Friday, March 9, 2012

Can There Be A Silver Lining?

By Mary Claire Kendall

Every cloud has a silver lining.  In the case of President Barack Obama’s health insurance mandate vis-à-vis contraception, nothing could be truer.

Of course, in our secular world the choice over contraceptive use is a matter of conscience. But, Catholic women, of all women, should have a greater appreciation for and understanding of natural and divine law undergirding the Church’s teaching forbidding artificial birth control, giving them the light and strength to make an informed decision.  Some quip it’s “between them and God;” but, this pat response precisely underscores that they will ultimately be answerable to God for their decision. 

Even worse, many liberal Catholic women want to make it between them and the world.  Karen Finney, for one, huffed on MSNBC on February 13, Catholic women will reason when voting, “Screw that. I don’t want the Bishops telling me what to do.”

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend on C-SPAN radio call-in
discussing Obama mandate, a few days after February 9 press conference
featuring then-unknown Georgetown Law Student Sandra Fluke.
And, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend at a press conference she sponsored with Catholic college students whining they can’t get free contraception, said, as one of 11 children, her mother obviously didn’t have access to contraception either.  Forgive the bluntness, but just whom would she have eliminated?

The whole controversy was whipped up not because the Bishops questioned women’s right to access contraception but because Obama questioned the right to freedom of conscience, guaranteed by the Constitution, when he mandated Catholic-run hospitals, schools, and charities to provide health insurance that covers birth control, abortifacient “morning after pills,” and sterilization—or face multimillion dollar penalties.  (The “compromise” he offered on Friday, February 10, is no solution since many church-affiliated entities will still end up footing the bill for practices the Church knows to be immoral.)

Voters aren’t stupid. They know Obama is modifying and obfuscating his position to get re-elected.  Obama gambled the Church would be forced to accede to popular pressure—including within its own ranks—and lost.  Freedom of conscience—a hallmark of America—should give one the right not to fund birth control, abortifacients, and sterilization, even if those practices are legal.

But, while this relevant legal issue is now being fought out in courts of law, even the moral issue can be a winner in the court of public opinion.  To wit:

Theodore Roosevelt believed, as The American Experience stated, “It was the patriotic duty of every healthy married woman to bear four children.” 

The Anglican Church, like Roman Catholics, considered the use of birth control a grave sin until 1930 when the Lambeth Conference, bowing to popular pressure, allowed it.

Margaret Sanger, who coined the term “birth control,” went to jail many times for breaking the Comstock Law criminalizing sale of contraceptive devices and dissemination of birth control information.   Her first violation of the law occurred in 1914 when she published a pamphlet titled “Family Limitation,” detailing the mechanics of birth control.  In 1916, she opened her first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York; the police shut it down nine days later.

In 1934, Sanger’s allies in Connecticut finally opened a clinic in Hartford, which lasted eleven weeks and, as reported in Liberty and Sexuality by David J. Garrow, imposed the following strict limits to give it an aura of moral acceptability:  “Married, living with husband, at least one child unless physically unfit for pregnancy, physically or economically unable to have another pregnancy at present, and unable to pay for private care.”  Close ally Katherine Hepburn, mother of the actress by the same name, wrongly calculated the family would be the bulwark against promiscuity birth control would encourage.

Sanger stated, as reported by Garrow, birth control “does not mean the interruption of life after conception.” Yet, birth control has paved the way to broad acceptance of abortion and many forms of birth control, including the pill, can prevent implantation of the embryo after conception.

In 1951 when Sanger began exploring the possibility of making a contraceptive pill, the scientific community steered clear of it since they thought it would increase promiscuity.  The Comstock laws were still in force in 30 states. 

In 1969, Barbara Seaman wrote The Doctor’s Case Against the Pill because so many young women on the pill were having strokes and dying or being maimed for life. No one bothered to inquire why three women in the clinical trials in Puerto Rico in 1956 died; they were never autopsied. 

Ninety-eight years after Sanger went to jail for telling the world about contraception, the last thing our country needs is to see the pendulum swing whereby those whose consciences can’t condone birth control are penalized either in a court of law or the court of public opinion.

Originally published in The Wanderer, March 8, 2012 issue

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.