Should Organized Religion Have More Rights Than Women?

Right now Catholic Bishops, charities, schools and universities are demanding exemptions from new rules requiring that insurance plans cover contraception for women, free of charge.

And President Obama is listening, even as Congressional Democrats object.

The demand for exemptions is based on moral and religious grounds. Religious rights, it’s claimed. But about women’s religious rights? When women’s moral and religious beliefs conflict with the Catholic Church, why should the church win out?

Free contraception leads to healthier babies, too. The Institutes of Medicine recommended free birth control due to compelling evidence that it leads to healthier women and babies.

Women with unintended pregnancies are more likely to receive delayed or no prenatal care and to smoke, consume alcohol and be depressed during pregnancy. Unintended pregnancy also increases the risk of babies being born preterm or at a low birth weight, both of which raise their chances of health and developmental problems.

And when birth control is free, abortion rates drop too.

Then there’s the whole matter of financial survival. Poor women might want to avoid the poverty that can come from extra mouths to feed. And those who are better off might want to have only the number of children that they can afford.

Looking at the country’s finances, free contraception is a good deal, as well. Nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, and one factor is the high cost of birth control. And unplanned pregnancies cost U.S. taxpayers more than $11 billion a year. Because of this, every dollar spent on birth control by California’s Family Planning, Access, Care and Treatment program resulted in approximately $4 savings.

But returning to the question of religion, aren’t we supposed to sacrifice for our own religious beliefs, rather than asking everyone else to sacrifice for our religion?

So I ask again:

Why should organized religion have more rights than women?

Reposted on the Ms. Magazine Blog, Daily Kos, The AlterNetDemocratic Underground and Political Mosaic.

Also republished on Daily Kos by Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism and Street Prophets .

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on November 30, 2011, in feminism, gender, politics/class inequality, reproductive rights, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. I do not think that religion should have anything to do with women’s right to birth control. The government is forcing religious beliefs on all women by restricting birth control. People came to America for religious freedom and women should have the freedom to not practice someone else religion. It is a different story if a woman chose not to take birth control because of her religious beliefs because that is her right, but another woman who does not hold the same beliefs has just as much right to take birth control. There is scientific evidence that birth control benefits women in several ways, and women should not be restricted from those benefits because of a religious group. Birth control is just as necessary as any other drug and should be covered by insurance.

  2. I have a very good friend who I have known for twenty years. She has two grown kids. Her daughter was diagnosed with diabetes when she was only 5. The limitations on her life have been profound. Unless you intimately know someone with this life threatening disease it it hard to imagine the sacrifices they make just to get through every day. She will never be able to have a baby because it would kill her. She cannot get pregnant. She cannot take birth control pills. I imagine that even having an abortion would be extremely dangerous for her. She is a beautiful girl, charming, fun, but she literally fights for her life every day.

    Her mother is a rabid Republican. She gets in her car every day and listens to Rush Limbaugh. I would mention here that I have never listened to Rush Limbaugh. She believes all of the drivel
    that Fox news and the like serve up. She is single, not religious in any way, and yet I cannot get her to see how the policies of her party threaten her own daughter’s safety. If the Republican party has their way all of the legal protections for women and their reproductive rights would be abolished. They have said so. They continue to say so. I cannot make my friend see that she should vote to support women. I am happy to say that her daughter is not a Republican.

    I saw David Axelrod speak at Flint Center on Friday. He is Obama’s campaign manager. He was responsible for Obama’s election in 2008. He made an important point. When asked about the value of a third party in our election process he pointed out that during the Gore election the outcome could have been influenced by as little as 350 votes. 350 votes. We would not be in the horrible mess we are in now if Gore had been president. The Republican party stole the office from Gore. We cannot let this happen again. Be informed. Vote. Vote for human rights.

  3. Organized religions have more rights than women because most religions have been ran by MEN. Christianity has a unique control over their followers; these people seem to believe everything from a text written over two thousand years old without question. Current issues, such as birth control and gay marriage have been argued by radical Christians that it is wrong “because God said so.” There is no scientific evidence that supports Christianity. However, with modern science and statistics, we have sufficient evidence to prove that contraceptives are healthy for women. The choice is obvious, but radicals will always choose to look the other way.

  4. Melissa Aboytes

    When I read this I was sorta pissed. Why is it that the catholic church, charities, and other organized religions want to take away a vital tool from women. Birth control helps women in many ways, it prevents pregnancy when the woman is not ready, it helps regulate our monthly cycle, and probably the most important fact of all is that its a new way of keeping pregnancy rates down. It is a tool that is offered to woman and I don’t think it should be taken away just because some random people think it’s un-god like.

  5. Catherine Knipe

    Medical advances like contraception were not a reality when the Catholic church leaders were making up the rules back in the Middle Ages. The Catholic church needs to get with the 20th century and allow women to protect their health and the health of their unborn children by allowing contraception.

  6. It will be such a travesty if this is allowed to pass. This is so similar to HR 3 (the Smith bill), which limits insurance coverage of women’s right to abortion. It appears as though these restrictive and oppressive bills are the work of religious groups, but I think it’s worth it to consider what the insurance companies stand to gain from this. Perhaps there’s more to the story than we are seeing. In addition to this, I have heard of no movement to limit coverage of vasectomies. What a surprise, once again, that religious movements fight so hard to limit the rights of women.

  7. Powerful organized religions are pushing their agenda into people’s insurance plans. This shows how powerful and ignorant they are. First off all they shouldn’t have the right to infringe in woman’s rights. Exempting contraception is a dumb thing in many ways. Economically it hinders those who can’t afford to raise a child since raising a child is a large investment. Because it’s a large investment it set people back and if one can’t afford a child it can thus raise a child in a poor environment negatively impacting our economy and the child. Abortion can even be considered a crime deterrent. In the book Freakonomics they address how high abortion rates correlates with drop in crimes. I love how they fail to give an alternative solution like maybe an adoption program or do they just expect people to not have sex until they want kids. This is just a set back the power of organized religion can only do so much eventually the majority will realize the harm this does. However it all goes down to the moral question if killing or preventing a fetus or whatever stage it is, is it morally right?

    • Good points. But your last question is interesting since the law would make abortions decrease.

      Otherwise on abortion, I feel it is better for people to follow their own consciences rather than try to force them to live a religious view they don’t agree with.

      And making abortion illegal doesn’t have a huge impact on abortion rates. Abortion goes underground, killing women.

  8. Organized religion should not have more rights over women. As a catholic, i believe in God but this does not hinder me with use of contraceptives. This promotes safer intimate relationship as well as avoiding unwanted pregnancies. I live in the society wherein I have freedom of choice with what I want with my life. My choice of using contraception does not change my religious beliefs. I am just being rational here.

  9. I consider myself a Christian (protestant, not Catholic), but I also firmly believe in the separation of church and state. No religion should stand in the way of a woman’s rights, especially when it involves her power over having or deciding NOT to have a child. Free condoms are pretty easy to get a hold of these days, but they aren’t as effective as other forms of birth control. I should probably look into this myself, but has there been any conversation for an age limit on receiving free contraception from a pharmacy without parental/guardian permission? One thing that does cross my mind though is if more women, especially younger women/teens, had access to other forms of birth control…I feel that it would give males more of an excuse to not use a condom, therefore increasing a female’s chance of contracting an STD. I say this because it’s pretty common for a guy to not want to use a condom, so if he knows that women have easier access to birth control pills, he most likely won’t use it if he doesn’t have to. I still agree that women should have access to free contraception and that no religion’s beliefs should stand in the way of this; I just wonder how it would effect the younger population. Taking a pill (filled with hormones) has a lot more side-effects than using a condom. Ultimately, I believe that an increase in the availability of sex education to middle and high-school students would be the most ideal, but it seems like religions like to stand in the way of that as well. So frustrating!!

  10. This is exactly why I no longer recognize any organized religion. It sickens me that people would place more value on beliefs and moral codes that NO ONE can certain are right or what our “creator” had in mind. Religion is slowly yet surely becoming more of problem than a good thing for this species. For anyone to say that they have authority to make rules that govern the body of another person is wrong and it is even more wrong to hide this behind the veil of an omnipotent deity that no one can be certain truly exists. Whats worse is that we are allowing this craziness into our politics and culture. Christians in America, to me and many others, are becoming more and more like the muslim extremist they have worked so hard to demonize. Religion has no place in public legislation. A true moral code would not allow women to die and suffer in the name of “God”. I wish American Christians would have more respect for the law of the land; clear separation of church and state!!! American Christianity is becoming the western equivalent of muslim extremism they just have the benefit of being in America where they can hide behind the fact that they are the mainstream and the majority. This farce needs to stop and we as a people must decide whether we want to follow the law of the land or the laws set down by “God” even though in reality the laws he supposedly set down for us to follow probably did not come from him…just a thought.

  11. As an evangelical Christian, I do not believe in Sex before marriage. However, I have not yet found where the Catholic church gets its justification against contreceptive in scriptures.
    Thanks for your post.

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