So, it has come to this.
This weekend, a thousand or so local souls gathered to protest and pray that the plan to prohibit the exception of contraception from select people’s health insurance would be overturned.* Put another way, the plan to “force employers to provide health insurance coverage and benefits for contraceptives.” Actually, I prefer my first presentation, and I think that it’s accurate. We have successfully, in the past few years, brought mental health insurance coverage out of cold limbo and into the fold of mainstream health insurance, no longer allowing it to be a special category added or denied at the whim of employers or insurers. Now it is the turn of reproductive and sexual health to be rescued from “special” status.
The arguments of those who gathered recently were that religious freedom is inhibited by the ending of such an exception. It is not, as far as I can see; no one is demanding that anyone use contraception. It is a simple case of placing those prescription in the same category as any other. Is there anything else that employers are allowed to except from all employees’ health coverage as a matter of principle? (This is not a rhetorical question; if you know the answer, please enlighten me!)
I do not know very many religious arguments against contraception, to tell you the truth. If someone would care to educate me, then I would be interested to hear their persuasions. If, however, the general idea is that if sex is to happen, it must be left to chance or to God whether or not it results in offspring, well, I have two answers. One is, there is no such thing as 100% effective contraception, nature is a tricky beggar, and therefore those of a certain age take their lives in their hands (so to speak) every time they make love with someone of the opposite sex, and offer them up to chance, or to luck, or to God.
The second is the answer which Galileo, in another context, employed: “I do not think it necessary to believe that the same God who gave us our sense, our speech, our intellect, would have put aside the use of these, to teach us instead such things as with their help we could find out for ourselves…”** I am convinced that God who created us to grow to be as intelligent, complicated, and creative as we are would fully expect us to use our creativity to control our fecundity at least to the extent that it leads to responsible population growth or maintenance, at least within our own families.
So, it has come to this: I come before you as a woman and a priest, telling complete strangers that I have used contraception in the past, and still would if it were still needed. I am not a “slut” but a married and faithful woman who loves and respects her spouse and her children enough to wish to preserve a reasonably stable and manageable family life, as far as it is within her control. I also used contraception before I was married; I was first prescribed it as a highschooler to manage horrific monthly events which left me living in fear of them all the other days of my teenaged life; I was not a slut then, either. I have used various types of prescribed and unprescribed contraception, including emergency contraception, and I stand by my use of them as congruent with God’s plan for me and for my family, congruent with my love for my family and for God, and at least morally neutral, if not positively beneficial in looking out for the welfare of my family and the greater good of the communities in which I have lived. When I used prescriptions, in the place where I lived then they were provided free as a benefit to public health. I worry for those who struggle to make the decisions of how best to care for their reproductive health in the face of high prescription costs, and I applaud the move to care for them and extend benefits to them, because they are benefits that will provide better public health for our society, our parents, potential parents, and their children.
May God bless them all.
*As reported in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Friday March 23rd 2012
**Quoted in Galileo’s Daughter: A Drama of Science, Faith and Love, by Dava Sobel (London: Fourth Estate, 1999), 65