Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Religious freedom can’t be used to endanger women’s health

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Sitting across from me on a city bus was a Mennonite/Amish family. The husband and son had straw-type hats; the wife and five daughters all wore bonnets. The oldest child looked 8-9 years old, so you figure there were 6 children in about 9 years. Drawing conclusions isn’t a fair thing sometimes, but the outfits they wore implied they were religious, and 6 children in 8-9 years imply that they don’t use birth control.

Whether Mennonites or Amish, their religion is a minority one. But they can remain confident that they are free to practice their religion, and they won’t be forced to use birth control.

Individual religious freedom: this is what we are told is at stake. The Blunt Amendment was designed to allow for individual religious freedom. However, those in favor of the Blunt Amendment are confusing individual religious freedom with forcing their religious views onto other people.

Liberals don’t think anyone should take birth control if they don’t want to do so because they believe that individuals should have the freedom to decide for themselves. The conservatives who don’t believe that people should use birth control want to use government power to deny them equal access to birth control.

That isn’t religious freedom; that’s tyranny. Forcing one’s beliefs on other people is the opposite of individual religious freedom.

The conservative argument that the Blunt Amendment isn’t about contraception doesn’t hold water. After all, where were this amendment 6 months ago? Oh that’s right, this wasn’t an issue.

When you listen to Sandra Fluke discuss one of her friends losing an ovary because of tennis ball sized cysts that could have been prevented with contraception, you know that this isn’t about individual religious freedom, but the domination of women.

Those conservatives who support these views use the cape of religion because it reflects their views on women and sex.

Liberals should give a nod to those conservatives who think the GOP is off its rocker to have this discussion, especially during a presidential campaign. We got a glimpse of that view in Mitt Romney’s original answer to what he thought of the Blunt Amendment.

“I’m not for the bill, but look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a women, husband and wife, I’m not going there.”

A fairly lucid answer; didn’t have to limit it between married people. Of course, in 2012, Romney couldn’t stick with that answer for very long.

We talk about religious freedom in the United States, but there is usually a caveat that individuals can’t be harmed. We talk about rescuing sick children from Christian Scientists who won’t seek medical help. Freedoms are not absolute, but care should be taken to preserve those freedoms as much as possible.

We see in the Sandra Fluke/Georgetown examples that health is being damaged by these instances of religious freedom. This religious freedom isn’t about individuals, but institutions. While corporations may foolishly be people, institutions aren’t people.

If a child was being hurt by religious freedom, as a society, we would step in and do something. When this happens to adult women, a significant percentage of the population chooses religious freedom over health.

Just as the Mennonites/Amish have their individual religious freedom, individuals also have the freedom to not have undue influence from religion. When women’s health is being sacrificed at the altar of religious freedom, their individual freedoms are being violated.


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