For 3 years I was a teacher at a Catholic school. Despite the fact that everyone seems to associate teaching with great health benefits, teaching at a private school doesn’t afford that luxury. Obviously it affords other luxuries that public school does not, but for me, having to pay upwards of $450 a month for my insurance premiums, out of my low teaching salary, was a tremendous burden. And the reason I did it is because without employer provided insurance, I am uninsurable.
I have a pre-existing condition that means I could require really expensive brain surgeries multiple times in my life. And while I am more than grateful to have this as an insurance option, it felt like a slap in the face that I had to pay $450 a month, $45 copays for each doctor’s visit and an out of pocket maximum of greater than $5000 a year. And then it didn’t even cover any birth control because the plan was through my Catholic school.
Nevermind that I didn’t have any interest in birth control for actual birth control methods, but rather for management of horrible periods and cramping, my insurance would not cover it. And going to Planned Parenthood was simply not an option because if I was spotted there by a student or coworker, my job would undoubtedly be in jeopardy. I was left without options besides paying full price each month for medication I needed.
Which is why I was thrilled at the new reform that required employers to provide birth control to all women, including Catholic schools like where I used to work. Unsurprisingly, the church was not thrilled.
After hearing the concerns, President Obama made changes to the reform that meant that religions institutions didn’t need to provide insurance with birth control coverage- but, the insurance company had to provide it for free. Obviously the result is the same, free birth control for women who are employed by religions institutions, but the cost and the direct provider isn’t the church. As much as I love the compromise, I’m not at all surprised that the Catholic Church doesn’t. If we’re being honest, it wasn’t so much a compromise as much as it was a game of semantics.
But I can’t help but feel like the Catholic Church needs to step back for a moment. If their employees have the same strong sense of morals as the church, this won’t be an issue because they won’t make use of the birth control anyway. Offering women the option, not the requirement, of birth control, does not violate anyone’s freedom of religion. If anything, an insurance plan that does not allow access to birth control seems like it enforces a religious code on women, which does seem to violate their freedom of religion.
I understand that the Catholic Church feels threatened, but maybe it’s time that they realize that their abstinence only education doesn’t work. And that providing women free birth control will dramatically decrease health care costs and the number of abortions in this country, which I’d think is something they would happily support.
Maybe this compromise wasn’t enough for the church, but maybe it’s the push they need to join the 21st century and to give women access to medication that goes far beyond preventing babies and may even prevent abortions.
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