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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]”


    @Virginia is for Women Haters - “Doesn’t unwanted trans-vaginal penetration either by a person or inanimate object qualify the perp for prosecution?  In this case, the doctor is under orders by VA legislators, so the Commonwealth is a rapist.”

    Definition of rape: 
    1. the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.
    2. any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.
    3. statutory rape.
    4. an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation: the rape of the countryside.
    5. Archaic . the act of seizing and carrying off by force.


    I can’t wait to see McDonnell running as VP potential when he has to explain his sponsorship of state rape.


    I don’t know what is worse, forcing women to have the government require doctors to do internal probes against their will, or to have the state tell them they can’t take hormonal birth control pills or even get in-vitro fertilization with the ole, “personhood at conception” rules.  Do they not realize that most fertilized eggs never attach and end up going down the plumbing anyway all by themselves?  If they want to force the issue, that makes every woman a murderer in a roundabout way.  Its all about control and keeping white men in charge of women and other minorities.  If the rethuglicans get away with this, who knows where they will go next.


    Doesn’t unwanted trans-vaginal penetration either by a person or inanimate object qualify the perp for prosecution?  In this case, the doctor is under orders by VA legislators, so the Commonwealth is a rapist.


    The first woman who is forced to have the vaginal probe should file rape charges against the state. What woman would vote GOP after hearing some of the garbage coming out of the GOP lately?  Rick Santorum says “birth control is BAD for women!”  Really Rick?  But viagra is okay for men?  I’m sick of these idjits.


    So the big campaign issue this year is birth control?  Intelligent and independent women voters that support contraception ought to check out the VA House and Senate new rulings that force vaginal ultrasound probes, with doctors having no choice about this big government move.  A woman, man, doctor, and their God should be the only ones making these personal and invasive decisions.  For all the money worriers, who’s paying for those procedures?

    “it is your right to feed at the public trough” and “Did someone start turning over rocks to see what is slithering around under them?”  -  do these mean that (some) men think women are mere animals?  Wow - pretty creepy.


    Waya, I can’t figure out why woman are allowed to vote is beyond me.  Good Catholic women should be barefoot and pregnant.


    Tom, who you be?  Did someone start turning over rocks to see what is slithering around under them?  Choice, what Christian commentary are you talking; you said yourself there was only one.  All you people are crazy.


    The Catholics and churches in general, have no problem with men getting viagra, but they don’t want women to have access to the pill.  Why any women would vote Republican is beyond me!


    Insurance companies are happy to pay for the birth control themselves because the cost of the pills is far less than of a pregnancy.  So the cost to the Catholic-based organization will actually be more when not offering it.

    Fine with me.


    Bob- Wow. Congrats on being the kind of person people warn their kids against being around. Hope you’re happy with your pathetic life devoid of any meaning.


    I love hate-filled, “Christian” commentary; thanks Bob.


    Choice, are you pregnant again, are those hormones kicking in again?  Don’t worry. it is your right to feed at the public trough


    Only one comment mentions Christians; overly sensitive?


    Why is everyone blaming Christians?  Who says Catholics are Christians?  Most do not have a clue as to what a Christian is or isn’t.  Catholics certainly don’t.  Maybe if you read a Bible and find out for yourself and not rely on what someone else says.  Use your own brain.


    Exactly Eric!  Before my employer provided birth control coverage with copay, it cost as much as $35 per month - ridiculous when the pills cost much less to make!  Health departments in the 70s charged 25 cents per pack! 

    We pay monthly premiums to cover these services, and I for one am thankfully healthy and do not go frequently to doctors except for annual exams.  Where do people get off thinking that’s abusing the system and getting something for free?  Just asking for fair treatment at reasonable cost.  For-profit doesn’t have to equate with greed, which is why health care reform is important.

    *I also never meant offense to nice men who are comfortable enough in their own sexuality that they don’t try to control women’s reproductive rights.  If e.d. meds are free, then so should be contraceptives.


    Majric,

    Nobody is getting anything for “free”.  People PAY for their healthcare coverage and they benefit from the collective bargaining they can get by being a part of a employer pool.  By taking contraception OUT of the list of benefits for which the pool is bargaining lower prices, the catholic church is driving up the price of contraceptives for its employees and effectively restricting access to it for many women.  This is their intent and they are using their employer power position to force their religious views on their employees.


    @ Sunshine and others. NO ONE is denying access to birth control. The objection is making someone else pay for it, in this case the insurers. More of the “gimme more free stuff” mentality. If you want birth control then go buy it but don’t expect to require someone else to pay for it for you.


    They used to march on the anniversary of Roe v Wade. Now they march to deny access to birth control.
    Try explaining to them that the morning after pill PREVENTS pregnancy, therefore reducing abortions.
    Good luck I say- basic logic and common sense have no place in bible thumpers houses.

    Don’t even get my started about having to listen to Catholic Bishops condemn birth control while they cover up sexual abuse committed under their watch.


    From the editorial - “individuals should have the liberty to make reproductive decisions free from government interference. And, data demonstrates that better access to birth control reduces abortions.”

    “Americans support contraception and they support religious liberty.”  A smart and thoughtful accommodation about birth control was made this week for religious colleges and hospitals, revenue neutral and less expensive for even the health care insurers than the alternative.

    Bob, “What does birth control have to do with health care?” Wow. Ask 99% of American women, whether it be about family planning or control of heavy menstrual cycles.  What if there was no more erectile dysfunction medicine or prostate care allowed until men stop trying to control women’s bodies?


    I’m not quite sure what you just said, but if you were talking about freedoms and government interference the government is involved in birth control the government is way out of line.  What does birth control have to do with health care?  Why should our tax dollars or the government forcing companies to take care of this issue.  If you want to prevent pregnancy take care of it yourself, it is not my problem.


    Keith, who said ” Your right to freedom includes my right to be free from you.”  Pretty sure that most women would be glad to be free from you; how’s that working for you anyway?  No to control freaks where personal decisions are paramount.

    “I want my, I want my, I want my BCPs. . .”


    A person’s income includes health care. To reduce taxes paird the employer keeps back part of an employees salary and uses it to pay for health insurance. The employer isn’t paying for the health coverage ..they are just aggregating all the individual payments of employees for billing efficiency. The small premium employees appear to pay is really just a token to prevent people who don’t need insurance (they are covered by a spouse) from having double coverage that isn’t needed.

    The solution is to decouple the employer from health care pools. I want portability anyway (when I switch jobs) and I don’t want my employer knowing how much and what kind of health care I am consuming. Then there will be no need for a religious exemption.


    @let the haters begin - great point!


    “If you want contraceptives, pay for them yourself, don’t ask another taxpayer to buy them for you…”

    The salary and benefits of the EMPLOYEE pays for their insurance coverage and THROUGH THIS PAYMENT their plan benefits.  It is not another taxpayer’s money.  It is the EMPLOYEE’s and they work hard for that salary and benefit.  Why do you want to tell them they can’t spend that salary and benefit money on birth control?


    Hey, maybe we can shutdown the free cellphone program to pay for it, huh?  How crazy to ask people to pay for stuff they want instead of blackmailing everyone else to pay it for them.


    We can all pay a small amount for a poor woman to get birth control, OR, we can not pay for her birth control and pay mega $$ for the children she didn’t want and can’t afford.  Which is the cheaper option?


    Fine Juliette - it’s about choice. I agree. If you want contraceptives, pay for them yourself, don’t ask another taxpayer to buy them for you, and buy them from someone else other than the catholic church or an affiliated organization. You people act like you have the right to tell others what they should give or sell to you.

    Your right to freedom includes my right to be free from you.


    Catholics don’t approve of divorce either, so anyone who is divorced should not be allowed to work for a catholic organization or receive health benefits from a catholic organization.


    Repeal - repeal - repeal Obamacare!


    Catholics need to leave their hierarchy dominated sect and proclaim a Protestant faith.


    There is no controversy here. It is entirely made up. I am STILL completely disappointed with your compliance with this war on women. Because that’s what it is. I am Catholic too, and to me, this is just more patriarchal BS under the veil of religious freedom. Once again it’s about choice- INDIVIDUAL choice. It is my choice as a woman, as an individual. And to to those that say that one would choose to work at Catholic hospitals, very well, how about Catholic hospitals have the choice to hire only Catholic employees who comply with their morals. Oh, except 98% of Catholic women, like myself, use or have used birth control.

    This whole debacle proves that Gov. Kaine values his own religion over the rights of women. He may wish that this wasn’t pitted as an argument of one against another, but it is, and by choosing religion, he chooses wrong.

    For those that insist I choose the least worst alternative, I refuse to be made to vote for anyone because I’m scared of the alternative. At this rate, both are scary. At this point, isn’t voting for a democrat that thinks like a typical middle-aged white male republican simply enabling the system towards its slow path of self-destruction. At this point, as a country, we may need to hit rock bottom before we realize that this isn’t working.

    I am thankful, however. If not for this, I wouldn’t have realized that Gov. Kaine chooses the church over his female constituents. Keep pandering, you’ll lose. Shameful, yes, but so be it.


    The problem starts right at the get go, the “Affordable Health Care Act” was forced through the system so fast, that the government does not even know what it is. It was passed and now the government is scrambling because the people who are going to be held accountable to follow it, understand it better than they do.
    Also for religious institutions that “compassionately” employ and service people of all faiths, why should they be given the option of denying those people contraception? If they really are against contraception, then they should not have gotten in the business of trying to employ and service people who believe different from them, but like typical religious fashion, they want everyone in the end to act, believe and just follow along like sheep.


    I thought Christians believed that God gave us free will .... the will to choose our destiny ..... sometimes good choices and sometime bad.  So why are they restricting choice?  Just because you offer it doesn’t mean people HAVE to use them.  Some women use BCPs for other reasons—- legit medical reasons.  Tired of Christians forcing moral choices when God gave us Free Will.


    There is no way the constitution allows for the government mandating a private organization give things to people. There should be NO compromise on this BS.


    Tim Kaine says this now, but he’ll be nothing but a rubber stamp of Obama if he gets elected.  He’s used to towing the party line and will say anything he has to say to get himself elected.


    Tim Kaine analysis and position makes sense to me!

    Thanks! Vince

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