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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

John and I were thrilled to hear the announcement of the Supreme Court’s decision on the American Care Act. Well, were thrilled to hear CNN’s retraction of their first statement that the individual mandate was overturned. First because of the implications for our country, second because it is in line with our faith beliefs, and third for how it has already benefited our family.

Studying public health over the past few years has made me realize how important some of the provisions of the act are. We spend the highest amount in the world on health care per capita. And if I remember correctly from my public health classes, we spend some 5% of that on preventative care. As we all know, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Literally – it costs far less to prevent diseases than to deal with them after they appear.

So a bill that focuses on prevention and expands health care to people who can’t afford it by increasing who is eligible for Medicaid? Of course I am for it. Public health and social justice meet. Let’s all celebrate! Academics of how improving the health of a nation benefits everyone aside, the Catholic Church teaches that health care is a human right:

In our Catholic tradition, health care is a basic human right. Access to health care should not depend on where a person works, how much a family earns, or where a person lives. USCCB

(Regardless of where you live – so even if you live in a state like Florida where your Governor wants to turn down federal money, his own taxpayers’ dollars,  you still deserve it).

So I was excited it passed. Even the individual mandate part. Would I have liked to see a different system, such as a public option? Yes, I would have. But what baffles my mind is why more people aren’t for it. It’s about personal responsibility and not passing on your burdens to others – the Republican mantra! And I agree – we should be responsible for ourselves when we can be. Lots of people without insurance do not pay their medical bills, which raises the cost of services on people who do pay to make up the difference. Ironically, the people who are hit hardest are those without insurance. Their bills are significantly higher than when you have insurance. But when everyone has it, everyone pays a fair amount. No screwing each other over allowed.

I digress. The point is – Obamacare has already saved us thousands of dollars. When we started grad school we were 24 and required to buy health insurance. (How come no one points out that public schools already mandate purchasing health insurance?? Socialism!) After the ACA went into effect, we could go back on our parents’ insurance. John did for two semesters, I did for one (my dad’s plan switched and wouldn’t cover anything out here. Little loophole we need to fix, otherwise its really only providing coverage for people living in 100 sq mile radius of their parents!). It didn’t cost my father-in-law a thing to add John, and for my parents, I believe it was much less than what an individual plan for me would have cost.

This saved us about $2400. That might be small potatoes for some families, but that’s about what we have spent out of pocket on my health care costs over the past two years. It’s about 1/6 of what I made as an RA this year. It’s another student loan saved. It’s affected our lives, and we have really appreciated it.

There’s more, of course.

I like that the health insurance companies can’t charge me more because I’m a woman (though this was already law in Montana!)

I like that breastfeeding support, including lactation counseling and breast pumps, are covered by insurance, since that is something we plan on doing. Along with a bunch of other prenatal/neonatal tests.

I like that an insurance company can’t turn me down because of my health problems. (Though I still wish they couldn’t refuse to cover them! But that’s something to work on in the future).

Romney’s plan (the new one, not the one that was the example for Obamacare) centered around making sure people could a) keep their health insurance plan, b) not be turned down for pre-existing conditions, c) give states power. I’m sorry, but a) I never have been so in love with a plan that I would be devastated when it switched. Not to mention no part of the law requires anyone to switch plan. Especially when employers can still switch your plan whenever they feel like it anyway. b) That’s already part of the law. c) As above, I believe people have the same rights no matter what state they live in.

I like this plan. It has helped save our family tons of money. It focuses on preventative care, is in line with principles of social justice, and benefits women. A plan that’s top priority is not switching health insurance plans doesn’t do anything for me. I’m happy with Obamacare. I want to see it improved, of course, but I don’t want to see it disappear.

How did you feel about the Supreme Court ruling?

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I am not a slut

“What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke [sic] who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex — what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.” — Rush Limbaugh

Hi.

We don’t know a lot about each other.

But I want you to know one thing about me – I am not a slut.

I am a woman. I am a woman as God created me, born from a woman, with the ability to have children of my own one day.

But I am not a slut.

I am a woman with a flawed body, as so many of us are. Ten percent of women suffer from endometriosis, a condition where the lining of one’s uterus grows on the outside of her uterine wall or on other organs. I was born this way. It does not make me a slut.

The treatment is prescription birth control, which does not cure,because there is no cure, but it allows women with this condition to have a life. To leave the couch. To love.

We can wax philosphically about how fertility is a natural process, not a disease to be medicated a way. But digestion is a natural process as well, and millions of people suffer from heartburn. Our bodies are not perfect. They are fearfully and wonderfully made, but they can trouble us and they can hurt us.

But that does not make us sluts.

I am a married woman who loves my husband. I am a woman who wants to have children. I am a woman who does not believe in “consequence free sex,” who does not see the birth control pill as a license to sleep around. I am bound by the vows I have freely taken to my husband and my God; I am not bound to fidelity by the fertile status of my uterus.

If my insurer did not cover birth control, for instance, if I had gone to a Catholic school, I would have spent $1200 while in graduate school just for the ability to attend classes not in pain, to cook my husband dinner occasionally, to attend church, to see friends and to volunteer.

That’s $1200 that covered the cost of two classes instead.

Or that allowed me to research my thesis full time this summer.

Or that allowed my husband to take a lesser paying job to fight for the rights of prisoners and the accused.

Twelve hundred dollars that we could put to supporting local farmers instead of large corporations who rely on underpaid workers.

Twelve hundred dollars that covered the cost of flights home for weddings and Christmases.

Twelve hundred dollars that went to my other medications as well.

I think it was money well spent. It was money, however, that did not turn me into a slut.

But many people think otherwise. They think that medicating the body that God has given me so that I can use it to its fullest potential makes me a slut.

A slut.

A prostitute.

In some ways, it doesn’t matter where you stand on this divide. If you take birth control or if you don’t.  If you think it is moral or immoral. If you think government should cover all of health care or none of it. It doesn’t matter, because a reproductive disorder does not make a woman a slut.

Call your representative.  Tell him or her to stand up for women. To not bar women from the discussion on what happens to their organs. To raise the level of discussion to one that respects all Americans, all people. To stop calling your sister, your daughter, your mother, your neice, your friend a slut.

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I’ve given myself a few days to cool off before I write about this issue, because on Sunday I was fuming over it. The problem is, I’m pretty mad at both parties over it. Who can tell me what to do with my body? Who can tell my Church what they can do?

Let’s back up. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Catholic Church’s teaching on birth control, artificial birth control such as condoms, contraceptive pills, etc. are considered immoral because they take the act of sex from being unitive and procreative to solely unitive. Since contraception discounts half the purpose of the act, it isn’t doing what it was meant to do. Now it doesn’t have to be procreative – it’s still OK to have sex when you wouldn’t get pregnant, i.e., not ovulating, infertile, post-menopausal. Additionally, it’s OK to use contraception for medically necessary purposes, that is taking the pill for painful periods or endometriosis, or using a condom to not give your partner HIV.

As I’m sure you all have guessed, seeing as how I’m Catholic and married for 1.5 years and have yet to pop a baby out, I’m on the pill. (Shock! Awe! Fainting! The smelling salts, please!) I know I usually only write about my bladder problems, but those are just the tip of the iceberg and some of the other issues I have mean birth control means my life is a whole lot easier. Discussion closed, please refrain from commenting on it.

Additionally, I have issues with how the Church came to the conclusion that birth control is immoral. The thought behind sexual ethics has evolved over time. Not to bore you but the gist of it is that Aquinas philosophy used to think sex was only procreative, even the rhythm method used to be banned, and the committee formed by the Vatican to assess the morality of the pill deemed that it did not go against Catholic teaching (source). Humanae Vitae, the letter which banned the pill for Catholics, was largely away to slow down the rapid progression of the Church which was becoming much more liberal.

The funny thing is though, even though I disagree with these interpretations of Catholic teaching, I don’t think I’d be using the pill if I didn’t have to. Not because of “scary side effects” that are pretty much common with any prescription, but because I appreciate my body and what it can do and don’t like the idea of artificially altering it. But I don’t think that using the pill means that sex is closed to the possibility of life either.

Back to the controversy.

Recently, Pres. Obama’s administration has required that all employers cover contraceptive medicines and procedures (not abortion though) under their insurance plans.  While this plan did include a religious exemption, it was limited to organizations whose primary purpose was faith instruction and primarily hires members of its own faith. That is, actual churches. The Catholic Church though is huge and has many organizations – universities and charities, that anyone can work for. The Catholic Church feels that this requirement to cover birth control violates their religious freedom. While the government’s response is that this mandate doesn’t require anyone to use it, the Catholic Church feels that allowing it is still going against God’s will.

Here’s why I’m conflicted.

Like I said, I need to be on birth control and it hurts that my Church wouldn’t want to support my health care needs. Now some people have said that they would still cover medically necessary contraception, I have yet to hear anything from the Church to support that claim. It’s not a sin for me to be on the pill, but this stance still leaves me feeling like a second class citizen, that I’m still not good enough, that they don’t care about the pain I’m going through. Okay, I realize that sounds dramatic, but it nevertheless hurts to feel that the Church things that they don’t have to be concerned with people who have problems like yours.

I don’t like the precedence this creates. While the Church doesn’t generally see contraception as “health care,” the rest of the medical world does.  So if they have the right to decide what kind of health care to cover, what other decisions can they make? They don’t need to cover pre-natal care for single moms? AIDS medicine for homosexuals? While I don’t think they would take it that far, the equation of health care and morality is troubling.

On the other hand…

While I disagree with how the teaching is interpreted by the Church, I agree with the philosophy behind it and respect it. It makes me uncomfortable with how this teaching is generally viewed by the rest of the world. It’s not necessarily backwards and oppressive, although it does ask for a tremendous sacrifice from women. I’m sure you have heard over the last few days that the vast majority of sexually active Catholics attempting to avoid pregnancy use birth control. But I don’t think that’s a reason to ignore the teaching. If the majority of Jews don’t observe the sabbath, can a federal employee still be forced to work on the Sabbath? Does overall adherence really determine the degree to which we respect religious freedom? Again, I feel this is a disturbing precedence. On a more political level, I feel this is a poor move of the Obama campaign, which had a chance at bringing more Catholics back to their traditional Democratic roots, especially those disgusted by Gingrich and Romney’s uncaring attitude to the poor.

The truth is, I don’t think that God will hold a Catholic paying into an insurance policy ultimately responsible for any babies that are unborn. And I don’t think that if I have to end up paying for my own birth control it will break the bank. If need be, I can always go to Planned Parenthood to get it for free (Shock! Awe! Fainting some more!). But I’m still disappointed. I’m disappointed the White House has treated the Church so flippantly, and I’m disappointed the Bishop here threatened to drop health care coverage for all employees in the Diocese if forced to cover birth control. I’m supremely disappointed that people at mass on Sunday clapped and cheered for that announcement.

I don’t know where to stand. It’s an issue that has been handled poorly by both sides. Yes, there are costs more expensive than birth control but there are also many worse infringes on religious freedom in the world. So let’s all take a big step back, a deep breath, and realize this is not the end of the world.

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The Catholic Candidates?

If you’ve been following the Republican Presidential Primary, you will notice that faith has played a prominent role in this campaign. And barring Ron Paul from being elected, it will be the first time in a while (ever?) that the Republican Party hasn’t nominated a Protestant. While Gov. Romney’s Mormon faith has been called into question repeatedly, it has forced the Republican Party to come to terms with Catholicism as maybe-not-that-crazy. While I am excited for the embrace of Catholicism, I worry that Senator Santorum and Speaker Gingrich are misrepresenting the faith of the Church.

I do not wish to call into question their faith lives – I cannot ever know what is in someone’s heart, and I would be wrong to attempt to judge them. But I am concerned over their claims that their faith informs their politics, when in reality, besides the issues of gay marriage and abortion, they often take very different stances than the Church. While it is not a requirement for a Catholic or for a candidate to run solely on their Church’s platform, it should give us pause before choosing a candidate because they are Catholic.

On issues such as climate change, the death penalty, illegal immigration, and even gay rights, Senator Santorum and Newt Gingrich have significantly different opinions than those that the U.S. Church encourages.

Here are the players stances on some significant issues in the 2012 campaign:

ABORTION

Everyone opposes.

GAY MARRIAGE

Catholic Church: Opposes gay marriage.  Source: American Catholic 

Speaker Newt Gingrich: “I helped author DOMA; if it fails, amend Constitution.” (Jun 2011) Source: Issues 2000

Sen. Santorum: “Voted YES on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage.” (Jun 2006) Source: Issues 2000

GAY RIGHTS

Catholic Church: Being homosexual is not a choice or a sin, sex outside of marriage is.

On DADT: There isn’t a specific Catholic Church opinion. Cardinal Wuerl Source: WLTX  

- “Some persons find themselves through no fault of their own to have a homosexual orientation. Homosexuals, like everyone else, should not suffer from prejudice against their basic human rights. They have a right to respect, friendship, and justice. They should have an active role in the Christian community.… The Christian community should provide them a special degree of pastoral understanding and care” – To Live in Christ Jesus, 1976 Source: Dignity USA

Speaker Newt Gingrich: Would reinstate DADT. Source: CNN Debate

- Homosexuality is a choice. Source: Huffington Post

Sen. Santorum: Would Reinstate DADT. Source: CNN Debate Voted NO on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes.” (Jun 2002) Source: Issues 2000

- Homosexuality is a choice. Source: CBS News

Evolution

Catholic Church: Believes evolution is compatible with Christianity. Source: Telegraph

Speaker Newt Gingrich: “Both [Evolution and Creationism] can be true. I don’t think there is necessarily a conflict between the two.” Source:  New York Magazine 

Sen. Santorum: “Expose kids to legitimate debate of evolution & creationism. (Mar 2005)” Source: Issues 2000

CLIMATE CHANGE

Catholic Church: Global warming, he said, “will impact first and foremost the poorest and weakest who, even if they are among the least responsible for global warming, are the most vulnerable because they have limited resources or live in areas at greater risk.” - Archbishop Migilore Source: Catholic  Online 

- “Care for the earth and for the environment is a moral issue. Protecting the land, water, and air we share is a religious duty of stewardship and reflects our responsibility to born and unborn children, who are most vulnerable to environmental assault.” Source: Forming Consciences for a Faithful Citizenship

Speaker Newt Gingrich: Doubts global warming. Source: Huffington Post 

- “Koto treaty is bad for the environment and bad for America.” (Dec 2006) Source: Issues 2000

Sen. Santorum: “There is no such thing as global warming.” Source: Huffington Post 

- “Voted NO on including oil & gas smokestacks in mercury regulations. (Sep 2005), Rated 0% by the League of Conservationist Voters, indicating anti-environment votes.” (Dec 2003) Source: Issues 2000

ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION

Catholic Church: “Comprehensive reform is urgently necessary to fix a broken immigration system and should include a temporary work program with worker protections and a path to permanent residency; family reunification policies; a broad and fair legalization program; access to legal protections, including due process and essential public programs; refuge for those fleeing persecution and exploitation; and policies to address the root causes of migration.” Source: Forming Consciences for a Faithful Citizenship

Speaker Newt Gingrich: “I voted for Reagan’s legal guest worker program.” (Sep 2011), Sue the federal government for every cent spent on illegals. (Nov 2011) Source: Issues 2000

Sen. Santorum: “Voted NO on establishing a Guest Worker program, giving guest workers citizenship.” (May 2006) Source: Issues 2000

- “Catholic bishops working for immigration reform are wrong to do so.” Source: Christian Post

DEATH PENALTY

Catholic Church: The Catholic Church opposes the death penalty in nearly all cases, and Pope John Paul II often speaks out against capital punishment” Source: American Catholic 

Speaker Newt Gingrich: “Voted NO on replacing death penalty with life imprisonment. (April 1994)” Source: Issues 2000

Sen. Santorum: “Voted YES on limiting death penalty appeals. (Apr 1996), Voted NO on replacing death penalty with life imprisonment. (Apr 1994)” Source: Issues 2000

HEALTH CARE

Catholic Church: Affordable and accessible health care is an essential safeguard of human life and a fundamental human right. With an estimated 47 million Americans lacking health care coverage, it is also an urgent national priority.  Source: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citzenship

Speaker Newt Gingrich: “Repeal ObamaCare; sign tort reform instead. (Feb 2011)” Source: Issues 2000

Sen. Santorum: “ Liberal states won’t waive ObamaCare; we must repeal it. (Oct 2011)” Sources: Issues 2000

WAR IN IRAQ
Catholic Church:  The Roman Catholic Church, led by Pope John Paul II, opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Source: American Catholic
Speaker Newt Gingrich: “Gingrich was a powerful advocate both for the idea of invading Iraq and for the botched way in which it was done.” Source:  Washington Post- “Goal was to liberate Iraq from Saddam, not to occupy.” (Dec 2007) Source: Issues 2000Sen. Santorum: “Voted YES on authorizing use of military force against Iraq. (Oct 2002), Voted NO on redeploying troops out of Iraq by July 2007. (Jun 2006)” Source: Issues 2000

While not all of the politicians’ stances are directly opposed to the Church’s, they are nonetheless concerning in many areas. Additionally, these are only issues where the Church has taken a direct opinion on. Others which are more unique to the United States, such as food stamps, there are not specific statements, however we know the Church has a record of favoring the poor, encouraging the rich to contribute to a better society, and protecting the least amongst us. Additionally, the Church believes that all we do must be done in love. Vitriolic lashing out and favoring donors over citizens is not in the spirit of Christianity.
There are many reasons to vote for a candidate and not to vote for them. The Catholic Church does not require it’s faithful to follow these positions, we are free to vote as we see morally fit. But let us let our faith inform our politics, not let our party dictate how we express our faith.

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