Women Must Be Free To Follow Their Conscience on Contraception


Catholic Bishops continue to plead that they must be free to exercise their conscience on contraception, which entails preventing women from exercising that same right. If there’s any conflict of rights here women should win out since it is their bodies and well-being that are at stake.

And shouldn’t the rights of individuals take precedence over the rights of institutions (whatever the conscience of an institution is)?

The Bishops would not even be the one’s buying the contraceptives. Women would.

In patriarchal societies men feel that they should govern women’s bodies. In some places women must get permission from their husbands to see a doctor. And now these male church leaders want to take on that role for women employees?

As Gail Collins at the New York Times points out, the Bishops can teach, but they can’t force others to align with their teachings.

Besides, why don’t other religions have similar issues? As Times columnist Nick Kristof observes,

I wondered what other religiously affiliated organizations do in this situation. Christian Science traditionally opposed medical care. Does The Christian Science Monitor deny health insurance to employees?

“We offer a standard health insurance package,” John Yemma, the editor, told me.

That makes sense. After all, do we really want to make accommodations across the range of faith? What if organizations affiliated with Jehovah’s Witnesses insisted on health insurance that did not cover blood transfusions? What if ultraconservative Muslim or Jewish organizations objected to health care except at sex-segregated clinics?

Or should employers, insurers or doctors refuse access to a drug or medical procedure because a disease arose from a practice they disagree with on religious grounds, whether that be the use of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, meat, sex outside of marriage, a patient’s sexual orientation, etc., etc.?

And anyway, religious people should sacrifice for their own convictions. They should not ask non-members to sacrifice for their church’s beliefs.

No surprise that political right-wingers have jumped on the bandwagon, given their pattern of seeking to strip women’s rights to their bodies, health and well-being. The far-right has tried to defund Planned Parenthood and some now want HHS to strip contraceptive coverage requirements for all employers, religious or not. Extreme conservatives have worked to prevent abortions that could save women’s lives, they have tried to redefine rape into “no rape,” and some have backtracked on protecting women from domestic violence. In fact, this past year has been widely regarded as a war on women by the extreme right.

Religious liberty? No this is about acting “severely conservative” with the aim of controlling women.

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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 February 17, 2012, in feminism, gender, politics/class inequality, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Kimberly Morrison

    I think that everyone is entitled to do what they want with their bodies. It is frustrating that churches try to get involved with women’s personal lives. If women are religious and want to follow the churches ways then they should have the choice to do so or not. I also feel that Planned Parenthood is a good place for women to go to and get support and help, especially if they don’t have health insurance. I also believe in birth control and feel it is smart if you are sexually active and not married. Women should be able to make their own decisions just like men.

  2. Ilaise Ma'ufualu

    I feel that it’s one thing to be entitled to your own beliefs and it’s a whole other to impose laws and restrict rights from any human being concerning their own body because of someone else’s beliefs. I was born and raised in a Christian household with two very, very traditional parents who would most likely agree to laws such as the ones the right-wing and other extremely religious politicians want for American society. Even though I was brought up in a very traditional environment, my education taught me that I have rights and being a young woman, I am in charge of my own body. I love being Christian and I know what’s wrong and right from a Biblical perspective, however, I do believe that living in the 21st century, things have changed for worse and for the better. Contraception and even abortion can be a positive option for women. It gives us women a choice. We bring children into this world planned or unplanned and carry them in OUR bodies for nine months and then go through agonizing painful labor and then love, care, and dedicate our entire lives this one little baby through exhaustion, joy, and even challenging times. Women can take an immense load, we have the right to our own bodies. I’m pretty sure God will love all women the same if we use condoms and birth control pills.

  3. What many people fail to realize is that the freedom of religion also includes freedom FROM religion. Everyone is free to believe and practice whatever religion they see fit — or no religion at all — but this does not include the right to compel others to follow one’s religious practices through the vehicle of secular law. This country is not a theocracy and we need to work to keep it that way and not ruin what the founders of this country intended.

    One would think that most men would get on the bandwagon to preserve the right to contraception and abortion, as I’m sure that any thinking man would not want to go back to the days where every sexual encounter with a woman included the possibility of a baby.

  4. Maria Papayianni

    I truly don’t understand why some people feel entitled to tell others what to do with their own bodies. It’s frustrating to see religious institutions trying to impose their beliefs on individuals who belong to a different faith, or happen to be atheists. It becomes somewhat scary when you see these powerful institutions doing so through politics, and when they are becoming increasing successful with their efforts. It makes absolutely no sense to me. When I hear statements against contraception I sense more ignorance than desire to control. If those against contraception really knew and took interest to know more about the female body, female health problems, and the benefits these medication provide they could not possibly make claims against women having a right to receive contraception… At least I would hope so… Why would anyone in his or her right mind try to hinder a woman’s from taking care and maintain her good health? That’s just outrageous.

  5. Where is the organized, loud, consistent backlash — from women?! With all due respect to your post, I am less interested in the problem than the solution.

    Which is….?

    • Yes, solution is really important. Of course, no one looks for a solution unless they see a problem.

      And a lot of the problem is that we let the powers-that-be define the problem, which a lot of folks see as “freedom of religion” — but only defining that as the Bishop’s religion/conscience, and not women’s religion/conscience. Without that way of seeing, people side with the bishops.

      It’s really frustrating to get the other way of seeing out their to prompt things like a backlash thru social media.

  6. I find it frustrating when people or religious leaders claim that the use of contraception violates their religious rights and that the government should not ‘force’ it. However, these same people force their religious beliefs on others and basically act like their rights override the rights of others. I take birth-control to regulate my hormones and to over all make my period cramps bearable. Yet people want to take that away from me because they’re uncomfortable with it or that it ‘violates their beliefs’. It’s the idea that “my belief is more important than yours” thought process that allow these people to be so against these things. What’s odd is they always seem to have a problem with birth-control for women not men. It’s even more ridiculous because it does not concern or affect them in any way. It only affects women who use contraceptives. If they don’t want to use women contraceptives, THEN DON’T! Plus, no one is forcing them. It is for people who want or need it, no one is forced to use contraception. I just don’t understand the reasoning behind anti-birth-control, etc.

  1. Pingback: American women’s reproductive rights face relentless attack « Broadside

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