Sunday, October 2, 2011

Government "Health Care" vs. the Catholic Church

President John Garvey of the Catholic University of America pointed out in a September 30 op-ed appearing in the Washington Post:
In a section of the Affordable Care Act that didn’t get much public attention during the debates last year, Congress asked HHS to prescribe a list of “preventive services for women” that health-care plans across the country would have to provide to subscribers at no additional cost.
These so-called "preventive services" include various forms of birth control, including post-contraception methods that induce abortion. The Affordable Health Care Act requires all health-care plans to offer: "All Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods." Helen Alvaré, Gerard V. Bradley and O. Carter Snead, writing for the Witherspoon Institute, detail a number of FDA-approved methods of contraception, such as the "morning-after pill," that can induce abortion. Such methods of birth control are abominable in the eyes of faithful Catholics and the government's mandate seeks to coerce those Catholics into abetting the action.

In another section of the plan, there is an exemption for "religious employers," permitting them to refuse to offer services contrary to the tenets of its faith. The problem is, the exemption is very narrow and would not include a vast number of Catholic institutions. To qualify for the exemption, an institution not only has to be non-profit, but must have "the inculcation of religious values as its purpose," and must employ and primarily serve "persons who share its religious tenets."

As Garvey noted of the language:
That is too narrow to include Catholic universities, which observe norms of academic freedom and teach chemical thermodynamics, aerospace engineering, musical theater, Mandarin Chinese and the Victorian novel along with theology. It’s too narrow to include St. Ann’s Infant & Maternity Home in Hyattsville, which provides care to abused and neglected children and to pregnant adolescents who need help. Nor does it encompass the Jeanne Jugan Residence for the elderly, which is across the street from our campus and run by Little Sisters of the Poor.
Perhaps the narrowness of these qualifications are why the AHCA refers to the exemption of "certain religious employers" some six times.

Western culture's norm to prevent the birth of children goes not only against the perpetuation of one's family, but the traditional and even Biblical idea of children as a blessing.
Lo, sons are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them! (Psalm 127:3-5a)
Faithful Catholic institutions do not want to be forced into contributing to the sterilization of mankind and considers doing so a grave sin. Unfortunately because of the way of the State, a great number of Catholic institutions are in for a potential battle in the coming months and years.

"Preventive Health Care" a misnomer?
Assuming that methods of contraception legitimately prevented various diseases and contributed to "health care," it is still not acceptable to coerce Church institutions into committing what they believe are grave sins. After all, it is a belief of Christians to "not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28) We should always care for the physical body, but not at the expense of the spiritual body.

Still, it is an assumption on the part of the State and many westerners that artificial forms of birth control are actually functional "preventive" methods of avoiding sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

A March 2011 article published in Infectious Diseases reveals unpleasant data in light of the government's recent mandate for health care plans to provide all FDA-approved forms of birth control.
Researchers at the University of Nottingham studied pediatric health data from local English authorities to measure the effectiveness of government-sponsored initiatives offering teenagers free emergency birth control (EBC) at pharmacies. ... Overall, they found that areas with a pharmacy that offered free EBC saw an average 5% increase in STIs among children younger than 18 years. In children younger than 16 years, the STI rate increased by 12%. STI rates for teens and older women increased consistently during the study period, but the teenage STI rates increased faster as EBC programs were introduced.
How can this be? An analogy may help. Suppose we do a study of those who wear football helmets and padding versus those who don't. Who sustains more injuries on a regular basis? Those who regularly wear football equipment or the average Joe who does not. Of course the answer would be that football players sustain injuries more on a regular basis than the person who doesn't. Why? Because the guy with the padding is of course more likely to engage in the dangerous activity of football! If we just asked, "who gets hurt more, a person wearing padding or a person who doesn't," the answer in a vacuum would be the person without padding. But the question doesn't take into account the difference in behavior between the two groups.

The same is the case with contraception. Those who contracept are more likely to engage in behavior that will result in STIs. Back in 2009, Edward Green, director of AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, defended Pope Benedict XVI, who at the time was critical of condom-distribution in Africa as a viable solution to curb AIDS. Green stated:
There is a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the U.S.-funded ‘Demographic Health Surveys,’ between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates. This may be due in part to a phenomenon known as risk compensation, meaning that when one uses a risk-reduction ‘technology’ such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction in risk) by ‘compensating’ or taking greater chances than one would take without the risk-reduction technology.
Defenders of free condom distribution point to other studies that do not show an increase in sexual behavior when condom access is available.

Either way, the State has taken a position that supports what are effectively sanctions against Catholic institutions. And I reiterate, even if condom-distribution were effective, it remains a sin whether it achieves its purpose or not, and it remains less-effective than Church-supported abstinence. And this is not even to mention the psychological trauma experienced by abortive mothers, whose voices were not heeded in a 2008 AMA study that attempted to prove that killing an infant in the womb does not cause psychological harm to the mother.

See also the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops statement decrying the harm advanced by the offensive mandate in the Affordable Health Care Act. And see the recent article 18 Catholic colleges appeal parts of federal health care law mandate.

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