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?

Reprinted from BroadBlogs

Photo by flickr user H.L.I.T. under Creative Commons 2.0


Georgia Platts holds a Ph.D. in sociology from UCLA and currently teaches sociology and women’s studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, California. She has occasionally lectured at San Jose State University. Her specialties are psychology of women and social psychology. As a qualitative sociologist, she’s interested in the personal identities, emotional worlds and realities people work to create as they interact in everyday life. She is currently working on a book on motherhood. Georgia also volunteers with RESULTS, an anti-poverty group that works to economically empower the poor through adequate health care, asset building and education, with a strong focus on women and girls.