Women’s Preventive Services and Religious Institutions

Earlier this week, President Obama created a compromise for regulations under the Department of Health and Human Services previously mandating religious organizations to provide health coverage including sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and contraception. Under the compromise, religious institutions would not be required to provide, pay for or refer for contraception coverage, but the insurance company will be required to directly offer her contraceptive care free of charge.

The compromise, I think, is a step in the right direction. I think it is completely wrong of government to say that it is for the separation of church and state and then compromise just that by forcing religious institutions to mold to government mandated policies. Religious liberties is what this country is built on, and I think we should not compromise that.

The conference of bishops, however, of the Roman Catholic Church was not satisfied with the compromise. And this is where I wanted to shed some light on the issue because, although I think Obama’s compromise was a good one, and I think he did a good thing despite calls not to by the Secretary of HHS, there are certain things that were not highlighted that should have been.

The regulations were written in a way that, many religious institutions will not be considered “religious enough” and still be mandated to follow the law, going against religious beliefs. Those religious institutions that service a large portion of non-Catholics, for example, the Catholic community at Cornell, and even organizations like Catholic Charities, which provides many services throughout greater Ithaca, would not be considered religious enough, just for the sake of not discriminating service to those in need.

I think that this is unfair, and that it is insincere of politicians to completely oversee this aspect of the regulations in press releases and media. This makes it seem to others as though, oh look, the Catholics are at uproar, being too conservative, about some stupid liberal policy, when that is not in fact the case. The new regulations very much compromises many of the teachings and beliefs of the Catholic Church, and there is the possibility of religious organizations having to drop health insurance as a whole to maintain their beliefs.

The US government passes things like the right to choice for abortion and many states are starting to pass the right to gay marriage because they declare the separation of church and state. Don’t get me wrong, I am in complete support of the separation of church and state and the role each should play in their respective realms. For example, I think gay marriage is a good thing because church beliefs should not play into marriage licensure at the state level, as long as the government doesn’t force religious institutions that do not believe in gay marriage to hold ceremonies for them. ¬†However, when government politics, antithetically, force religious institutions to go against their faith structures, isn’t that going against what our forefathers wanted as true separation of church and state and the upholding of religious freedoms?

STILL, I also agree that perhaps these aren’t the main issues that we should be concentrating on at this moment when there are so many people suffering from poverty or just simple inability of access healthcare, especially when a majority of Catholic women are using contraceptives already anyways. Although I think that the compromise was not strong enough, I also believe that religion should start going back to its roots, drawing support around issues that actually matter. The Catholic Church in the old days was THE voice for the poor and social injustices. Perhaps there are different more important things we could be rallying for.