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Guest Opinion: Balancing Access To Contraception And Religious Liberty

Americans of all classes, regions and religions strongly support access to contraception. The vast majority of Catholics, like me, are no different. Part of this support is due to a strong belief that individuals should have the liberty to make reproductive decisions free from government interference. And, data demonstrates that better access to birth control reduces abortions.

That’s why voters overwhelmingly oppose “personhood” amendments that would potentially jeopardize the legality of FDA-approved birth control. But, the Obama Administration’s recent decision to require contraception as a mandated insurance coverage, even for religious employers whose church doctrine opposes birth control, goes too far. Even given a strongly pro-contraception public, Americans also believe that government should not invade the province of churches to decide their own religious doctrines.

The current controversy is actually based on two decisions made by the Administration. I agree with one of them and disagree with the other.

In passing the Affordable Care Act, Congress stipulated that employers must offer health insurance covering women’s “preventive health services” or pay a penalty to cover uninsured people. The definition of women’s “preventive health services” was not spelled out. So, the Administration convened a medical panel through the National Academy of Sciences to define the term. The panel concluded that access to FDA-approved birth control was necessary. I strongly support this decision.

In fact, twenty-eight states have contraception mandates. But, most states with contraception mandates also recognize that religious employers whose church doctrine opposes birth control need to be exempted. To its credit, the Obama Administration created a “religious employer” exemption based on a provision found in the laws of Oregon, New York, and California. But, the exemption is too narrow. It needs to be expanded so that church hospitals, social service agencies and schools are not forced to violate religious doctrine.

The current rule says that a religious organization is exempt from the contraception mandate only if birth control violates church doctrine and the organization primarily employs and serves members of the religion. So, a Catholic Charities office, or a Baptist hospital, or a religious school that compassionately employs and serves people of all faiths, is required to provide contraception even if that violates church teaching.

This result is a no-win situation. It would require a religious institution to drop all insurance coverage and pay a penalty, or stop employing and serving people of different faiths, in order to follow church doctrine. This creates a serious First Amendment problem.

The solution is straightforward. The exemption needs to be broadened so that an institution is exempt if it determines that contraception violates religious doctrine. Or, the Administration, based on the experience of the numerous states that have already dealt with this issue, needs to give these institutions a clear “safe harbor” by explaining what they can easily do under current law to comply with the law without violating their own doctrine. Catholic institutions in many states with contraception mandates have already figured out how to do this. The Administration needs to explain these solutions and make clear that institutions following these steps are in full compliance with the law. Simply telling institutions that they have a year to “figure it out” is insufficient.

Americans support contraception and they support religious liberty. We can find a solution that respects both positions. And we should do it soon.

Tim Kaine is a 2012 candidate for the U.S. Senate. He has served as Governor of Virginia from 2006 to 2010 and Chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2009 to 2011.

Comments


Strictly from the constitutional point of view, the Catholic Church and the Catholics have the right to believe and to practice whatever is dictated by their religion.
People who believe in contraception should NOT work for the Catholic Church - problem solved, end of story.
People who do NOT agree with the Catholic doctrine should NOT send their children to the Catholic schools - no problem here either.

The problem begins when the Catholic Church makes attempts to push its religion on non-Catholics.
Pushing a Catholic agenda in the hospitals - when it’s the only hospital in the area - is a no-no.
Non-Catholics have Constitutional rights and are NOT ruled by the Catholic doctrine.

As for the contraceptives, let’s face it, it’s either celibacy, virgin marriages, unwanted pregnancies, or some form of contraception, be it natural or artificial.

I have a gut feeling though that the Catholic Church is not only against artificial contraception ..... they are against the NATURAL contraception, as well.

I suggest the Catholic Church stays OUT of the people’s bedrooms. Two people who are in LOVE - and when I say TWO people, I mean a MAN and a WOMAN - should be free to decide their own life.


Strictly from the constitutional point of view, the Catholic Church and the Catholics have the right to believe and to practice whatever is dictated by their religion.
People who believe in contraception should NOT work for the Catholic Church - problem solved, end of story.
People who do NOT agree with the Catholic doctrine should NOT send their children to the Catholic schools - no problem here either.

The problem begins when the Catholic Church makes attempts to push its agenda on non-Catholics.
Pushing a Catholic agenda in the hospitals - when it’s the only hospital in the area - is a no-no.
Non-Catholics have Constitutional rights and are NOT ruled by the Catholic doctrine.

As for the contraceptives, let’s face it, it’s either celibacy, virgin marriages, unwanted pregnancies, or some form of contraception, be it natural or artificial.

I have a gut feeling though that the Catholic Church is not only against artificial contraception ..... they are against the NATURAL contraception, as well.

I suggest the Catholic Church stays OUT of the people’s bedrooms. Two people who are in LOVE - and when I say TWO people, I mean a MAN and a WOMAN - should be free to decide their own life.


Crazy thing - isn’t Mr. Personhood himself Marshall indicating a run for US Senator against Allen and Radtke?


I have had the pleasure of meeting Tim Kaine.  He is Harvard educated and a devout Catholic. However, he understands that his individual religious beliefs take a back seat to the larger inalienable rights of everyone in this great experiment. He is not afraid of such issues and brings a well needed rational intellect to such weighty issues. He’s got my vote.


Read ‘Crazy for God’ or ‘Sex, Mom & God’ by Frank Schaeffer, a former evangelical who now sees the light and exposes the “backwards” movement for what it is.


This morning a republican in Indiana said the Girl Scouts promoted promiscuity and homosexuality and were nothing but an arm of Planned Parenthood.  They will be trying to close down that organization soon, just watch.  They hate women and it just seems to be across the board.  We have our very own Taliban right here in the USA.  Women stay home, don’t get educated, don’t have health benefits, read the bible and pump out babies fast as you can. Its insane.


I was glad to see the silent protest at the State Capitol.  I google “state-sanctioned rape” or “VA ultrasound bills;” the sites are full of commentary not always polite, but understandable.  I wrote to R. Maddow in Nov. with an advisement to see how long it would take before the antics began. Yesterday I sent a long letter to the Guv about vetoing the two sickening and controlling bills (after I wrote down my own angry comment first).  This is not about religious liberty; it is a war on women! I can just imagine the bumper stickers; I’ve thought of dozens myself.  Time to dismiss the negativity with some meditation.


@Sunshine….I chuckled as well.

Can’t express how bizarre it is that the amendment stating men needed to have stress tests and digital rectal exams before being prescribed Viagra got voted down, but yet all the bills aimed directly at controlling a woman’s body had no problem getting thru.  What jerks!

So much for limited government .... where did the true Republican party go anyway?


I got a chuckle out of this, a freudian slip or intended bit of humor:

  “Hospitals *are not* religious organs.”


Women’s reproductive freedoms should not be used as pandering, agreed.  With recent LoCo election turnout, 16% of the population made a huge impact in the VA Senate, taking the state to even greater partisan levels.  If there are no reasonable options other than the two party’s candidates, I understand why people don’t wish to vote but look what happens. 

The reauthorization of the 1994 Violence against Women Act passed in 2000 and 2005 with bipartisan support; this year not a single Republican voted for it, yet despite that it passed out of committee.  This law also affects the LGBT and Immigrant populations as I understand it.

How I perceive the most recent VA rulings: likely “forced” birth which robs women of bodily autonomy and state “mandated” rape for those seeking abortion services.  These controversial and demeaning rulings are potentially going to be signed by the VA Governor because many people didn’t vote.  What’s next after the emboldened movement toward outlawing common forms of contraception such as hormonal birth control and intrauterine devices?

Is this about preventive health care, consenting relationships, and responsible actions OR is it about preoccupation with the ills of mindless, libertine sex and a desire for control/power?


Tim Kaine was the mayor of Richmond and the governor of Virginia.  He knows that Richmond’s Bon Secours Catholic hospital health plan has covered oral contraception since 1996, and that the healthcare act will now allow the hospital to opt out.  Hospitals *are not* religious organs.  They provide a public service, and their employees MUST NOT be required to adhere to the hospital’s religious doctrine.

Kaine’s letter is the worst case of political pandering I’ve seen since the last Republican presidential debate.  Kaine demonstrates why Democrats lose elections and why people living in a reality-based world should support neither party.


Catholic health plans foot the bill for Viagra. What is wrong with this picture?  Some State Rep. in New Hampshire today said married people should only have sex to procreate. If they didn’t want more children, they should practice abstinance!  The GOP has turned into puritanical monsters lately.


While contraception might have been legal in VA in the past, it looks like some hormonal contraception will be outlawed in HB1.  There’s a lot of buzz out in cyberspace and women are rightfully outraged.  Not many females are confused about the implications of these VA bills, unless they support intrusive legislation into women’s reproductive freedoms. I can only hope men will be equally concerned and supportive about these issues.

http://www.ourbodiesourblog.org/


Is this news outlet getting paid by Tim Kaine to run his opinion on everything?  Why don’t you ask him about why he gave away our toll road to MWAA so they can now charge us as much as they want for tolls unchecked.  No…that would put him a bad light.  No thanks Kaine.


On July 1, 1996, Gov George Allen signed legislation that prohibited denial of benefits for prescription contraceptives.  The legislation had no religious exemptions.  That law was in effect during Kaine’s administration and is in effect now.


Do you think that there might be a few Stepford Wives out there?  Are they ready for chastity belts, witch dunkings, and scarlet letters?

Smart men need to rise up in support of their women and realize that contraception doesn’t just benefit women and it’s not just for family planning; it’s for endometriosis, uterine and ovarian cancer, acne, migraines, and extreme difficulties with menses.  Women deserve better than to be treated like chattel and to be shut out of the conversation.

Freedom of religion does not mean freedom over women’s bodies.  If people want theocracy, Iran’s waiting.


Sunshine, this is the Republican idea of “freedom”.  They tell you who you can marry, when to have sex, you can’t have birth control because you need to cough up those babies to fight in their wars, people can be forced by the state to have disgusting and humiliating medical procedures, and women have as many rights as non-whites, which is NONE.  I can’t imagine any women voting Republican until they toss out these dark age morons.


Rick Santorum’s financier, Foster Freiez, talks about contraception with Andrea Mitchell show today, suggesting that women just used to put aspirin between their knees and it didn’t cost much.  Women, who can actually give birth, are shut out of speaking at the House hearing on contraception and religious institutions conducted by Rep. Issa.  What planet are we on?


from Teen’s Health:  OBJECT and POWER and CRIME

“Rape, sometimes also called sexual assault, can happen to both men and women of any age. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines rape as: “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

Rape is forced and unwanted. It’s about power, not sex. A rapist uses actual force or violence — or the threat of it — to take control over another human being. Some rapists use drugs to take away a person’s ability to fight back. Rape is a crime, whether the person committing it is a stranger, a date, an acquaintance, or a family member.

No matter how it happened, rape is frightening and traumatizing. People who have been raped need care, comfort, and a way to heal.”


USUALLY - WITHOUT CONSENT

“Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person’s consent. A person who commits an act of rape is known as a rapist. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent.[1][2][3][4] The term is most often defined in criminal law.[2][4]”

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