Women’s Right to Health

President Obama has sponsored legislation to protect the rights of women in the United States, this law is being contested by some religious organizations and conservative politicians. The law that is being debated requires employers to cover the cost of contraception. In class we have touched upon the fact that family planning increases the earning potential and political autonomy of women in developing nations. Is the situation different for women in the US?

According to an article by Nick Baumann “Most of Obama’s ‘Controversial’ Birth Control Rule Was Law During Bush Years.” US Senator John McCain has recently changed his position concerning womens right to birth control. According to the Senator “I think we ought to respect the right of women to make choices in their lives.” This is a novel idea. While I suspect that McCain may have some implicit political agenda in his change of stance, I see it as a move in the right direction. The truth about contraception and womens bodies is frequently concealed behind political agendas, as highlighted in a Huffington Post article by Kay Hall.

Opposition to the legislation comes from organizations that seek to “Restore Religious Freedom in America.” I do not personally understand how freedom is restored by limiting womens rights to make decisions concerning their own bodies. From my perspective the bill does not endanger religious freedom in any way, someone still has the option to choose not to use contraception. The bill does protect the rights of those who wish to use contraception.

  1. philipalcabes said:

    Jared’s terrific post brings up one of the most troubling aspects of the human rights concept: conflict with religious or cultural freedom.

    It seems obvious that a person must have control over her own body. That’s so fundamental that it’s a no-brainer aspect of human rights. But what should we think when asserting that liberty clashes with the teaching of a religion?

    Mutilating girls’ genitals seems wrong — yet some people assert that it’s an important aspect of traditional cultural or religious observance. We recognize cultural rights and the freedom to practice religion as aspects of human rights, too. So, which right is more right?

    Forcing women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term seems wrong, but if religious leaders assert that that’s an aspect of a good life, in their eyes, should we support the individual’s right (to choose not to be pregnant) or the religion’s right (to determine in its own way what’s good for people)?

    Note, by the way, that it’s almost always women’s bodies that are stake in this clash. What should we make of that?

  2. jaredb said:

    Another controversial piece of information that I was trying to tie into this post is the recent publishing of data that abortion is a less risky procedure for women than pregnancy is. The debate here would be that abortion is a very risky procedure for a fetus. I view contraception as a proactive solution to the ethical dilemma of abortion.

    I was not able to access the original article, it is titled “Abortion, Pregnancy, and Public Health”

  3. Thank you Jared for bringing up this troubling topic of the right to your body in conflict with the right to religious freedom. I find it hard to understand anyone justifying limiting women’s access to brith control. I view the option of choosing whether or not you want to reproduce as what should be a very basic human right. Obviousely, this view is not the only one on the matter. One of the strongest rhetorics of nation is that of religious freedom for all (which I fully agree with). However, like you I do not see the option of obtaining birth control as I violation of religious freedom. Yes, relegious organizations (like all other organizations would have to provide for it), but it would still be entirely up to each individual as to whether or not they would choose to use birth control. Although I do not have the source, the professor of my maternal and child healthcare class stated that about 80% of catholic women will choose to use contraception at some point in their lives. This shows that contraception is highly accepted and practiced among catholic women. I believe this should be enough to prove the religious organizations should not be accused from providing healthcare that includes contraception (which I believe many women would consider to be basic and necessary healthcare). I also think its really important for more women and especially young women to get involved in this issue.

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