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Healthcare, Religion, and Politics Don’t Mix

13 Feb

Is Abortion political or medical?


I’m surely can’t be the only one sufficiently tired and annoyed with politicians, pundits, alleged non-profit organization presidents, and presumably pious religious leaders having a pissing contest concerning women’s rights.  What’s happened the last two weeks with the Susan G. Komen versus Planned Parenthood fiasco, and now with the Obamacare versus Catholic hospital tête-à-tête shows that even the most selfless individuals can get sucked into the divisive game of politics in America.


Komen made a huge mistake at the end of January pledging to drop funding to Planned Parenthood.  Their reasoning was that they did not want to fund any organization that was under any federal, state, or local investigation.  That’s all well and good, but the investigation was initiated by pro-life group Americans United for Life (AUL).  People wouldn’t have made as big a stink about Komen’s drop of Planned Parenthood if they also dropped funding to large, popular recipients like Penn St. University (obviously under investigation surrounding the Jerry Sandusky molestation case), and Parkland Hospital in Dallas (under investigation by Medicare and Medicaid for possible safety violations).  Since only funding was cut to Planned Parenthood, the situation became a political statement … a firm stance against those who are pro-choice.  For those who don’t know the obvious, breast cancer has no political affiliation.  It hits Democrats and Republicans equally, it has no preference for those pro-choice or pro-life, and it doesn’t care if someone is in the top one percent of earners or with the bottom 99 percent.  Supporters of Komen were rightfully outraged; they didn’t want their monetary and volunteering donations to a breast cancer organization tied up in politics.  This is an especially dangerous time to take such positions considering how partisan politics in America have been the last 2 years.

To make a long story short, after explosive negative rhetoric and countless high profile rebukes, Komen reversed their decision about funding Planned Parenthood, their senior vice president for public policy immediately resigned, and the organization has been engaging in aggressive damage control ever since.  My big issue with the whole situation is how come abortion is still a political issue?  The Roe vs. Wade decision was announced by the Supreme Court in 1973!  It explicitly states that a person has a right to an abortion until viability.  They defined viability as:

“potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid … is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks.”


Let’s let the folks who went to medical school be the experts on abortions


I get that people have their own moral compass, but this decision is not going to get overturned.  Save the fighting and vitriol for something that may actually happen.  Condemning Planned Parenthood and reducing their funding is not going to stop women from seeking abortion.  Unfortunately they will just seek more objectionable ways of terminating the pregnancy (or abandoning the child).  I think a more effective strategy is to make abortion a medical issue, not a political one.  Actually arriving on a consensus of what the true definition of life is can make inroads for both sides.  For arguments sake if it is determined that life is actually 1 week after the sperm cell fertilizes the ovum, then I think staunch pro-life supporters would have a much smaller issue with termination.  Placing the decision on viability is difficult because people just aren’t comfortable seeing a picture of an aborted 20 week fetus.  Spend money doing research to develop a consensus statement from the medical community, and leave terms like viability to obstetricians.  And if any OB isn’t comfortable with the unified statement, they don’t have to perform the termination.  I asked my doctor for antibiotics a few months ago and he said no; the patient can do their homework and find someone who is comfortable with it.


Obama vs. the Catholics


I’ve remained lukewarm on the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare since its inception.  Some of the pros are:

  • It provides access to the uninsured, which would ultimately have been paid by tax payers anyway
  • Those with mental illness have expanded coverage
  • Individuals with pre-existing conditions are not left flailing in the wind
  • Insurers cannot drop people who become sick, or impose lifetime maximum payments

Some of the cons are:

  • It doesn’t address the biggest problem in American healthcare, astronomical costs
  • Forcing someone to do anything (not illegal) seems quite unconstitutional
  • Its impact on the national debt is still inconclusive
  • It spits in the face of separating church and state


Obama is about to engage in a 15 round fight where everyone ends up losing


The last con is what has gotten President Obama in trouble this week.  He had given an exemption to churches and such employers in having to provide free contraceptive services to women.  The issue mushroomed when the White House said that a similar exemption ran out, thus, church run hospitals and universities also had to provide free contractive services.  This obviously got the Catholic Church and conservative Republicans all atwitter, and the angst was similar to what was felt by Komen just weeks ago.  In a seemingly deft move, Obama announced last Friday that religious hospitals and universities did not have to provide those services, but insurers for those institutions had to take the lead on ensuring such things were available to every woman.  Women’s groups were satiated with the decision, but the US Conference of Catholic Bishops was rather nonplussed.  I think Obama’s heart was in the right place when he developed Obamacare, but nationalized healthcare includes far too many issues that blur the line between church and state, something Thomas Jefferson argued against in a letter he wrote in 1802:

“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

This issue and similar ones are not going away with Obamacare, and once the presidential debates begin this summer, the GOP nominee is going to let it fly on the president and these mismatches (unless of course the Supreme Court rules in March that Obamacare is in effect unconstitutional).

My personal gripe is with the Catholic Church on the contraceptive stance.  I fully support their religious stance against birth control and abortion, but things start to get slightly hypocritical.  Firstly, countless surveys show that over 90% of women who identify themselves as Catholic admit to be using or have used birth control in the past.  Standing up for agreed principles is admirable, but if they are going to slam Obama for his decision, they also need to reprimand their members for disobeying the contraceptive tenet.  People want a connection with their God, not overbearing behavior by their religion.  Spiritual governance should not feel the same as a federal government that is overstepping its boundaries.  Secondly, hiring someone with differing moral or religious convictions is obviously going to cause problems.  If no contraception is so important, such institutions should only hire women who are Catholic and adhere to that premise, and they should only treat like minded patients.  Is it not somewhat oppressive to hire someone with different religious convictions, yet not provide services that are not at all illegal?  Hospitals and their employees generally are a mix of different races, religions, and social standings.  The only way to ensure complete adherence to religious doctrine and receive federal exemptions is to limit entry.  One doesn’t expect to see non-members attend private Catholic primary schools; the same should go for hospitals if they want to be excluded from the law.  Furthermore, Obamacare mandates that all healthcare plans include inpatient and outpatient coverage for individuals with substance use disorders.  It is well known that Catholics either believe it is best to abstain from alcohol all together, or use it strict moderation.  One who needs substance abuse treatment has not used in moderation … where is the uproar about this?  I wish that those who are instructed to be spiritual leaders stick to matters involving a higher powers and leave politics to the politicians.  As Obama blurs the church/state line with Obamacare, Catholic Churches are also blurring the line by running universities, hospitals, and other arenas that cater to the general population.


Seriously, non Catholics should not know who you are Archbishop Dolan


Unfortunately 2012 has become the year of social convictions, and everyone wants their opinion heard.  In theory there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but almost by design there is no right or wrong answer, so no one is satiated by the debate.  In a year when the economy, unemployment, and fiscal responsibility are most important, arguments about abortion and contraceptive services are getting most of the recent headlines.  These arguments are minor because they won’t be fixed by the current or next president, and no one who has been laid off cares more about Roe vs. Wade than they do getting their job back and getting off of government assistance.

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