Catholic women rally against contraception mandate

Cathy Ruse Family Research Council CNA US Catholic News 2 23 12 Cathy Cleaver Ruse, senior fellow of Legal Studies for the Family Research Council.

Despite claims that only male clergy and politicians oppose the Obama administration's contraception mandate, Catholic women across the nation are objecting strongly to the federal rule.

In recent posts on CNA's Catholic Womanhood page, columnists attacked the mandate from various angles – some addressed the issue of religious freedom while others questioned the validity of abortifacients, sterilization and contraception being labeled as “basic medical care” for women.

The articles come amid a storm of protest over the administration's Jan. 20 announcement that religious institutions will have to cover these services in employer-provided health insurances plans. 

Public speaker and content editor of Heroic Media, Jenny Uebbing, said in her column that in the midst of the debate, women need to examine the basic problem of how contraception undermines them.

A 29 year-old mother of two, Uebbing said that birth control teaches women that their natural fertility is something that needs to be reduced in order to “level the playing field” with men.

“We were told, with the advent of the birth control pill, that we might at last grasp and achieve 'equality' with men,” something that fertility and childbearing had somehow “denied us.”

Uebbing argued that the mandate seems to promote the idea that a woman's ability to conceive children shows something is “wrong” with her body and needs to be corrected when the opposite is true.

Award-winning writer and Catholic Womanhood contributor Marianna Bartholomew also voiced concerns about the mandate's harmful effects on the nation's women.

“As a journalist,” Bartholomew said, “I see facts refuting the notion that flooding our nation with free contraceptives will lead to honoring women.”

The widespread use and availability of contraceptives has instead ultimately lead to women “being used for recreation, then discarded,” she noted.

Columnist Rebecca Teti also criticized the mandate but from the perspective of religious groups being forced to violate their beliefs.

“Why would anyone distort the Bill of Rights to compel private institutions built by private citizens to buy and distribute products that poison their consciences?” she asked the Obama administration.

The columnists' remarks come as former New York Times editorial writer Maura Casey attempted to garner support from Catholic women for the contraception mandate.

In a Feb. 23 article for the Hartford Courant, she called the U.S. bishops out of touch and highlighted what she called the “vast disconnect between Catholic teaching and the reality of our lives.”

Casey also cited statistics – recently debunked by Washington Post contributor Glenn Kessler – which claim that 98 percent of Catholic women have used artificial contraception.

She then referenced personal experiences and the opinions of her Catholic acquaintances who use birth control as support for the mandate.

“Like me, many would consider themselves irresponsible mothers if they did not tell their children to ignore the church's teaching on contraception.”

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If women do not “speak up” and support of the HHS mandate, Casey said, “scores of male commentators will get away with the pretense that they are speaking for us.”

Casey said that women, who are the “authorities on the importance of birth control to our health and freedom” know that “pregnancy is far more than a nine-month inconvenience.”

She also likened women who support the mandate to Galileo, saying that the Church has essentially forced women to whisper their support for something they were forced to renounce just as the astronomer did his scientific findings.

But Cathy Cleaver Ruse, senior fellow of Legal Studies for the Family Research Council, criticized Casey's “voice-of-the-oppressed” argument. 

She pointed out that “the Church can only propose the truth of its beliefs” but not force anyone to accept them, as Casey suggests.

Ruse observed to CNA on Feb. 23 that within her circle of friends, she could name dozens of women who do not use contraception and “are not in the least bitter about it.”

Instead, women who refuse to contracept “do so because of love,” she emphasized.

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This “is God's law, given not to oppress but to guide us to a more authentic freedom...we live this teaching out of love for Him and his Church.”

Other recent opposition to the mandate includes a list of over 60 prominent women professionals – compiled by National Review Online editor Kathryn Jean Lopez – who condemned the federal rule. 

A Feb. 17 open letter telling President Obama, Kathleen Sebelius and members of Congress, “Don't claim to speak for all women,” has already received 2,300 signatures from women across the nation.

Helen M. Alvaré, associate professor of law at George Mason University School of Law, and Kim Daniels, former counsel to the Thomas More Law Center, initiated the letter in response to House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other supporters of the mandate who have repeatedly suggested that few if any women in the U.S. oppose it.

During a Feb. 16 Congressional hearing on religious freedom, Allison Garrett, senior vice president at Oklahoma Christian University and Dr. Laura Champion, medical director of Calvin College, both gave testimonies against the mandate.

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