On Taking ‘The Pill’

I take it every morning. It’s called Levothyroxine– an old generic med for hypothyroid.

It’s cheap, and my insurance covers prescription drugs with a small co-pay. If I needed something expensive I’d be covered.

Every so often, I get a blood test to make sure I’m on the right dose. If I feel run down I can talk to my doctor.

I could afford to pay cash for my pill, and even to pay for the doctor’s visit and blood tests, if some huge institution had the power to practice their religion by separating out the endocrine system from the rest of the body and forcing my insurer to deny coverage for anything related to glands.

This exercise of conscience would have a bad effect on public health, of course, because there would be many people who would miss out on needed care.
But most of us would be okay. Especially people who don’t have thyroid problems.

I’m seeing some politicians saying that birth control pills are cheap and denying coverage for contraception is no big deal. If it is a big deal–a woman needs to try different pills, needs more medical attention and advice, needs a diagnostic test– does she pay out of pocket because that part of her body is red-lined like a neighborhood that can’t get a bank loan?

These religious people who are so acutely sensitive to ‘sending a message’ when something they don’t like appears on TV are sending a message loud and clear.

They are against birth control and they want to limit access even to unbelievers. While most adult Americans recognize birth control as an act of responsibility, Conservative Catholics and fundamentalists consider it a sin. They would rather use social control on single people, and persuade or coerce married people to relinquish the power to plan their families.

A principled religious stand is one where the individual sacrifices for their beliefs. A claim of principles when it’s other people who suffer the consequences is just hypocrisy. Religious organizations that don’t succeed in even persuading their own should not have the power to deny health care to others.

It seems crazy, from a medical standpoint, to separate out birth control when a woman is a whole person. It’s sad to see all the male authorities making assumptions that reproductive care is always cheap and trouble-free. Is anything else in health care always cheap and trouble-free? We have not yet reached the point where we trust women to make these profound choices, and respect the choices they make.

It’s not about religion, or liberty. It’s about birth control, and woman control, and taking liberties with other people’s lives.

UPDATE: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to strengthen employers power to limit insurance coverage for anything they have a moral objection to.I guess that will work as long as it’s just some women. I wonder if someone someday will get a bill for an emergency blood transfusion– anathema to Jehovah’s Witnesses (who have a pretty good Biblical reason for that). Mitch Mc Connell has nothing to worry about– he’s got that good government insurance.

Suburban Grrrl at Daily Kos cites legal cases that have arisen around states requirements that employers cover contraception as part of health insurance, and explains why letting religions take undue ‘liberties’ with worker’s health is a form of discrimination…

Catholic Charities appealed a 2006 decision by the Court of Appeals for the State of New York, New York’s highest court, that concluded that the Women’s Health and Wellness Act was a neutral law designed to advance both women’s health and the equal treatment of men and women. That court also held that “when a religious organization chooses to hire non-believers it must, at least to some degree, be prepared to accept neutral regulations imposed to protect those employees’ legitimate interests in doing what their own beliefs permit.”(emphasis mine)

Wow! You won’t hear that on the news, but you can read the rest here.

Gain a Child, Lose a Tooth

Pregnancy and childbirth are profound events in the life of women and families, no less physically than spiritually.

‘Gain a child, lose a tooth’, even in 2007, the New York Times Science section concludes that there’s some truth to this old saying.

A recent poll shows that a majority of Catholics support including birth control in health insurance coverage.

I suspect that many Catholics have some firsthand knowledge of the toll repeated pregnancies can take on a woman who is beyond her best physical health or a family that is stretched beyond its means.

Do we really want to limit birth control? To put an extra financial burden on the poorest women? Would it be a better world if women had ‘as many children as God gives them’? Was it a better world for women and children when choices were few and contraception unreliable?

Some of us remember those days, exhausted mothers and families in constant crisis. Yes, it was common for women to lose their teeth to poverty and the strain of repeated, close together pregnancies.

All decisions have consequences. The decision to limit childbearing affects women, families and society. Can we trust those women and families to make that decision? If not, who should we trust?

Crying Nazi

Feministe has a post that says it all. Contrary to highly placed spokesmen for the Catholic church, unflattering coverage in the New York Times is not the same as genocide.

It’s my humble opinion that a high-tech lynching is more survivable than the low-tech. Being criticized for wrongdoing and suffering harsh editorials can’t be compared to being targeted for extermination by your own countrymen under a vicious regime. The Pope, himself a survivor of that regime, should tell his priests not to cry Nazi.

Defending Celibacy

Anyone remember the Providence Journal’s ‘Face of Religion’ page? A frequent contributor was Dale O’ Leary, who liked to rant against feminists. Just before the Catholic church sex-abuse scandals broke, she began writing columns about forgiveness. After the first pedophilia stories came out, she claimed that enemies of the Church were gloating.

Well, I’m not an enemy of any church, except maybe Fred Phelps’ band of lunatics. I can’t work up a snark about the pedophilia stories either. It’s sickening, and it’s frightening. As a parent, it worries me that trust can be betrayed like that. As a parent, you have to be able to send your children into the world and trust that adults in authority will act honorably. When they don’t, it’s not only an occasion for outrage, but for grief.

I can’t really get into it now, too heavy and sad.

But there is a Catholic scandal I can enjoy. I wish more priests had followed the example of Father Cutie. The popular priest made headlines when he was photographed kissing a pretty woman. Soon after he was outed, he married his girlfriend, who was 35 years old and single. Gloat, gloat.

Father Cutie said that he still defends priestly celibacy, but he thinks it should be optional.

This is a very humane and realistic view. Opinion writers are suggesting that celibacy is the reason for the troubles in the Catholic church.

I think that’s simple-minded.

Celibacy is a valid life choice, and the Catholic church has institutions and traditions that allow celibate people to live in community. The Church is one of the few organizations that celebrates and honors the celibate life. Blaming celibacy wrongs the nuns, brothers and priest who serve their communities with dedication.

Most people, if they are honest, will have to admit that there were times in their lives when they were celibate. It’s not something we like to talk about, it’s worse to be on the shelf than in the closet.

It’s this ex-Catholic’s opinion that the sex-abuse scandals in the Church are an extreme manifestation of a culture of child-abuse. The Pope’s brother, while denying knowledge of sex-offenders in his organization, apologized for slapping choir boys. A couple of years ago three denominations in Canada were implicated for decades of systematic child abuse– the Catholic church was the only one of them that refused to acknowledge wrongdoing. Physical punishment and humiliation of children was accepted in Catholic schools for decades after society had renounced these harsh methods. The indifference to children’s vulnerability and fear allowed predators to hide in plain sight. They knew that no one was listening to the children. The Church today is paying for denial and cover-up long past any excuse. Victims of abuse pay a higher price than money.

Is celibacy the cause? Don’t make me laugh. Abuse of power, a secretive hierarchy and a lack of honesty about human sexual feelings is where I would look first. The Church will scapegoat its homosexual priests and the World will blame celibacy.

I like the Unitarian church, where homosexual members and clergy are respected. Where celibacy is not disparaged and single people are not ignored in the rush to ‘family values’.

The Catholic church could certainly ease its priest shortage by making celibacy optional and ordaining women. Or it could pay more attention to the ethics and mental health of its clergy and identify and remove abusers of all kinds. Or it can cling to its power and blame the world for being worldly.

I just want to defend the good people I know who really do practice a celibate life, with a love that extends to the community, and with passion. Celibacy is a valid choice, and celibate people should not be stained with a scandal that is rooted in abuse of power and fear of change.

Governor Carcieri Avoids the Fighting Irish

This past Saturday, November 17th saw the dedication of the Rhode Island Irish Famine Memorial. I was glad to be there, being the descendant of Irish immigrants. The Memorial is a bronze monument; three figures that represent the suffering of the Irish during the Famine of 1845-1852 and the mass emigration that resulted. The Memorial is infused with the pride of the Irish and our love of America. A low wall bears plaques relating the events that led to the deaths from starvation and disease of an estimated million Irish, and the emigration of a million more.

The history of indifference to suffering, abetted by prejudice, bad religion and the politics of greed is unfortunately not unique to that time or place. The inscription on the Memorial has a resonance today.

[British Prime Minister, Lord John] Russell, and Sir Charles Trevelyan, his chief economic advisor for Ireland, believed that their government should take only a limited part in relieving disasters like the Great Famine. They thought that the private charity of individuals and philanthropic organizations should shoulder the burden of Famine Relief. Accordingly, religious groups such as the Society of Friends (the Quakers) came forward to offer unconditional aid to Ireland.

Above all, Russell believed in protecting the rights of private property owners and in the promotion of a free market economy in both Britain and Ireland. In fact, the Government believed so strongly in the economic principle of noninterference in trade that it allowed the export from Ireland of abundant supplies of meat and grain during all the Famine years.
–Donald Donovan Deignan, PhD

You got that right. As their children starved, Irish workers were forced to sell their crops or face eviction from their rich, absentee landlords. There was no safety net, only the life of a homeless refugee.

The Irish had been disadvantaged for a long time. The British occupied the best of their land and took the best of their crops, but they could and did get by on a cheap diet of potatoes and milk. When the potato crop suffered a catastrophic blight there was no alternate source of food unless foreign aid and debt forgiveness were put in place. At first, there was some crisis relief, but a new election brought a change in politics under ministers like Charles Trevelyan.

As Assistant Secretary to the Treasury [Trevelyan] was placed in charge of the administration of Government relief to the victims of the Irish Famine in the 1840s. In the middle of that crisis Trevelyan published his views on the matter. He saw the Famine as a “mechanism for reducing surplus population”. He described the famine as “The judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson, that calamity must not be too much mitigated. The real evil with which we have to contend is not the physical evil of the Famine, but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the people”.

I don’t know if Trevelyan would have been so serene about the suffering and death of a million people on his watch if he hadn’t had the consolation of religion.

Governor Carcieri is also a religious person. Here’s from the Providence Journal.

Benefit dinner: The Mother of Life Center, of Providence, a nonprofit pro-life facility offering free counseling and testing services, and the Little Flower Home for unwed mothers, will host their annual Rose Dinner fundraiser at the West Valley Inn in West Warwick on Saturday, Nov. 10. Cocktails are at 6:30 and dinner at 7:30 p.m. The Governor and Mrs. Donald Carcieri are the honorary chairpersons. Tickets are $65 each, $120 for a couple, and $600 for a table of 10.

The Governor is dealing with a budget crisis, his Big Audit never turned up the zillions of dollars he promised to find. His response is to cut programs for children’s health, students, the elderly, schools, and families. When an after-school program is closed or a grandmother doesn’t get Meals on Wheels the middle class will feel the strain. The businessman’s response is to go for the short-term gain and hope to swing a deal, the politician’s response is to find a scapegoat.

“Frankly, I think from the state’s perspective we’ve been enabling and continue to enable a lot of bad decisions,” he said Sunday on WJAR-TV’s 10 News Conference. Asked to define ‘bad decisions’,he said: “Most of the people on our welfare programs are single women, unmarried with multiple children.”

“I think it is a bad decision to have children you can’t support–I am not making a moral judgment,” he said. “What I am saying is that we as taxpayers and citizens of the state are being asked to finance and support those decisions.”

Going a step further yesterday on WHJJ-radio’s Helen Glover Show, Carcieri said: “When I look at our rolls of people receiving ‘family-independence’ [benefits] whether it be RIte Care, whatever, the vast majority of these are women with children and they are not married and this is not a good situation.”

With all due respect to the Little Flower Home, I don’t think they can fill the gap left when hundreds of infants and children are thrown out of their health insurance. This Governor is one of the most callous and short-sighted we have ever had. He may think he’s channeling Ronald Reagan, but we’ve heard the ‘welfare queen–Murphy Brown’ routine before. All his sanctimony about welfare mothers isn’t fooling the elderly I work with, or the hard working home health aides who save the state money by keeping people out of the emergency room. It won’t fool the students who are trying to afford their tuition, or young people who are just one health emergency away from financial ruin.

The Monument dedication was an occasion for many eloquent speeches about the burden of poverty and the struggle of immigrants for a better life. Governor Carcieri’s absence was noted.

The Irish had every mark of the undeserving poor, and every virtue of the deserving poor. They came here just looking for a chance. In the twenty first century we still need to welcome immigrants, we still need to feed the hungry. We need to be true to the best of America and have faith in what we can be.