In his June 12 opinion piece, Tony DeGol, secretary of communications for the Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese, stated that our “freedom is in grave danger” because of the new health care mandate requiring employers to provide women, at no extra cost, contraceptive health insurance.
But the “new” heath care plan is nothing new.
“In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provide prescription drugs to their employees but didn’t provide birth control were in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex” (Mother Jones magazine).
The only new points are whether the current administration will continue to support the EEOC ruling, and how far the opposition will go to change the law.
This health care for women has not and will not limit women’s freedom; the plan would continue to endorse all women’s reproductive freedom – a fact the Bush administration did not even bring up as a controversy.
The current attack against health care for women, then, is a new tactic supported mainly by the Catholic church hierarchy and Republicans who want to turn the time back before the 1964 act that “prevents discrimination on the basis of sex” (Think Progress).
DeGol, and those like him, would like to stop affordable, preventative health care for working women, including those who are non-Catholics who work in Catholic institutions.
Even “DePaul University, the largest Roman Catholic university in America, added birth control coverage to its plans” (Think Progress magazine). And birth control is not always used to prevent pregnancy.
“For example for women at risk for ovarian cancer, taking birth control pills for five years reduces their risk of getting cancer by 50 percent.
“Should women have to explain to employers they need coverage for serious illnesses, not birth control, in order to obtain the medicine their doctor prescribes?” (New Republic.)
Men obviously do not need the choice of body care concerning reproduction – this particular freedom to determine what to do with their body.
And I merely note that, even though many Catholic institutions have been providing birth control in their insurance plans, the Catholic church is a top-down male-dominated institution.
The recent attack on providing contraceptives for women is a new proposal that prevents a woman’s right to preventative medicine. And the people who are desperately trying to restrict women’s health rights, not just the rights of Catholic women, are mainly men, despite the fact that 98 percent of all Catholic women, and 98 percent of all women, use birth control at some point during their childbearing years.
The reproductive health plan, a reiteration of the old reproductive health plan, continues to provide a choice for women who do not want as many children as they can birth in a lifetime.
The Catholic policy that indirectly states that, if a woman and the fetus are in danger of dying in childbirth, the fetus should not be sacrificed in preference to the woman, shows a huge bias against women: A fetus, according to Catholic doctrine, is just as important as a full-grown woman.
Choice, then – the freedom all women should have regarding their bodies – is being attacked by mainly males – DeGol in this case – those who do not need the freedom to choose whether they will reproduce.
And although I am well aware of the fact that there are Catholic women who oppose the so-called new health care proposal, the right to bodily freedom is already being exercised by Catholic women.
DeGol states that, “If (the health care proposal) is allowed to stand, what other freedoms are in jeopardy?”
He then informs us of Bishop Mark Bartchak’s prayer meetings at various area Catholic churches preaching opposition to the health-care proposal for women’s affordable contraception.
He and the bishop have that right, even though many working women at Catholic institutions are not Catholic.
By all means, pray – every faith has that freedom. And all have the freedom to speak in this society.
But do not restrict the established rights of all women to have a voice in how they take care of their bodies.
All women should have the right to affordable health care.
All women should have the right to choose.
Debra Taczanowsky of Richland Township is president of the Johnstown chapter of the National Organization for Women.