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Insurance Coverage For Birth Control – Time For Catholic Women and Their Doctors To Correct My Father’s Sins.

Posted on | February 1, 2012 | 4 Comments

Mike Magee

As one of 12 children created by Catholic parents – a physician father and a teacher mother – I found it remarkably odd (bizarre even) that they would leave us with a baby sitter on  Wednesday night to go out to give a lecture to Catholic couples on the value of the “Rhythm Method” of birth control.(1) It always amazed me that they didn’t get the irony of it all. But looking back, they were simply a reflection of the numerous inconsistencies that exist where the Roman Catholic religion intersects with health.

Let me begin on a positive note – Catholic Hospitals and the nuns that serve them. As a physician educator who has focused primarily on the exploration of what makes for a humanistic and empathetic care giver – a person who as the great Cardinal Bernardine once said, “Must heal; provide health; keep individual, family and community whole; and in the process perform in a holy manner.” – I have great respect for the caring, understanding and partnership that one feels on entering a Catholic Hospital. My father worked exclusively at Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, NJ all his life; and my brothers and I have worked at these hospitals, on and off, around the country, throughout our lives.

So that’s the good. Now on the other end of the spectrum is the suppression of research into the impact of celibacy on mental health and the massive institutional cover-up of pedophilia by priests worldwide. Indefensible of course. If you’d like to review the medical case against celibacy, read here (2).

So that’s the good and the bad and ugly. Now let’s deal with the silly and stupid. This week we learned about Bridgette Dunlap, a Fordham University Law student, had to organize a clinic staffed by volunteer doctors off campus to provide prescriptions for birth control because on-campus health services will not do so.(3) Mind you, that includes student Bridgette who is 31 years old.

The Church considers it morally wrong to prevent conception  by any artificial means – condoms, IUD’s, birth control pills, sterilization – anything. The fact that national surveys have repeatedly shown that 98% of sexually active Catholic women disagree and choose to use birth control does not phase theme. This inspite of the fact that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) reports that half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned, and 40% of unplanned pregnancies end in abortion.(3)

Republican candidates from Romney to Gingrich to Santorum have made it clear where they stand – wherever the bishops tell them to stand. One problem, the Obama administration has now made the medical case for birth control, and required through the new health care law, that insurance plans at Catholic institutions cover birth control.(4) Official response from the  US Conference of Catholic Bishops: “We can’t just lie down and die, and let religious freedom go away.”(3)

Seriously? And that brings me back to my parents. I don’t blame the Church for my parents ignorance and activism. I blame them – especially my father – an enormously respected physician in his community, for preaching such ignorance and nonsense, that when followed by his loyal flock, created I am certain, a significant amount of misery and suffering. After all, my parents were wealthy enough to care for all those “mistakes” of the “Rhythm Method”, but many of the parishioners who followed his advice in the poor communities he served were not.

I’m not here to wail on the ignorance and short sightedness of Church leadership, nor the pandering of a bunch of Republican candidates. I’m here to challenge the 98% of sexually active Catholic women who use birth control. And especially those of you, and your doctors, who work for Catholic institutions.  It’s time to correct my father’s mistakes.

For HealthCommentary, I’m Mike Magee

1. Shivanandan M. The How And Why Of Natural Family Planning. American Catholic.2001.

2. Magee M. Scienced and Enforced Celibacy. Health Commentary Weekly Update.

23. Grady D. Ruling On Contraception Draws Battle Line At Catholic Colleges.NYT. A1. January 30, 2012.

4. Kaiser Health News: Religous Protests Continue In Respose To Obama Administration Birth Control Rule. Feb. 1, 2012.


4 Responses to “Insurance Coverage For Birth Control – Time For Catholic Women and Their Doctors To Correct My Father’s Sins.”

  1. Larry McGovern
    February 2nd, 2012 @ 5:48 am

    YEA, Mike. Great article, Mike. Almost as good as the emails from our Prep classmates. yeah right!!!

    Best to you and your family.

  2. Mike Magee
    February 2nd, 2012 @ 9:11 am

    Thanks, Larry! And thank you for all you and your immediate and extended family have done for Social Justice! Mike

  3. Paul Hruz
    February 2nd, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

    The real areas of ignorance here are found in understanding what the Catholic Church really teaches about contraception and what is available to couples who have good reason to limit the number of children they have. Based upon what nonsense I was taught in medical school, this is perhaps understandable. Modern methods of natural family planning (including the Creighton and Marquette models) have efficacy comparable to artificial methods without altering one’s innate fertility. The number of Catholics who disregard the Church’s teaching reflects this general ignorance and also lack of knowledge of the many proven adverse effects (physical, psychological and societal) of the contraceptive mentality. Pregnancy is not a disease.

  4. Mike Magee
    February 3rd, 2012 @ 2:27 pm

    Thanks, Paul. Can you provide some peer reviewed references on the efficacy levels for the Creighton and Marquette models? Mike

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