Women's health and individual freedom

For Your Consideration

Alan CheahMarch 21, 2012 

There is a litany of misinformation, falsehoods, mischaracterizations and uncontextualized sensationalism swirling about on the national media. No doubt, it filters down to our local newspaper. Recent examples are the top-rated lie of 2011, that stimulus created zero jobs, and the false claim that Obama promised 8% unemployment if the stimulus was passed. That received a rating of three Pinocchios.

The latest addition to this litany is that Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke "was picked by the Democrats to tell of her needs. Georgetown law graduates average more than $160,000 annual salaries the first year out of law school. It is an elite college so she isn't a poor down-trodden student. Frankly I don't want to pay for her contraceptives," said Bill Atwood in his March 15 Sierra Star column.

This is both false and mischaracterizes Sandra Fluke as a rich person trying to get you to pay for her contraceptives.

If Mr. Atwood simply read her actual testimony he would have discovered that Sandra Fluke was testifying about the life saving and health benefits of contraceptive medication. She gave the example of a friend with polycystic ovarian syndrome who was denied birth control coverage. After months of paying $100, she no longer could afford it and stopped. The result, cysts in her ovaries grew to the size of tennis balls. She was rushed to the emergency room with excruciating pain and her ovaries had to be removed.

Since last year's surgery, she's been experiencing night sweats and weight gain and other symptoms of early menopause as a result of the removal of her ovaries. She's 32 years old.

As she put it, 'If my body indeed does enter early menopause, no fertility specialist in the world will be able to help me have my own children. I will have no choice at giving my mother her desperately desired grandbabies simply because the insurance policy that I paid for, totally unsubsidized by my school, wouldn't cover my prescription for birth control when I needed it.'" -- An excerpt from the testimony.

This is just another illustration of the dangers and disservice of echoing punditry without verification.

It is true that this isn't about contraception but it also isn't about religious freedom. It is about women's health and women's individual freedom. The majority of Catholic women use contraception. Should the Catholic institution's tenets prevail over the will of the majority of Catholic women, particularly, if those tenets harm their health and welfare?

Should an institution's freedom prevail over an individual's freedom? Do you ever wonder how these tenets would be interpreted if those who preside over it and uphold it were all women instead of all men? If it were the case, I'm thinking this would be a non-issue.

What about the role of government regarding the church? As part of the echo chamber, Mr. Atwood asserts that the contraception bill violates the First Amendment and infringes on the sovereignty of the Catholic faith when it mandates that they provide coverage for birth control. Obama, respecting but not necessarily agreeing with this contention, tried to assuage Catholic leaders by, instead, requiring insurance companies to cover birth control. Atwood echoes the sentiment that this is an "end run" and Catholic institutions still have to pay for it in increased premiums.

There is a solution which easily eliminates violation of tenets, constitutional debates or "end runs." Why not simply take away the tax-exempt status of all church properties, investments and income and use the proceeds to provide birth control for Catholic women. Where in the Constitution does it explicitly say religious institutions should be tax-exempt? This is easily doable considering that the estimated global wealth of the Catholic Church is over $3 trillion dollars with over $500 billion coming from the U.S.

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