|The political debate shifts|
|Thursday, 16 February 2012 12:41|
As the national economy improves, recent political focus has shifted to the controversial issues of women contraception and religious rights.
The American Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 ensured that American women are entitled to insurance coverage for preventative care, including access to contraceptives, without paying a co-pay or deductible, beginning in August 2012. These preventive services also include general physicals, mammograms and domestic violence screening, based on recommendations made to the Secretary of Health and Human Services by the independent Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science.
The law requires all employers offering health insurance plans to include this preventative provision for women. Because the use of contraceptives remains a source of tension among religious groups that oppose unnatural birth control methods, the Obama administration delayed the execution of this healthcare law by a year to work with institutions like Catholic hospitals and universities to find a fair solution that protects religious liberty, and ensures women have access to the care they need.
When this takes effect, this insurance coverage would apply to employees of nonprofit organizations affiliated with a religion, such as Catholic hospitals, colleges, and community organizations. The law however never required employees of churches, synagogues, mosques or other places of worship to offer mandatory heath coverage, such as contraceptives, that contradicts with their faith practices.
This aspect of the healthcare law, as outlined by the administration, was never intended to attack or usurp the religious rights of any American. The objective of the law is to ensure that every woman has access to suitable and affordable healthcare which includes contraceptives, often used for other medical reasons besides birth control. Doctors have prescribed contraceptives, due to its effect on female hormones, as a treatment for several ailments from treating acne to regulating the menstrual cycle.
One can understand the Catholic Church's concerns about being mandated to offer healthcare insurance that covers the cost of contraceptives as a birth control method. The Catholic Church has not revised their theology on the use of contraceptives, although surveys show that the majority of Catholic women have used contraception for birth control. The blessing of the American constitution however stipulates that the religious rights of Americans must be protected and respected.
Although the Obama administration may have erred in failing to anticipate the implications of including nonprofit Catholic affiliated organizations into the healthcare mandate, they contend the policy was not an attack on any organization's religious right.
However, President Obama must be commended for the speed in responding to the concerns of the Catholic Church and its affiliates. The new amendments to the healthcare law will now not require employers affiliated with a religion to provide birth control coverage if it offends their beliefs. Insurers that cover their workers however will be required to offer free contraceptives directly to women working for the religious employer. This means millions of American women will have access to the high-quality healthcare they need, regardless of their religion.
However, even after this compromise, political opponents continue to attack the administration for "launching a war on religion." As this political criticism continues, this may forecast a 2012 election debate built on divisive social and cultural issues, instead of the genuine economic struggle that unites all voters.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 16 February 2012 16:22|