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Catholic Church Should Stay Out of Fight Over Insuring Birth Control
A Catholic woman opposes her bishops' claims that their religious freedom is violated by Obama administration rulings. Catholic institutions already provide birth control coverage.
By Victoria Kovari
This week, most of the 1.5 million Catholics in the Detroit Archdiocese will receive letters in their bulletins from the U.S. Catholic Bishops condemning the federal government for ruling that Catholic and other religious institutions, like hospitals and schools (not churches), have to cover Federal Drug Administration-approved contraceptives in their health insurance policies.
I was very discouraged at the level of outrage that this group of bishops has displayed about this ruling. I am a Catholic, go to Mass every week, serve on the Parish Council and am morally opposed to abortion. But when it comes to contraception, I am in a different camp — and I am not alone. Ninety-eight percent of Catholic women of reproductive age have used birth control, including me. So have my sisters, my nieces and almost every other Catholic woman I know.
Twenty-eight states — including Michigan — already require contraception to be covered by health insurance, and for good reason: it has health benefits as a preventive service, but is also proven to reduce the risk of some cancers and infections. Contraception coverage is also part of health care plans in Italy and nearly all other European countries. Europe is home to more than 750 million Catholics and thousands of Catholic institutions.
Church leaders say that government is attacking their religious liberty by forcing them to cover contraceptives, but the reality is that thousands of Catholic institutions in most states and around the world have complied with same law, without any harmful repercussions. I am not a theologian, nor a legal expert on religious liberty. I am a mother who tries to pass on the faith she loves to her children. But I don’t understand why the leaders of our Church have decided to spend their moral and financial resources on a misplaced fight for so called religious liberty, when so much else is at stake.
The Catholic Church is spending millions of dollars on a PR campaign to fight this ruling while at the same time closing hundreds of parishes across the country (including dozens in Michigan) and when thousands of homeowners in Catholic parishes continue to struggle with mortgage payments and unemployment. My city, Detroit, is on the brink of bankruptcy, and four of the top 10 most violent cities in the country are located in Michigan. Where are the leaders of our Church on these issues? Why were there no letters in our bulletins urging action about the 30,000 poor children in Michigan who were being cut off from public assistance this past fall?
Every day we face decisions of conscience. We look for spiritual guidance to inform many important parts of our lives. But as a Catholic woman, I’d much rather see the Church exercise more of its moral leadership on issues that improve the quality of life for the millions of people in our state and around the world.
Victoria Kovari is lead organizer and policy director of the Michigan Organizing Collaborative. This article appeared in the Detroit Free Press.
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