Sunday, August 15, 2010

Madison Diocese and birth control

Wisconsin CycleBeads

By Kendall McKenzie
August 13, 2010

Wisconsin Catholic Diocese Covers Birth Control, Plans to Fire Employees Who Use it

A Wisconsin state law that took effect Jan. 1 requires any commercial insurance policy with drug benefits to include prescription contraceptives in their coverage. While this is a fair and reasonable piece of legislation, the Catholic Diocese in Madison, Wisconsin, is telling employees they'll be fired if they utilize it.

The idea that a woman might be able to control her own reproductive organs was apparently so offensive to certain Catholic organizations in Wisconsin that they first tried to circumvent the law by becoming self-insured, but the costs ultimately proved to be financially unsustainable. So though the diocese will now be legally obliged to provide contraceptive coverage, they’ve made it clear they’re also going to create consequences for taking advantage of it. Diocesan spokesman Brent King noted that should an employee exercise their right to obtain birth control, they would be subject to counseling and ultimately termination if they “refuse to get in line with Catholic teaching” and abide by the contraception prohibition.

Aside from raising obvious privacy and logistical issues (the diocese has admitted they really have no way to monitor employees’ contraceptive use unless it’s voluntarily revealed), the fight against birth control and its role in sexual “immorality” seems to ignore the pesky reality that many women rely on it for reasons that have nothing to do with preventing pregnancy. In fact, as many as one-third of birth control prescriptions are written for non-contraceptive benefits, which include treating anemia, acne, premenstrual symptoms, and painful and heavy periods. The refusal to allow women access to contraception is nothing new, but it's becoming more and more detrimental and, quite frankly, silly, as additional benefits to using birth control continue to appear.

The bottom line is birth control, whether or not it’s being employed as contraception, is basic health care that 99% of women have used in their lifetime. Mandatory coverage laws recognize this, as well as help alleviate the financial burden of preventing pregnancy that is often placed squarely on the shoulders of women. It’s a damn shame that instead of embracing this common sense legislation, Catholic leaders are using it to threaten their employees.

The diocese’s little “pick one: medicine or work” ultimatum is an excellent example of why "legal" doesn't necessarily mean "accessible." The idea that reproductive health care like contraception and abortions are just ours for the taking whenever we need because the law says so is pervasive and dangerously misleading. Birth control may be our legal right, but that means nothing if it's too expensive, difficult, or fraught with social consequences to obtain. A woman shouldn’t have to choose between her health and her job.

Personal comment: Church officials in the Madison Diocese and elsewhere need to focus on the problem of pedophilic priests and not try to insert themselves into women’s reproductive health care.

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I'm a classically trained dancer and SAB grad. A Dance Captain and go-to girl overseeing high-roller entertainment for a major casino/resort