There is an idiom; “give em’ an inch and they’ll take a mile” that means if someone is given a small concession, or a measure of power, they will take advantage and demand even more. Throughout human history no group has exerted more control over humanity than religion, particularly the Catholic religion. Despite it being the 21st Century and not the 1400s, American Catholic bishops are taking advantage of the power bestowed on them by the conservative Catholics on the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby ruling. As is typical of the bishops, their aim is controlling American women and forcing them to either become celibate or perpetual birthing machines.
It was not enough that the bishops were successful in getting empowered to restrict contraceptive use, now they are going for another form of birth control. The bishops consider tubal ligation as “intrinsically immoral” as an abortion, and because the Supreme Court’s Papal 5 agreed that regardless all known biological science, what the bishops and Hobby Lobby consider abortion is indeed abortion; including contraceptives. And, because the conservative court deconstructed and redefined the 1st Amendment’s Establishment and Free Exercise clauses to mean authority to impose religion, evangelicals were empowered to ban their employees from access to contraceptives. According to American neo-Christianity, Dark Age mentality, and the Church’s lust for unlimited control, women are to remain celibate unless they are prepared to bear children. It is another religious machination to control women.
For years, Catholic medical centers such as Genesys Health System allowed doctors to actually practice medicine and perform tubal ligations (tubes tied) immediately after delivering a baby for new mothers who want to ensure they never get pregnant again. The policy had been a long-established standard of care; particularly for women who delivered by cesarean section. It is the second-most popular form of birth control after the pill and the most dependable form available to women. Now, because the US Catholic bishops consider tubal ligations abortion, regardless the mother just gave birth, the procedure is banned as an “intrinsically immoral” act against god and the all-male, all-controlling, U.S. bishops.
The ban is insane according to a professor and chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington Medical School. Sarah Ward Prager said, “She’s already cut open — her tubes are right there, and subjecting a new mother to a second surgery carries unnecessary risk. It is simply unethical to say, ‘I’m going to make you go to a different (non-Catholic controlled) hospital to have another surgery in six weeks because the bishop says I can’t tie your tubes.”
Many women’s healthcare advocates worry that banning tubal ligations is affecting doctors ability to treat women and address their reproductive health well into the future. According to a professor of family medicine at the University of Chicago; “Physicians who receive their training in Catholic institutions are not getting trained in this basic procedure, and are being sent to provide obstetric and gynecological care without a full set of tools in their toolbox.” It is not only control over women; it is far-reaching control over how doctors are trained and how they practice medicine reminiscent of the 14th Century Catholic Church.
In this country, approximately half the women who get their tubes tied have the procedure immediately following the delivery of a baby because sterilizations are easier to perform, safer, do not add any recovery time, and are nearly foolproof. If a woman is forbidden from having her tubes tied immediately after delivery, she must wait at least six weeks until her body heals. After that time, there are insurance, financial, and maternity or sick leave issues that prevent many, if not most, women from having the procedure performed. Women are then left to use other less reliable forms of birth control. In just one Texas study of new mothers who were denied a tubal ligation after childbirth, 50% had an unplanned pregnancy within 12 months; precisely according to the U.S. bishops’ intent.
As professor Prager said, “It’s not just a convenience thing. Denying postpartum sterilizations has very real long-term economic and financial consequences for entire families.” In fact, it is something a representative of the Pope and a senior Vatican prelate agreed with when he said; “the Church is not against birth control.” It is in line with Pope Francis high regard, and attempt to alleviate, for the crushing poverty plaguing hundreds-of-millions of human beings around the world.
Last February during a visit to New York, Cardinal Kasper, whose theological works are highly-praised by Pope Francis was asked during an interview “whether married couples who already have three children and live in poverty should not be allowed to use birth control to prevent more conception?” The Cardinal replied that “The Church is not against birth control at all. How they have to do it, it’s their personal conscience and their personal responsibility.” It is important to note the Cardinal did not say the decision to use birth control was up to the U.S. bishop’s conscience or personal responsibility, but apparently the Vatican Prelate is unaware that in their crusade to control American women, the bishops regard that every decision affecting women is within their purview.
It is another case of the American bishops being in direct conflict with Christ’s representative on Earth, Pope Francis, who understands the incredible financial burden of perpetual childbirth. It is something that rank and file Catholics in America understand as well because well over 90% of Catholic women of childbearing age have used some form of artificial birth control during their lifetime; including tubal ligation.
As an aside, when this column criticizes the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), it is in no way condemnation of Catholic adherents who are not part of the U.S. bishops forcing their religion down the throats of other Americans. In fact, rank and file Catholics are as tolerant and non-imposing as the preponderance of ‘real’ Christian, Wiccan, Heathen, Buddhist, Muslim and Hindi adherents.
Some Americans errantly believe they can just avoid Catholic health systems and go to a non-Catholic healthcare-affiliated hospital, doctor’s office, medical group, or local clinic. Even doctors are incensed that they are increasingly under the U.S. bishop’s control as Catholic healthcare systems have seen “explosive growth and expansion” over the past two years including ‘partnerships’ and binding agreements between Catholic and secular providers requiring strict adherence to the bishops’ religious pronouncements and edicts.
As of 2011, ten of the 25 largest health systems in the nation, and four of the five largest nonprofit networks, are under the Catholic bishops’ control. According to guidelines for Catholic health care institutions that either merge or collaborate with secular organizations, everyone must obey the bishops’ edicts. The key requirement for any secular physician, clinic, or hospital that merges or affiliates with Catholic health organizations is that the non-Catholic partner is legally bound to “respect church teaching and discipline.” That means that an increasing number of secular hospitals and physicians are now banned from providing sterilizations to new mothers who want them because the bishops want women, whether married or not, to be celibate or perpetual birth machines.
If women thought they witnessed the worst assault from religious Republicans and the Supreme Court during the 113th Congress and last year’s Hobby Lobby ruling, they were mistaken. The Koch brothers’ funding assistance for religious right’s anti-women movement during the recent midterm elections has resulted in the most extreme religious Congress in American history. Not only are religious Republicans prepared to enact harsh abortion restrictions that make Texas and North Carolina prohibitions look tame, Republicans in both the House and Senate will re-introduce and pass personhood legislation effectively criminalizing all forms of birth control.
Coupled with the all-male U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Republican Congress will make a concerted effort to control women not seen since the Dark Ages, colonial-era Puritans, or Taliban-controlled Afghanistan; exactly what Republicans have planned since American women earned the right to vote. Tragically, very few Americans, including non-voting women, seem to care and it is a telling commentary on the incredibly stupid and patriarchal American population. A pathetic group that appears they could not possibly care less what lies in store for their mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives.