Bigger Than the Birth Control: Being Pro-Life and Pro-Healthcare

By: J.C. Johnson


I am coming out pro-life (and also Catholic! God help me!). Really, I am. With this admission I would like to mention that I have been increasingly frustrated with the way that the term is used in the common lexicon. People who bomb abortion clinics and shoot doctors at their places of employment are not “pro-life.” I even think people who heckle women as they enter abortion clinics are severely misguided in their enthusiasm. Humiliation, scare tactics, and emotional abuse are not elements of the “pro-life” movement that I belong to. I belong to a movement of love and support during life’s most difficult and confusing times.

I consider myself pro-life in the most ridiculous and literal sense of the word. I catch spiders in my apartment and take them outside. If I had the will-power I would become a vegetarian, and I hope to have a job someday where I can afford to purchase meat that I am sure was humanely raised and slaughtered. I cringe at the thought of any human being tortured or humiliated, on the playground or in a detention camp, even when someone has something really, really awful. I am against the death penalty, I am horrified by the idea of war and genocide, and, as must now be obvious, I’m not crazy about the idea of people ending their babies’ lives in utero (but I think that I understand and am sympathetic to the reasons that people feel that they need to).

I am for life occurring where the Powers-That-Be have determined that the spark of life may occur, and I believe that as humans, we have the responsibility to help other humans maintain the dignity that is inherent in this grandiose process.

All of these things considered, I was shocked and disappointed to hear about the way that(and several other Catholic institutions to follow, I presume) are reacting to Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that requires all health care plans include access to comprehensive women’s health services.

Because of Franciscan’s affiliation with the Catholic Church, they feel that they have been tasked with the impossible via the requirement that their health care plans cover women’s health services including contraception, sterilization, and the “morning after” pill. As a Catholic organization, they don’t want to be responsible for causing something to happen that they don’t believe in. So in response to the government’s mandate, they have decided that they will get rid of their student health care plan altogether.

The other kids at the park don’t want to play by their rules, so they are taking their ball and going home. So there!

As a Catholic organization, they don’t feel like they can support or pay for a plan that allows for contraception or abortion because they don’t believe in it. I get that! It sucks when your government takes part in things that you don’t believe in. It sucks even more when they want you to take part in something you don’t believe in. I am not against their conscientious objection, but as a pro-life person I am confused by the idea of a “pro-life” institution dropping their student health care plan because the new parameters threaten life as they define it.

To their credit, they will continue to operate theirHealthCenteron campus that only costs $5 a visit for basic health services; but what happens to the kids that have more complicated health problems that cannot remain on their parent’s insurance though college? God forbid someone becomes seriously ill or even near death on Franciscan’s watch and cannot afford complex services without the student health care plan that they relied on, because that would not be pro-life at all. Indeed, it seems that Franciscan is very much exercising its “choice” in this matter.

I agree, Franciscan, it is sad that people choose to end the lives of their children in utero. It is sad when couples want to have children but decide to use birth control methods because they know they can’t give children the life they want. I also acknowledge that you think it’s sad that there are people having sex without the intention of having children right now, and believe you have the right to that opinion. But do you know what else is sad, Franciscan? Kids being born to mom’s that don’t want them, where culture norms dictate that adoption is more disgraceful than single motherhood, and in turn mom’s emotionally and physically abusing their kid because of it, and then drowning in the shame of being an inadequate mother (but that is another post for another day isn’t it?). I also think it’s sad that people that affiliate themselves with the Catholic Church that I belong to are penalizing the poor and marginalized for an act that is supposed to improve their lives, but they did not necessarily take part in passing.

I belong to a faith that practices the Corporal Works of Mercy, and expects believers to “feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, harbor the harborless, visit the sick, ransom the captive, and bury the dead.” I belong to a faith that takes care of the poor and marginalized. I get it that not everyone agrees that institutions should pay for their employee’s birth control, but it’s not okay to take away the health insurance of the students that most desperately need it.

Pro-life is a bigger issue than saving babies, even though that is part of it. Pro-life is about insuring that all human creatures have a shot at life and health.  The actual pro-life thing to do would be to take care of the students that have been entrusted to your care and don’t have the money to pay for their complex medical needs without insurance. Even if a pro-life institution insists that they cannot support the use of birth control methods, they must continue to support their students and employees via the health insurance system because they say they are pro-life. And in the most literal sense of the word, the pro-life thing to do here is to make sure people don’t become seriously ill on your watch.

Everyone single human being needs health care to have a shot at living a long and healthy life. People who are pro-affordable health care and pro-life should be on the same team for this one, in my mind. I would like to see some creative solutions to this problem on behalf of the shepherds that have been called by God to my Church, and the officials that I have elected to my government. That’s why we picked you for our team. So how about instead of taking your ball and going home, you think of a way to play the game that can accommodate everyone’s needs.

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6 responses to “Bigger Than the Birth Control: Being Pro-Life and Pro-Healthcare

  1. While you and I do not share the same worldview, and while I disagree fundamentally with a number of your beliefs, I respect you, and the way you have chosen to integrate your beliefs into the way you view the world. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  2. I post this with all due respect. I am not meaning to attack or belittle you. BUT

    AND I will admit I have not finished reading this post. I stopped at the first couple sentences of the second paragraph.

    “I consider myself pro-life in the most ridiculous and literal sense of the word. I catch spiders in my apartment and take them outside. If I had the will-power I would become a vegetarian, and I hope to have a job someday where I can afford to purchase meat that I am sure was humanely raised and slaughtered.”

    There are so many contradictions in this statement and that it voided anything else you could possibly say; in other words, you thoroughly annihilated your ethos. First you make a statement about a position, in which I do not know whether or not you have been, regarding a choice that is inconceivably difficult to make. However, with your argument it should be simple, because as your second sentence states, you don’t even kill the spiders in your apartment. HOWEVER, you third sentence states that you don’t even have the will-power to stop eating meat.

    I am not attacking your views, I actually didn’t read them, but if you actually had conviction, if you actually believed the first paragraph you wrote, you would live your ideals and not just dictate them.

  3. As difficult and unfortunate as this decision may be, I applaud them for taking a stand. It’s not an easy decision to make, but many important ones are.

    Freedom of religion (Any religion) is a hugely important thing in our country. It’s more than just “sad” that our government is enacting policies that are such a blatant violation of that freedom; it’s frightening.

    If you truly believe in something, you will fight for it, and often times, that fight leads to sacrifice. It is unfortunate that many Catholic institutions are forced to consider dropping health care coverage. My girlfriend teaches at a Catholic school and there was (and may still be) a possibility that she would her health benefits because of this. It is not easy, it is not pleasant, but it sends a very clear message that this is not ok.

    I would love to see Catholics live up to the Universal Church and follow this example. We’re living in a time where sugarcoating our belief systems and publicly watering down our opinions in favor of being “socially acceptable” is the norm, but socially acceptable is not always right. I see too many people afraid to speak up because they don’t want to offend someone, and on the rare occasion someone does take a stand, we list all the reasons they shouldn’t with barely a glance at all the reasons they should.

    “I agree, but…” is not good enough. Take a stand. Make the sacrifice. Send a message.

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