the Catholic Church in the first place.
The hysterical arguments by officials of the Catholic Church (and mimicked by their Republican water carriers) about being forced to abdicate their conscientious religious beliefs to accommodate women who seek to obtain contraceptive devices is reminiscent of the moronic arguments about “Death Panels” for elderly under Obama’s health care legislation, Obama’s birth place, and, for some fanatics, his Muslimness. These are the kinds of phony arguments that appeal to a segment of the population that H.L. Mencken famously described as the Booboisie. From a constitutional standpoint, the church’s claim that its free exercise of religion is being subverted is fallacious and demagogic. One hopes that the Obama administration will refuse to back down in the face of these bullying tactics, and will stick to its sound and fair policy of requiring all health providers — including hospitals and universities affiliated with the Catholic Church, to provide insurance coverage for women who practice birth control, that is, for the 98 percent of Catholic women in America who use some form of contraception.
The argument made by these alleged conscience-stricken church officials is phony. The following are only a handful of the numerous instances in which the Supreme Court and lower courts have ruled that claims of religious freedom and conscience do not override important public policies: the court upheld the power of the Air Force to forbid one of its personnel from wearing a yarmulke while in uniform; upheld the statutory authority of the Internal Revenue Service to deny tax-exempt status to religious institutions that engage in racial discrimination; permitted timber harvesting and the construction of a road through a portion of a national forest used for religious worship by members of three Native American tribes; prevented prisoners from exercising their religious beliefs to attend a Friday Muslim congregational service; denied unemployment benefits to persons dismissed from their state jobs because they used a sacramental narcotic substance in their ceremonial church service; and upheld the suspension from a public school of Native American students who sought to wear their hair in long traditional braids in violation of a school hair-length policy.
Government bodies in all of these cases rejected claims of religious freedom and conscience because an important public policy was deemed to override the individual claims of conscience and religious liberty. But there is no suggestion in any of these cases that the government was hostile to religion or particular religious beliefs, was targeting for invidious motives any particular religion or the freedom of people to worship, or was discriminating against any religion. To be sure, if government is seen to discriminate against religion because of its hostility to that religion — as was the case in a Florida community which banned the religious practice of Santeria which involved the ritual sacrifice of animals — then the government would be acting unconstitutionally.
But there is no question that the Obama administration’s policy to require religious institutions to provide insurance coverage for contraception does not discriminate against any religion, and serves an important, even compelling public policy. That the Catholic Church is aggrieved by the law’s application is no different than the grievances felt by those persons in the above examples who were prevented from freely practicing their faith. Indeed, nobody in the current controversy is being prevented from practicing their faith. No woman is being prevented from using, or not using, birth control. There has to be a fair and balanced accommodation between religious conscience and public policy, and that appears to be the way this regulation is written.
When officials of the Catholic Church resort to claims of conscience, they are not referring to the conscience of the women who seek insurance coverage for birth control; they are referring to their own stricken conscience, and how their own conscience is being adversely impacted by this regulation. But in seeking to curtail the right of thousands of female employees to receive insurance coverage, they are engaging in an obvious and blatant kind of bullying. Indeed, permitting the Catholic Church to deny insurance coverage to its more than 750,000 employees would effectively eviscerate the regulation. But, as noted, the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom, albeit a majestic protection, doesn’t extend that far.
So, Obama gives in to the “hysterical arguments” of the Catholic Church, and by extension the GOP and religious right. He sets a precedent for religious affiliated organizations to use religious liberty and religious conscience as an exemption against providing birth control to women employees.
Who is to say they cannot take this new “accommodation” further and say no…they will not pay for insurance coverage for medical treatments like the ectopic condition I had. They would then be holding the health of a woman hostage.
Would the insurance companies cover the policy expenses involving the surgery and hospital stay required in a situation like mine?
If the insurance company would not pay for the coverage, then are women forced into waiting for healthcare and treatment that is their right to receive?
At what point do our rights as women and citizens and human beings trump the false claim of religious conscience and religious liberty?
Should I praise this accommodation and compromise as a win-win solution?
Should I treat the change in religious conscience exemptions like some brilliant tactical move made by Obama to ensure women get birth control?
Once again, women are expected to bow down and be so appreciative of the men who allow them to enjoy the rights of being a person…oh yes, they are allowing us to have medical treatments that not only prevent pregnancy, but allow women control over their own bodies. Prescription Birth Control is more than just an elective treatment to avoid getting pregnant while having sex. Women use it for prevention and legitimate health matters.
Again, I use my own personal example. Not only do I use birth control pills for regulating my periods, but being an epileptic, I could not risk the chance of getting pregnant while I was on Depokote, my anti-seizure medication. This would have caused serious birth defects. So…preventing a pregnancy becomes a matter of preventing a more serious and dangerous health situation from occurring.
Access to proper and prompt medical treatment is a right and not a privilege.
Why should I be grateful to Obama for ensuring my welfare and my medical needs when religious affiliated organizations claim religious liberty and deny women medical coverage?
Why should I grovel at Obama’s feet in gratitude for something that is a right, and not a privilege?
I am waiting to see what this compromise means and how this accommodation is going to work. I want to see what kind of stance the Catholic Church takes on the accommodation. I want to wait and see how the insurance companies will logistically carry out the exemption’s requirements for providing birth control to women that work for religious affiliated hospitals and organizations, because it needs to be seamless.
And so as usual, we wait…and wait…and wait to see what we will finally get out of all this.
I am sick of waiting for women to be afforded the same rights as men. I am sick of waiting for someone to stand up for our rights. I am sick of this religious right’s war against women.
I am not just sick… I’m mad.
No…hold on a minute, mad? No, that is not right. I am frustrated…yeah that is it, but…I’m relieved at the same time.
And this is exactly where the conflict comes in that makes my thoughts twist into a jumbled mass of emotions. That make me doubt myself. That make me skeptical of anything and everything these days.
That I am even having this internal struggle that becomes physically transparent in the pit of my stomach, is the source of my procrastination that eats away at my thoughts about the Accommodation and Compromise and Women’s Rights in general.
Women are getting the contraception coverage. Good…but it is something we deserved in the first place.
This latest accommodation is only a stalemate, a half-win in this underlying fundamental issue that is at the heart of this war on women.
Women’s rights are treated like a game of cat and mouse.
Doesn’t it make you feel that it is all an illusion, and that we may never truly win the game.