Birth Control vs. The Church

Should insurance plans at Catholic colleges be forced to cover birth control? The Obama administration thinks so, as the New York Times gleefully reports. Of course, the Times‘ piece is less a news story than it is an editorial against the Catholic Church, but it’s an illuminating read as a case-in-point of this new morality of entitlement that has stitched into today’s culture, especially youth culture. Young people think they have the right to have premarital sex, and they think they are entitled to full protection against its consequences, i.e., having a child or contracting STDs.

Here’s the Times:

Bridgette Dunlap, a Fordham University law student, knew that the school’s health plan had to pay for birth control pills, in keeping with New York state law. What she did not find out until she was in an examining room, “in the paper dress,” was that the student health service — in keeping with Roman Catholic tenets — would simply refuse to prescribe them.

As a result, students have had to go to Planned Parenthood or private doctors to get prescriptions. Some, unable to afford the doctor visits, gave up birth control pills entirely. In November, Ms. Dunlap, 31, who was raised a Catholic and was educated at parochial schools, organized a one-day, off-campus clinic staffed by volunteer doctors who wrote prescriptions for dozens of women.

Many Catholic colleges decline to prescribe or cover birth control, citing religious reasons. Now they are under pressure to change. This month the Obama administration, citing the medical case for birth control, made a politically charged decision that the new health care law requires insurance plans at Catholic institutions to cover birth control without co-payments for employees, and that may be extended to students. But Catholic organizations are resisting the rule, saying it would force them to violate their beliefs and finance behavior that betrays Catholic teachings.

Despite Catholic teachings, surveys have found that 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women, as in the general population, have used contraceptives.

At Catholic universities, some students support the right of the schools to uphold religious doctrine. But others, particularly professional and graduate students, have found the restrictions on birth control coverage onerous. Undergraduates are often covered by their parents’ insurance, but graduate students are usually on their own and are more likely to be married or in relationships and in regular need of birth control.

A 23-year-old who asked that her name not be used said she became pregnant while studying at Fordham. In high school, she said, she had taken birth control pills, but she gave them up at Fordham because she could not afford the doctor visit needed for a prescription. She and her boyfriend were using condoms when she became pregnant. Though Catholic, she considered abortion, but chose to have the baby. She said she knew six other Fordham students who had become pregnant and had abortions.

This is crazy. These young women, as the Times is reporting it, are acting like their Catholic colleges are putting them in an impossible position, where they—the women—are left without a choice. “Now I’m going to have to have sex without protection!” you can hear them crying. “What about my reproductive rights!” But the beauty of being a young woman today is that there are plenty of choices to make—thank you, feminism—in a situation like this: You can drop out of your Catholic school and go somewhere that better matches your lifestyle; you can pay for your own birth control (what a thought!); you can decide not to have protected sex; or you can have unprotected sex.

These are real choices—real alternatives—so why doesn’t the Times mention them as serious alternatives? Because they are hard choices that no one wants to face up to; because they are choices that have consequences, as most important decisions do. To the Times and to the young women in the story, sex shouldn’t have consequences. That it would is an outrage.

Against this fantasy, the Catholic colleges remind us that we may be entitled to making our own decisions, but we won’t be coddled and protected from the fall out of those choices. This is a lesson that young women everywhere—especially those who choose to go to Catholic colleges–should learn.

  1. Charlotte

    This reminds me of a hilariously depressing (or depressingly hilarious) passage from Mark Steyn’s After America. The relevant bit starts at the final paragraph on page 174 and continues through most of page 175.

  2. DocJay

    If I was single I would start a support group for these disenfranchised lasses.  Alas, they went to the wrong school for their values and should have known the rules that Catholics play by are not subject to Obama’s whims.  Obama stinks by the way. 

  3. Guruforhire

     They do have the right to have premarital sex, and they do have the right to purchase all the birth control pills and condoms they want.  They do not have the right to make me bankroll their behavior.

    If you cant afford the pill, and are worried about condoms, here is a pro-tip, dont have sex.  See easy – peezy

  4. Trace

    I would warrant (because I am just this cynical,) that the young women being interviewed by the Times, made a special point of noting their Catholic upbringing when applying for admission to Fordham in an effort to ingratiate themselves with the admissions committee.

  5. Aaron Miller
    Despite Catholic teachings, surveys have found that 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women, as in the general population, have used contraceptives.

    Hasn’t use of “the pill” become normal for sexually inactive women as way to control the menstrual cycle?

    Besides, though that statistic probably includes married women, it sounds a lot like: “…surveys found that 98 percent of women who reject the Church’s teachings on sex have used contraceptives.” Well, duh. Don’t sexually inactive Catholic women matter, too?

    Anyway, politicians are fools if they think Christians will prioritize our loyalty to government before our loyalty to God and the lives of innocents. If we have to fly “Come and Take It” flags on our hospitals and guard the steps, we will.

    If Obama is reelected, we might yet see a day when our government tries to remove the tax exemption status of churches or seize control of Christian hospitals for refusing such terms.

  6. Noesis Noeseos

    Are Catholic colleges being told to dispense contraceptives as a condition of receiving federal money?  If so, then they should get off the federal mammary gland.  If not, then it’s time for them to go to court.

    Can’t students buy their own contraceptives?  If they acquire them with the aid of an insurance provision mandated by the government, not only are they disobeying the teachings of the church to which they voluntarily belong (and which is providing them with an education), but they are also  perpetuating their dependency on the nanny state.  Let’s see, those are two mortal sins to confess–lust and sloth–maybe three–avarice.

  7. Pat in Obamaland

    I would love to see the fact-checking on this story. The fact that a law student cannot afford even a doctor’s visit strikes me as awfully fishy. I don’t trust anonymous sob stories from the NYTimes.

  8. EThompson

    Having sex and practicing birth control are personal choices in this country and not entitlements to be funded by second parties.

  9. Joseph Stanko
    Emily Esfahani Smith: This month the Obama administration, citing the medical case for birth control, made a politically charged decision that the new health care law requires insurance plans at Catholic institutions to cover birth control without co-payments for employees, and that may be extended to students.

    More broadly it’s absurd that the federal government requires that insurance plans cover anything without a co-payment.  Wasn’t Obamacare supposed to reduce health care costs?  Co-payments are a very effective way of controlling costs.  Allow consumers to choose between more expensive plans with lower co-payments and cheaper plans with higher co-payments and let the market decide.

  10. DocJay

    Anything in the NY Times is an Obama campaign ad.  

  11. Mel Foil

    For those who see the Catholic Church as just another political rival–because everything is about politics–then this is just the first piece (a preview) of anti-Catholic political hardball to come.

  12. Joseph Stanko
    Noesis Noeseos: Are Catholic colleges being told to dispense contraceptives as a condition of receiving federal money?  If so, then they should get off the federal mammary gland.  If not, then it’s time for them to go to court.

    I believe it is a condition of offering health insurance.  All health insurance plans nationwide must follow these rules.  Some Catholic institutions are planning to drop insurance coverage for their employees and students rather than comply.

  13. Nobody

    This reminds me of militant nuns who complain that they cannot be priests.

    Look, if you object to the tenets of your church, find another church.

  14. John Russell

    What most tickles me about this is the unspoken assumption, which seems to underlie all of what passes for thinking in the liberal/progressive communion, that if the government won’t pay for something or mandate that it be free it becomes unavailable.

    I have seen this in anguished cries about school lunches, stem cell research,  abortions, and birth control. To hear Hillary Clinton tell it, if we stopped providing free abortions in China their whole population program was going to be cancelled.

  15. Tommy De Seno
    C

    Help me fellow Catholics (and others if you have an understanding to clear up my lack of it).

    I know the Church forbids birth control, but they encourage at pre-cana class the use of the rhythm method, itself a form of birth control.

    I know it’s in Humanae Vitae, and the Catechism.  I’m interested in the “why” of it.

    The only close scripture is the story of Onan, but his sin was not spilling his seed, rather failure to impregnate his brother’s widow, back then an obligation he owed to his brother.

    At pre-cana we are told martital sex is good and to enjoy it, but Humanae Vitae  reads like that isn’t the case, giving reasons like a man’s loss of respect for his wife if they engage in sex outside of procreation. Yet at some points Humanae Vitae reads like it isn’t saying that, by its very acceptance of the rythem method.

    I know I’m bound to accept the Church’s positon.  But I also have an obligation to understand it.

    Is the Church’s position on birth control strong? Based on Scripture?  Is there a Rocochet priest on staff?

  16. Charles Mark

    It could be worse for these girls-they could be “forced” to carry their unexpected babies to term.”Choice without consequences” really is the new black.

  17. Sebastian B. O. Buniontoe, Esq

    This is a clear violation of the First Amendment. I don’t believe the First Amendment is conditioned upon the social norms of the day. The government has no right to impose its will against long-standing religious beliefs, forcing believers to contribute to behaviors counter to their religious doctrine. 

  18. Joseph Stanko
    Emily Esfahani Smith: 

    A 23-year-old who asked that her name not be used said she became pregnant while studying at Fordham. In high school, she said, she had taken birth control pills, but she gave them up at Fordham because she could not afford the doctor visit needed for a prescription. She and her boyfriend were using condoms when she became pregnant.

    Wait a minute, hold the phone, stop the presses!  You mean to tell me condoms can fail?!?  I’ve been told all my life they were a panacea to cure AIDS and reduce the number of abortions.

  19. Katie O
    Tommy De Seno: Help me fellow Catholics (and others if you have an understanding to clear up my lack of it). · 8 minutes ago

    Hi Tommy, 

    I think this thread from katievs would help you.

  20. Mel Foil
    Tommy De Seno: Help me fellow Catholics (and others if you have an understanding to clear up my lack of it).

    I know the Church forbids birth control, but they encourage at pre-cana class the use of the rhythm method, itself a form of birth control.

    I know it’s in Humanae Vitae, and the Catechism.  I’m interested in the “why” of it.

    [...]

    Is the Church’s position on birth control strong? Based on Scripture?  Is there a Rocochet priest on staff? · 2 minutes ago

    Natural family planning (quite effective if done correctly and scientifically) is based on having a period of abstinence during the month. That’s as Catholic as fasting. That’s much different than trying to have your cake and eat it too, so to speak, with the birth control pill. Just as an aside, there’s a lot of evidence that the pill disturbs a lot more than just fertility in women. Taking the pill is like adjusting your watch with a great big hammer.