President Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act sparks debate among religious leaders and conservatives

In April 2011, the Guttmacher Institute published the results of an analysis finding that 98 percent of Catholic women that are of reproductive age and have ever had sex use use a method of contraception other than natural family planning. Photo Illustration by Gabriel Ivan Orenain-Necochea / Visual Editor


Desiree Monteilh, a CSUN junior who suffers from polycystic ovary syndrome, has been taking birth control for a few years, starting before she turned 18. Birth control regulates her hormones so she can live more comfortably.

“Ever since I was 13, I would have (excruciating) cramps and horrible acne, and it was all related,” said Monteilh, kinesiology major. “Birth control doesn’t only stop you from having babies; it helps with diseases.”

For women that take contraception for health reasons, or as their chosen form of birth control, President Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act, nicknamed the “no-cost birth control,” has made it accessible and affordable to all Americans regardless of their employer’s religious beliefs. But many religious leaders and conservatives see this as an attack on the constitution’s separation of church and state, and experts say the issue could have a big impact on November’s election.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Feb. 10 its final rule that women will have access to the Institute of Medicine’s recommended preventative health care.

“I think Mr. Obama is forcing his political liberal agenda on the churches and on the religious communities which he has no right to do. The constitution is very clear in the separation of church and state,” said Donald Spitz of the pro-life Virginia group Army of God.

Many against the policy are supporters of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, also known as the Blunt Amendment. The amendment would return the federal healthcare policy to its states before Obama’s announcement that non-profit and religiously-affiliated organizations would have to include no-cost birth control in their healthcare plans can go through.

Meghan Smith, domestic program associate for Catholics for Choice, said that the majority of Catholics do support birth-control coverage and that the 181 active US bishops are not representative of the 68 million Catholics. Catholics for Choice is an international pro-choice organization that has been promoting women’s healthcare since the 1970s.

According to a Public Policy Polling, 57 percent of Catholic voters support Obama’s new policy. The survey was taken Feb. 10 by 446 Catholic voters on behalf of the Coalition to Protect Women’s Health Care.

“We know that no matter what the bishops say, the Church – meaning all Catholic people – have really rejected their announcements,” Smith said.
Like the abortion debate, people involved in the birth control controversy are arguing theology versus science.

“Even though I know that doctors are saying it’s not (abortion) because the zygote is not implanted into the uterus, for us, according to the Bible, life begins at conception,” Spitz said. “Once the sperm and the egg unite, it’s a human being — and just because the child doesn’t attach itself to the uterine wall doesn’t mean it’s not a human being.”

Spitz referenced a section of the Bible to emphasize his point.

“God has a plan for the baby, and in Jeremiah, (the Bible) says, ‘Before I formed you, I knew you.’ God knew Jeremiah before he was even conceived, and birth control stops the baby from being conceived,” he said.

Unlike Spitz, CSUN freshman Roger Arias, a sociology major, sees no harm in universal no-cost birth control. He believes that it could help cut down on the population and decrease the number of abortions.

“I’m not a very religious person but I have read the Bible,” Arias said. “The Bible also says that they used to believe in slavery. Time has changed.”
Birth control is considered basic, preventative health care that is used by 99 percent of sexually active American women, according to the Coalition to Protect Women’s Health.

The National Business Group on Health estimated that employers pay 15 to 17 percent more to exclude birth control coverage because of direct cost increases from unexpected pregnancy and indirect cost of missed productivity. Obama’s plan allows women to have access to affordable birth control, but it does not require the purchase or use of birth control.

“For the 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women who have used birth control, this is a step in the right direction,” Smith said.