Peterson: A public concern for women’s health care


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Health care reform requiring free birth control stands as a compromise promoting modern day women’s rights.

Ryan Peterson

Yesterday columnist Michael Belding shared his opinion regarding the specific compromise of religious organizations in the 2010 Health Care Insurance Reform law. It was an opinion I respect and from a columnist I look up to, but I respectfully disagree with it. Unlike Michael, I believe the legislation was a good compromise; women’s health is important to the public, and I consider the legislation to be well within the public purview.

I believe it is a mistake to define compromise in the context of two or more individuals arguing over their pre-established agendas, where “compromise” is only the re-ordering of separate egomaniacal initiatives for public consideration. Real compromise, of the type I saw President Barack Obama and his Republican opponents to the legislation do, is when individuals come together without predetermined demands but jointly form their agendas through the duration of the debate.

The Health Care Reform Act as a whole, including the most recent consideration of religious exemptions, was a compromise. There was a public problem, identified not only by Obama, but also for Senator John McCain. While McCain was running for the presidency in 2008, he made the initiative to address the health care problem on multiple occasions. McCain thought securing affordable quality health care for citizens was a public concern, and like Obama, he too sought a public solution.

The issue was acknowledged by leaders in both parties. The current legislation was modeled after the states’ legislation. It’s important to recognize the states’ initiative in drafting health care insurance reform. Their enterprise supports the inference that the 2010 Health Care Insurance Reform Act was a process with a multitude of perspectives, rather than legislation fabricated by the president.

Specifically, it was the State of Massachusetts’ health care insurance reform that the federal model was based off. A model drafted by the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, 28 states had all ready adopted similar rules requiring insurers to provide “preventative health care services.”

Contrary to popular belief, the 2010 reform was not forced through by Obama. The legislation was introduced and passed by Congress, as all bills are, and deliberated within both the House and Senate. The 2010 reform was an important act which both House and Senate leaders debated and compromised on a solution for the public problem.

In regards to the most recent compromise on the 2010 health care reform, Catholic institutions no longer have to provide contraceptives to individual employees; this was an alteration of the clause requiring all insurers to provide “preventive health services.” I agree with Belding: the Catholic Church should not be forced to supply goods or services they deem inappropriate on religious grounds. However, within the compromise, women’s health is protected, as it should be. Every nonprofit corporation, such as hospitals and universities, should provide “preventive health services” if their health insurance company does not.

Requiring independent insurance companies, rather than religious organizations, to provide “preventive health services” avoids the conflict of interests within the church. It is no longer the church that must provide the services. Now the health care insurance companies employed by the church will ensure women who choose to use contraceptives, either for birth control or as a measure to medicate and manage personal medical needs, are protected.

Thanks to the compromise, hospitals, universities and charities sponsored by religious organizations can opt out of covering birth control if their insurance company offers it instead. However, despite the compromise, members of the religious community are still concerned over the moral issues of contraceptives. I personally find this strange, especially considering the many members of the Catholic Church who view the medical coverage of Viagra as morally allowable. In both instances, insurance companies cover medications for private use, but only in the instance of birth control do they object. This, even considering the religious concern of procreation, is a contradiction.

The church should be free to determine their beliefs and faiths, and their followers should be free to exercise the doctrine and faith of the church so long as it does not interfere with the rights of another. However, by denying its employees the same benefits required by law of any other organization, the church is effectively forcing its religious beliefs on its employees, trampling on their freedom of religion.

I believe religion is a necessary part of our lives, and I don’t believe the public should try to intervene in religious affairs. However, there are many women working for nonprofit organizations, there are many women working for non-profit organizations who do not share the same beliefs as the CEO, but they still need medical coverage.

Catholicism is against contraceptives, and I accept that. I support individuals who hold that faith to practice that. But, religions have no right to control women’s private rights, nor to deny them what are otherwise guaranteed rights via the government. As much as we hear the tyranny of government discussed, we never consider individual rights suppressed by any other means.