Friday, January 3, 2014

Catholics and Birth Control and Legal Circuses

Here are some rambling, probably rather disconnected, thoughts about current events.  And I'm probably going to get excommunicated, or in trouble.  Whatever...

That being said, I am willing to admit that maybe I am wrong about many of these things.  These are just my opinions and observations, based on my own 50 years of experience.

I guess I'm the kind of person who doesn't really worry about what others think of me.  That probably stems from my childhood.  I was rather bullied in elementary school, because my mother had some rather interesting ideas about "fashion," which did not particularly conform to the trends at my Catholic school.  So, I learned, at a rather early age, to stand in my own truth (or whatever that expression is).

I do respect the Church.  I feel that it is a good thing when people actually read the actual teachings of the Church (as in the official documents) before making their own decisions about the merits of these teachings.  There is a lot of misinformation out there -- a lot of misunderstanding.  And some of this misunderstanding is the Church's own fault, as when it uses terms like "inherently disordered" -- which sounds a lot more frightening and harsh than it is really meant to be.  "Inherently disordered" is a term which causes many people to totally freak out unnecessarily.  In fact, when most of us read things that come from the PTB's of the Catholic Church, it is kind of like reading medical textbooks with no medical education.  So, now I have just contradicted myself.  I have recommended reading the official documents of the Church, and then I went and said that this will cause misunderstanding if you don't have the background to understand them properly.  I guess it's just that you have to realize that when you read the documents, there will be things you might not completely comprehend.  But, it may be good to go ahead and do some self-study, anyway -- without relying completely on Fox News.

The Catholic Church in our country is currently engrossed in the issue of contraception -- specifically, should Catholic institutions be required to provide medical coverage which includes contraception?  Much legal back-and-forth is going on.  One thing that amused me is the much-feared (by conservatives) liberal activist Judge Sonia Sotomayor is the one who granted the emergency stay (or whatever it's called) so that these Catholic institutions didn't have to start providing this coverage as of January 1st.  Now, maybe she didn't have any choice.  Maybe it was her turn to grant stays and it was a foregone legal conclusion that such a stay should be granted.  Maybe she just is a nice lady, who agreed to spend her New Year's Eve doing this, while Judge Alito went to a party.  I have no idea.  The whole thing just caused me to smile.

I guess we just like to talk about sex and fight about sex a lot in our country.  And while all this is going on, I have a lovely young friend with a lovely new baby.  This little baby has eczema and needs a prescription.  The anti-eczema prescription is not covered by my friend's insurance.  But, she as she exclaimed, "Birth control is free!."  Maybe my friend would rather go down to the corner drug store and pay cash for some condoms (after all, I don't believe she is Catholic) and have the anti-eczema prescription covered by her insurance.  But, it is not to be.  This is America, so my friend can just eat it while we all debate whether or not a school that has a total of about six female employees (including two who are most definitely past reproductive age) should have to provide coverage for the "morning-after pill" for these ladies.  I know, I know -- it's the principal of the thing.

And this leads me to some other thoughts.  (I told you this would be rambling.)

My mother -- when I was a teenager -- told me that a group of nuns in some Central or South American country (I forget which) got raped by some bad guys.  It was a terrible situation.  And guess what?  The "Powers That Be" in the Church down there allowed them all to take that era's version of the "morning-after pill."  At least, that is what my mother said.

Also -- and this is just me wondering -- what about women who take birth control pills for reasons that are other than contraception?  The Church does allow this.  I myself was treated for an extreme hormonal imbalance after my last child was born with birth control pills.  Basically I felt like crap.  I felt like I was going nuts.  And my family was paying for it.  I went to my wonderfully kind ob-gyn and told him my plight.  I said, "I feel like I'm going insane."  He put me on The Pill, saying, "It will even out your hormones and you'll feel better."  And he was right.  Those little pills were like a miracle.  I stayed on them for about a year and then stopped taking them.  All was well again.  So, would the Church allow for this type of "birth control" to be covered by insurance plans?  And if so, wouldn't it be unnecessarily intrusive if the doctor had to explain on the prescription form WHY he was prescribing a certain medication for a woman who was employed by a Catholic institution?  Then people who do not need to be -- and should not really get to be -- privy to her medical condition suddenly would become privy.  The Church -- in this case -- kinda starts looking a little like Big Brother.

I don't know.  Maybe I'm over-thinking this.  Maybe there are things I don't understand.  There probably are.  I guess I can just see it all both ways.  I don't like to see the Church being forced into acting in a manner that is in direct contradiction to its long-held moral teachings.  But, on the other hand, maybe women need to be respected and trusted to make medical decisions that are in their best interest.  Of course, Catholic women can study the moral views of the Church.  That is called "informing one's conscience."  And then -- perhaps -- they can be left alone to make their own decisions, in consultation with their spouse and/or doctor and/or pastor. 

This reminds me of another thing my mom told me when I was growing up.  She said that many Catholic doctors -- of her generation -- performed hysterectomies on women after they had 5 or 6 kids.  She said that -- in her conversations with these women -- she wondered if they really needed the hysterectomies.  She said that these women tended to be "rather overwhelmed" by all their children.  My mom told me -- she actually said -- that she had a sneaking suspicion that the Catholic doctors felt they were doing the women a kindness by telling them they needed hysterectomies.  Now, of course, many women need hysterectomies.  But, the circumstances of these particular hysterectomies caused my mother's very keen detective-like instincts to be aroused.  My mother was nobody's fool.  What does this have to do with all the legal battles going on?  Maybe nothing.  It just seemed like a good time to tell this story.  I guess this is the thing.  Catholic women have always had a lot to bear when it comes to sex.  I have heard many stories from many women concerning this.  And I feel kind of bad for them as their decisions and rights are debated publicly, vociferously, and -- sometimes -- without much sensitivity. 

Because -- you know what? -- Natural Family Planning can be hard.  Really hard.  And sometimes, this fact is not acknowledged.  The brochures and books on NFP are often graced by pictures of smiling, happy, healthy couples and their smiling, happy, healthy babies.  All is made to look romantic and beautiful.  Well, let me let you in on a little secret.  That ain't always the case.  I could go on and on about the difficulties inherent -- for many couples -- in NFP.  But, I won't do that right now.  I'll just tell another little story illustrating one aspect of this issue.

One of the most difficult times to use NFP is after you have a baby.  The hormones of nursing can cause you to have fertile-looking cervical mucus, and you can't get a good basal body temperature because your new baby won't let you sleep enough hours in a row to make that possible.  And "ecological breastfeeding" -- which is supposed to stave off your fertility for at least six months -- does not work for all people.  Like me, for example.  I practiced all the principles of "ecological breastfeeding" religiously and my fertility returned after one month.  ONE MONTH.  So, there I was with a new baby, my mucus signs were all screwed up, and I couldn't get a good BBT because my baby was an insomniac.  Believe me, nobody would have wanted to put a picture that accurately illustrated my state of mind on the cover of any Natural Family Planning booklets.

Admittedly, the difficulties of NFP are not directly related to the current legal circus regarding "the birth control mandate."  But, I can admit to seeing both sides of things.  To me, it's not necessarily a "religious freedom" issue.  It's more of an issue of personal rights (of the woman) versus the rights of an employer (albeit a religious one).

And another thing that comes to my mind is this.  The Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in blood transfusions.  Does that mean that employees of this church's institutions (or businesses owned by Jehovah's witnesses) should not have to provide insurance coverage for blood transfusions.  Now that I think of it, though, most insurance plans don't cover blood transfusions.  Is this why?  Was there a Jehovah's Witness lobby?  I don't know.  But, the point is this:  What if a particular religion found a particular medical practice objectionable?  Like vaccines, for example?  What if a church was founded by people who did not believe in vaccines for ethical reasons?  Could that church move to have vaccines excluded from the insurance it provided its employees?  I think you can see my point here.  It starts to get tricky when churches can object to medical practices based on their religious beliefs, and have those practices excluded from insurance plans.

Of course, there are those who say that birth control is not really necessary for life or health.  Using myself as an example (see above), I pretty much disagree with that, at least to a certain degree.  And frankly, most of the medical profession does view contraception as legitimate medical care. 

But, anyway, I'm done rambling for now.  If you have hung in there with me until this point, I thank you.  And I don't mean to anger anybody or act like a "bad Catholic."  These are just some of the thoughts that go through my mind as I go about my laundry and dishes.  I also realize that the legal issue in this case basically centers about religious institutions being "compelled" to do something more than it really has to do with contraception, per se.  Although, many people are compelled by the government to do things that go against their moral views.  Some people, for example, don't think the income tax is Constitutional.

Oh, well.  I'm going to shut up now.



  1. Marla you raised some good points. on the same topic I never understood why or how the Republican National Committee employee insurance covered contraception and abortion. For years- at least from 1991- 2009, when someone did some digging and discovered the hypocrisy. Maybe the RNC didn't know. Maybe they thought 'oh well, the fine Christian employees we attract would never use that part of our insurance coverage.' Hard to say. But they lost some credibility on the issue in my opinion.

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