Contraception debate divides Obamacare and religion
There is an old English proverb that says, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," meaning that prevention is better than a cure. However, Americans only use half of the preventive services recommended, and the primary reason is cost, according to the Department of Health & Human Services.
The Affordable Care Act, which provides preventive health care services for women, is being opposed by religious institutions. They are not willing to pay for employee benefits that cover preventive care, specifically contraception, because it raises "a deep moral concern," Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez states in a recent press release.
"The government does not have the right to require the Catholic Church or other institutions to pay for products and services they find immoral and unconscionable," says Gomez.
"I think the Catholic church is consistent with their tradition," says Dana Del George, a religious studies professor at Santa Monica College. "Contraception has always been seen as God's jurisdiction [according to Catholic tradition]. It has never accepted an increase of human power."
Scientists and other experts at the Independent Institute of Medicine recommend that the HHS should "provide contraception with no co-pay or deductible because the health benefits are tremendous for women using it."
According to the HHS, almost all women have relied on contraception at some point in their lives, but more than half of these women, between the ages of 18 and 34, struggle to afford it.
"I'm Catholic, and I think it's ridiculous," says SMC criminal justice student Diana Araiza. "Personally, I'm against abortion, but if a woman wants birth control, they should have it."
In a press release from the HHS, human services secretary Kathleen Sebelius states, "the administration is taking the next step in providing women with coverage of recommended preventive care at no cost, while respecting religious concerns."
This proposal exempts the preventive health care plans for churches and religious organizations, including certain religious employers. According to the HHS, the act will also accommodate other nonprofit religious organizations and religious institutions of learning because of their objection on religious grounds.
The federal government will not subject religious nonprofits that are required by state law to provide contraceptive coverage. They will not be subject to enforcement until Aug. 1.
The cost will be shared by the insurance companies and other third parties.
According to the HHS, these participants "would receive coverage through a separate individual insurance policy without cost sharing or additional premiums." These proposed rules are open to public comment until April 8.
The problem seems to be with the accommodations provided to Catholic charities and Catholic education.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement on Feb. 7 that states, "the new rules show improvement but fall short of addressing the church's concern."
According to the HHS, the ACA will allow 47 million women guaranteed access to additional preventive services without paying more at the doctor's office. They will also add more preventive services, such as HPV DNA testing for cervical cancer and gestational diabetes screening.
The services will also include HIV and STI treatment, contraception, breastfeeding support and supplies, domestic violence screening, counseling, and annual well-women visits to determine which preventive services are appropriate.
"With the exemption from the contraceptive coverage requirement for religious employers, the ACA can improve access to comprehensive quality health care for all women," states the HHS.