The issue of women’s health is again being bandied around by politicians and pundits, with the Catholic Church and right-wingers calling the provision of reproductive health care for women an issue of religious freedom. When women’s needs are conflated with church doctrine, women always come out last.

Republican President Richard M. Nixon enacted the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970, which declared that “No American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition.” We’ve come a long way, baby.

In his statement on signing the bill, Nixon said: “It is noteworthy that this landmark legislation on family planning and population has had strong bipartisan support. I am confident that by working together – at Federal, State, and local levels – we can achieve the goal of providing adequate family planning services within the next five years to all those who want them but cannot afford them.”

The dogma of the Catholic Church is inflexible and increasingly irrelevant. Availability of low-cost contraception would certainly reduce the number of abortions in this country, which would be a good thing.

Recent polls show that 98 percent of Catholic women use some form of contraception. The Catholic Church has seen attendance decrease dramatically in recent years. Perhaps it is because the issues concerning 21st-century men and women are disregarded by the church hierarchy: family planning, refusal to allow women or married priests, gay marriage and pedophilia.

Contraception is a women’s health issue. It should be available to all, and left to the individual conscience as to use.

Born and raised Roman Catholic,

Nancy A. Ciocca

South Portland


The Obama administration recently ruled that health insurance plans must include contraception among the preventive services available to women without deductibles or co-pays under the new health care law.

Then the administration decided to exempt certain employers that are “affiliated” with a religion that opposes contraception – e.g., hospitals, universities or other religiously affiliated organizations that serve the broader public – from paying directly for birth control for their workers. Instead, insurance companies will be responsible.

Concern about employers whose principles would be offended by having to underwrite such coverage ignores the principles and health needs of the many thousands of Mainers and their families.

Increased access to birth control is directly linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality, as well as other health benefits and positive health outcomes. Among other things, birth control can protect women against debilitating symptoms of endometriosis and can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.

Birth control use is nearly universal among women of childbearing age, including Catholic women. A 2011 poll from the Guttmacher Institute, a nonpartisan reproductive health research organization, showed that 98 percent of sexually experienced Catholic women used birth control.

The Obama administration’s original decision not to expand the employer exception was the right one – as a matter of public health, respect for individual conscience and equity for Maine women and their families.

Andrea L. Irwin


With regard to the letters to the editor on Feb. 2 from Rob Poissant and Dan Hogan, how can offering forms of contraception be an “infringement upon conscience and religious liberty” or “the guarantee in our Constitution and legal system of freedom of religion and conscience”?

All people should have the freedom and choice to use contraception or to not use it.

Elna Stone



Congress should take action to address mounting debt


The national debt as of Feb. 6, 2012, was $15,366,681,806,366.86.

This amounts to $49,224.37 debt for each U.S. citizen, or $200,000 for an average family of four people. Do you feel uncomfortable with this debt?

As if this is not scary enough, since September 2007, the government has been borrowing 4 billion dollars a day.

Our current president and our congressional delegation – Sen. Olympia Snowe, Sen. Susan Collins, Rep. Chellie Pingree and Rep. Mike Michaud – have no solution to this ever-increasing debt problem.

They claim they are busy working on this and other problems. Don’t you think they should have a plan to get us out of debt after five years of “working on the problem”?

It is very clear from history that any country that continues to spend money it does not have will fail and generate terrible problems for its citizens.

Do you think the United States will survive and prosper continuing down this path of irresponsible criminal spending that Snowe, Collins, Pingree and Michaud have kept us on?

Our only power to reverse this awful excessive spending is to vote Snowe, Collins, Pingree, Michaud and Obama out of office and demand a balanced budget from Washington.

James Waterhouse



Long-lived family drinks raw milk, ‘from cow to jug’


Regarding “Portland raw-milk sales will need no warnings” (Feb. 7): What am I missing? I’m in my 60s. Grew up on a farm, drinking milk from good Holstein stock without benefit of pasteurization. From cow to jug to my sisters and me. Cows fed on grass, hay, grains grown on good Midwestern soil, typically fertilized with manure.

My parents were raised the same way as I was. They will be 90 and 92 this spring, and their parents lived into their mid-90s. Of course, they also raised their own fruits and veggies – before organic was popular.

And while I’m at it, they also recycled to a great extent. It was the frugal thing to do as well as their being conscientious about the land.

M.S. Swartz



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