US Constitution: The Bishops Don’t Get a Veto - Page 2
Further, while an individual conscience exception is allowed, no such right exists for a church. If it ever did, churches would be above the law – including churches run by the likes of David Koresh, Terry Jones, Jim Jones and Omar Abdel-Rahman. Imagine if some nutty, snake-dancing pastor decided that death by fire was part of God’s plan, and so refused to install sprinklers in his mega-church. It’s not so farfetched.
But in fighting this fight, the bishops seek to have the government legislate what they have failed to inculcate. Almost all Catholic women have used birth control for family planning. Arguably most of their partners – good Catholic men among them — are complicit. So what the bishops hope to do is to rectify a pastoral failure – the near one hundred percent rejection by their own flock. Having failed in the use the tools of religious teaching – faith, fear and persistence – they want to fall back on the Feds to do it.
Yet there is a compelling public health interest in birth control. Ninety-nine percent of women want it. Of men, one in three is using condoms. And according to the National Institutes of Health, 700,000 women choose sterilization each year, most after a successful delivery. Yet all would be banned in a world where religious leaders have a veto. In some religions, women even lose the choice about whether to have intercourse or with whom.
There are more than six million pregnancies in the US each year, about half of which are unplanned. Planned pregnancy improves a woman’s earning power, general heath, and family well-being. Smaller families are more able to help children go to college. And smaller families are less costly to our safety net when things go wrong.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, one in five pregnancies is entirely unwanted. That’s as many as 1.3 million children highly likely to end up as wards of the state. We’d all agree that every child should have loving parents who want him or her, right?
So in the end, there are two important lessons to be taken from the Bishop’s attempt to veto. One, laws enforcing religious dogma are unconstitutional. And two, if you’re for Planned Parenthood, you need to get up off the couch about birth control. The decoupling of politics from women’s health is ongoing.