By MARK VAGELAKOS
In a heated debate igniting partisan sentiments, contraception is the buzz word in the Capitol.
However, the constituents that the debaters represent have decided on this issue and they are in favor of it (55 percent of Americans and 58 percent of American Catholics according to the Public Institute of Health), and for good reason.
In 2011, the United States Department of Health and Human Services announced a new policy requiring employers to provide health insurance covering contraceptive services such as birth control to women without a co-pay or a deductible. A Guttmacher study found 99 percent of women in the United States rely on birth control at some point in their lives.
Health insurance companies initiated this legislation because it would be cheaper for them to pay for birth control rather than pay for unplanned pregnancies and children.
Among providing FDA approved birth control like “the pill,” patches and shots, the bill would also provide an annual “well-woman” physical, screening for the virus that causes cervical cancer and for diabetes during pregnancy, counseling on domestic violence and other services.
Even though churches are exempt from the rule and many Catholic adherents agree with the rule, many church officials, especially Catholic clergy, were angry church affiliated groups like hospitals and schools would be forced to comply. In response, President Obama announced that religious affiliated charities and universities would not have to pay for this coverage; instead the cost would be shifted to the health insurance companies.
The compromise does cause a hassle for women with these employers, but it is not a bad fix: health care is still provided while religious institutions do not have to directly infringe upon their beliefs. Yet, some still oppose the decision, claiming constitutional religious rights are being encroached upon because they have to pay for health care that indirectly provides contraceptive services.
However, the fact is, they simply are not. No religious worship is being interfered with and no one is being forced to take contraception. Rather, it compels health insurance to provide for contraception, which the Institute of Medicine has called a medical necessity opposed to a convenience “to ensure women’s health and well-being.”
On a broader level, America is not a theocracy. Religious institutions should not influence the public policy of America where no religion is dominant. In fact, the Supreme Court upheld this position in the 1990 decision Employment Division v. Smith, which said religious liberty does not supercede an otherwise neutral law.
Meanwhile, religious objectors ignore the rights of another group: women. It is a woman’s right to decide what to do with her body, not her employer’s. It is a two way street though, which leaves one wondering where an employer gets the right to push his religious views on others.
Instead of protecting zygotes like human beings, religious officials should be concerned for the children of unplanned pregnancies. Family planning through birth control and other contraceptive methods would reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and thus the need for abortion and unwanted children.
Considering it costs about $190,000 to raise a child from 0-18, according to bankrate.com, along with a huge amount of time and energy, unplanned pregnancies, which account for 49 percent of overall pregnancies and 78 percent of teenage pregnancies in the U.S., (Guttmacher) create a troubling situation. Of those pregnancies, 54 percent ended in abortion.
Additionally, with most unplanned pregnancies occurring with poor women of a minority, the state ends up taking the bill for providing where parents cannot. Unplanned pregnancies cost the U.S. government $11 billion a year (Guttmacher). It would be much more cost effective to provide birth control early rather than support later.
If families are planned, parents will be more likely to provide the time and money to raise them.
The century long fight against contraception has produced many other troubling consequences. A separate Guttmacher study found that the United States had the lowest proportion of contraceptive use among developed countries. This leads to increased abortions and an increased transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.
Legislators need to understand the American people have already made their decision on this issue. Providing contraception will reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and reduce the dependence of poor mothers on the government as well as reduce the number of children with unprepared parents.