I listen to a lot of Catholic radio now that we moved to the Finger Lakes. We don’t get any TV and sometimes I’m doing housework that doesn’t allow me to drag the computer around with me to watch something on Hulu or listen to NPR talk programming (during the day we have classical music on our NPR station which just doesn’t do it for my daily dose of things to get enraged over). Sometimes I love it for its wackiness. I once heard an on-air personality say in total earnestness and a surfer dude lilt, “Dude, that’s like so apostolic man!” Sometimes I love it for being so understandably conservative. It’s nice to imagine people out there who have it all figured out.
But usually I’m folding laundry and throwing socks at the radio. Or I give the radio a good whack with a wooden spoon and yell back at the commentator about how ridiculously and willfully ignorant they are. It’s kind of a sport. And I play on the Olympic level.
Anyway, one of the things that really gets my goat about Catholic radio recently is how they’ve droned on and on about the new insurance rules that will require non-church entities to provide regular contraception care for women. There’s a few big problems I have with their problems. Let’s look at why they are being ridiculous.
While I can understand a religious stance that encourages its members to actively work against abortion with the honest belief that innocent children are being denied life, I don’t understand why anyone else cares about another person’s contraceptive use. By its very nature “contra”-ception means methods to prevent conception. If there is no conception, there is no child. There is nothing to protect. There is no reason for an outsider to get involved. I understand that Catholics believe that contraception is bad for marriage, that it is not a best practice for showing love to your partner or god. It’s a sort of cheating the system, a cheapening of sex. I disagree with them, obviously, but I don’t find it in my moral realm to judge what they choose. Why is it in their moral realm to judge what I choose? If I am only harming myself and my own marriage, how is this a matter of religious liberty or public policy?
I think part of the problem is that many of the belligerent Catholics either don’t understand how standard contraception works or pretend like they don’t. Clearly the 98% of Catholics who do use contraception have an understanding. The pill is not a “chemical abortion.” It generally works by preventing any egg from being released from the woman’s ovaries. No egg, no baby, no abortion. It is conceivable that if the contraception fails then a pregnancy that follows might have a statistically higher chance of being spontaneously aborted by the woman’s body than in a non-pill taking woman. But research on this is not yet definitive.
It’s also interesting to note that new research suggests that up to fifty percent of pregnancies are spontaneously aborted (miscarried). Usually this is so early on in the pregnancy that the woman has yet to experience any symptoms. If god delivers every pregnancy in according to his plan, why would so many fail? That puts god’s abortion rate way above America’s.
Most importantly though, is the Catholic complaint that this is a new affront to religious liberty, that never before has the government asked a religious community to break with its conscience. I call Bull. Go ask some Quakers how they feel about the decades long war we’ve been supporting with their tax dollars or about using those taxes to prop up demeaning legislation like DOMA? How about Seventh-Day Adventists supporting the USDA meat inspection? Or Rastafari finding their sacramental marijuana getting them thrown in jail? We have a single federal code that applies to everyone, like it or not. Within that system we have great respect for religious traditions but if you cross the line into what the federal government has determined to be areas that have to do with everyone’s collective good then you’ve gone too far.
No one is requiring that any Catholic person actually use contraception. They are requiring that regular medical treatment be offered to all employees of religiously affiliated institutions (many whom are not even Catholic themselves and therefore exempt from papal bulls!). There is no religious liberty issue at all (see above) let alone a startlingly new one.
What religious liberty issues can you think of that are scarier than the pill?