News / USA

US Bishops Reject 'Contraceptive Mandate'

Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, gestures during an interview at the North American College in Rome, February 14, 2012.
Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, gestures during an interview at the North American College in Rome, February 14, 2012.

A group of university students throws around a frisbee, taking advantage of a sunny spell during a break between classes. The scene could be at almost any college in the United States.

But it is at the Catholic University of America and it masks a lively debate on this campus about the line between church and state, especially when it pertains to women and birth control.

Under President Barack Obama's health insurance reform, students and faculty covered by the insurance plans of Catholic universities like this one will be reimbursed for contraceptives. But the so-called "contraceptive mandate" has come up against stiff opposition from the Roman Catholic Church and many of its adherents in the United States.

"This is not an issue of whether birth control should be used," says Regina Conley, who works at the student newspaper. "I think it's an issue of a Catholic university has certain principles and certain standards, and people should expect that."

"It's a woman's right," counters Bridget MacDonald. She says that health for many women depends on access to contraceptives.

"If they're not able to access such important things then it just isn't right.  The employer should not be able to determine that no matter what your religion, creed, anything like that."

Although this is a Catholic-run university, many of the students are non-Catholics.

President Obama's health care reform requires employers in the United States to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees.  Churches and other dedicated houses of worship with moral objections can get an exemption, but not lay institutions such as religious-run hospitals, charities and universities, which serve the wider public and hire workers from outside the faith.  

Maria Sophia Aguirre teaches economics at Catholic University. A vociferous opponent of contraception, she said government agencies have no right to promote it as an aid to women's health.

"This, as a woman, I find insulting," she said. "I am not a tool of policy and I don't need the government to tell me how should I use my sexual activity."

Aguirre said anyone who wants contraceptive coverage should find another university.

Most Catholics in America disagree with her. A CBS / New York Times poll earlier this month found that a majority believe that religiously affiliated employers should offer health insurance that provides contraception.

But last November, their bishops launched a campaign against the mandate - and many wrote protest letters that parish priests later read at church services.  

John Allen, Jr., is the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and author of several books on the church. He said that in the back of the bishops' minds is the fact that more than 50 percent of Catholics who voted in 2008 chose President Obama.

“I think the bishops in some way perceive Obama as a rival for leadership in the American Catholic community," he said.

But Stephen Shneck, who teaches political science at Catholic University, said the bishops prepared well for this battle.

"They had a committee in place. They had the money in place. They had a message ready to go and so they very quickly mobilized," he said. "And yes, I think they're feeling their oats right at the moment. They've had tremendous political success with this."

Under pressure from not only the bishops, but also conservative Protestants and Republican lawmakers, Obama has modified the plan so that religious employers don't have to pay for contraceptives directly. Instead, the insurance companies will pay the reimbursement. But the bishops say that is still unacceptable and are redoubling their campaign against what they say is a violation of their religious liberty.


Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid