The president has made a decision to make prescription birth control available to all women who choose to use it on an equal and fair basis. Now come the protesters, crying interference with the Catholic Church’s rights.

Unfortunately, the right the church is trying to protect (that is, to prohibit birth control) is largely ignored by their members. To turn a blind eye toward this fact, the church has for years used a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to birth control. The unspoken fact is that many, if not most, Catholics use some form of birth control.

The church cannot change this. Instead, it chooses to force its members to pay a higher price for birth control medications, in some convoluted sense of — what? Control? That has already been lost. The level of hypocrisy approaches that of the molestation scandal.

Gary Duford

Portland

Kathleen Parker (“Freedom at core of abortion, contraception controversies,” Feb. 7) makes a strong case for maintaining the Catholic Church’s freedom of conscience and its right to act upon its moral beliefs. She ignores the right of the individual woman to have the freedom to choose whether or not to use contraception.

While the church itself has been exempt from providing insurance that covers contraception for its female employees, other institutions affiliated with the church are not exempt. These institutions often have large numbers of employees and receive federal funding. Good examples would be large Catholic hospitals employing and serving Catholics and non-Catholics and our many fine Catholic universities.

In addition to the moral questions cited by the church, the availability of contraception is a public health issue. The health of women and families has benefited immensely from readily available, reliable contraception.

In view of this, it does not seem appropriate for the church to use financial coercion to impose its morality on the female employees, or students, in these institutions. After all, no one is forced to use contraception.

The situation with the Komen Foundation is quite different. The foundation withdrew funding from Planned Parenthood and later reversed its decision. It was entirely free to do both. Whether the criticism of the first decision was excessive is another matter.

Nancy Barber

Bath

When the Obama administration’s health care reform bill passed, Congress promised that funds under the new law would not cover abortions.

This has now been proven to be empty rhetoric.

Why? Because the Department of Health and Human Services has mandated that under the health care law, private health insurance plans must cover the “full range of FDA-approved contraception” — in which category the agency explicitly included the abortion-inducing drug ella.

This mandate includes a so-called “religious employer exemption,” yet the exemption is so narrowly defined that most religious schools, colleges, hospitals and charitable organizations serving the public do not qualify. Even an expanded definition of “religious employer” would fail to protect non-religiously affiliated organizations, individuals and even religiously affiliated health insurers whose pro-life consciences are nonetheless violated.

This is an unprecedented attack on the freedom of conscience of millions of Americans, eviscerating their freedom of choice to purchase private insurance that does not violate their ethical, moral or religious objections. I hope all readers will contact their elected representatives in Washington, D.C., and voice outrage over this anti-life mandate.

J. Mark DeCoste

South Portland

The Constitution of the United States clearly states that the Congress shall make no laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion. This amendment has never been formally repealed. I would, therefore, conclude that any directive to the contrary from the executive branch is equally outside the law and should be disregarded.

It is becoming equally clear that the current president has no respect for the Constitution and seeks only to enforce his ideas, disregarding the oath at his inauguration that he would uphold the Constitution and defend it.

We have a choice to make come November. Will it be freedom as guaranteed or servitude to an ineffective leader?

Have you noticed his actions speak much louder than his words, as Archbishop Timothy Dolan was to learn from an earlier conversation with him concerning the Catholic Church’s position regarding the reproduction of human beings? In short, it is not a toy but a serious endeavor and should be treated as such.

I fear that to return Obama to power in November would only embolden him and reduce us as a country that has been a beacon of hope in times of disaster and war.

His ideas of government are becoming utterly intrusive on what we have known as freedom and liberty and desperately needs a change in attitude and direction.

Laurent Senechal

Westbrook

The International Convention to End Discrimination Against Women recognizes access to family planning as a basic human right. Around the world, women’s ability to plan pregnancies affects our individual lives and the well-being of our families and communities.

Unintended pregnancies can endanger women’s health and can threaten the economic security of our families. Given the international commitment to expanding family planning opportunities, it is outrageous that in the U.S. we are debating the coverage of birth control in our prescription drug law.

In the United States, 99 percent of women, including 98 percent of Catholic women, access birth control at some point in our lives. The Affordable Care Act rightly protects women’s right to access birth control as a part of our overall medical care and prescription drug coverage.

The Catholic Church’s threat to protest this inclusive choice by denying health coverage to all employees is unfortunate. The U.S. government simply cannot take orders from the Catholic Church and remain a civil society committed to protecting the rights and well-being of all citizens. Our medical choices are personal and private decisions that should not be legislated by government or by our employers, even employers with religious affiliations.

The Obama administration should be congratulated for providing women with access to a full range of medical options for family planning, as part of the Affordable Health Care Act. Everyone who has ever found themselves grateful for access to birth control should speak out in favor of this coverage.

Kim Simmons

Cumberland

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization’s debacle illustrates the curious attitudes toward women’s rights in this country. The current contraception debate only enhances the question.

Is there no limit to how much organized politics will interject itself into the personal decisions of women? Republicans portray the president as “socialist,” imposing regulation on citizens. It does not compare to what they are willing to impose on women.

That they would eliminate Planned Parenthood is chilling enough, but having nothing to replace it with is ignorant. Whether it’s a political party cherishing abortion as its wedge issue or a venerable religion viewing women as secondary, the attitude is equally disturbing.

Presidential candidates such as Herman Cain gained applause by saying they would outlaw abortion, period. How can someone have the temerity to say such a thing? How is it that these influential men feel the need to dictate the rights women shall have? More precisely, they would happily roll back existing rights of access to women’s health care in favor of a religious morality play.

Being anti-abortion — I mean, pro-life — is a conservative cornerstone. I challenge these folks to consider with equal weight the rights of the unborn and the rights of the born.

How is it possible to consider eliminating women’s access to abortion and contraception and simultaneously push the conservative agenda of lessening or eliminating programs such as health care, education, welfare and virtually all support services? If only their commitment to the unborn carried through to their libertarian attitudes toward the living.

For a moment, consider abortion what it is: settled law via Roe v. Wade. Wouldn’t it be great to take a one-year hiatus from this issue and turn our attention to the pragmatic structural issues facing this country? It makes sense, particularly in an election year.

Joe Delaney

Portland

Our government at both the federal and state levels has already approved hundreds of various mandates upon insurance companies to be included in their policies.

Such mandates by the government are made to cover “preventive services” — such as prescription contraception — to improve the health and for the common good of the people.

Now that obesity has been identified to be a major health problem in this country, I believe the Department of Health and Human Services should also require all insurance companies, to include gym memberships in their health insurance policies.

Not everyone can afford to pay for a gym membership, but if the rise of obesity in our population is really a serious health concern in this country, the government should require gym memberships to be included in all insurance health policies as a “preventive service.”

A benefit of this additional mandate is that it will not cost the government a single dime, and President Obama will not need Congress for its approval or implementation.

Richard Bernard

Portland


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