Republicans, War on Women, Women — January 9, 2014 at 7:36 pm

The freedom to make our own healthcare decisions is a life and death issue


Groups with firmly held beliefs don’t want the rest of us making their healthcare choices. Why do they think they can control ours?

A Michigan woman being denied care at a Catholic hospital while having a miscarriage because of the dictates of bishops. Another in Texas being kept on life support against her wishes and those of her family because she’s pregnant. Women in Michigan having to buy an insurance rider in case they need an abortion after being raped or to protect their health in the event of pregnancy complications, even though such a rider does not exist. A bill being discussed in Congress that would subject women to an IRS audit if they choose an abortion after being raped — forcing them to prove there actually was an assault.

Where does it end? The relentless attacks on women’s freedoms to make their own healthcare choices, reproductive and otherwise, are frightening. They’re tantamount to emotional and physical abuse. Men won’t be immune, either, if things keep heading in the direction they’re going.

A cascade of laws and regulations limiting access to one form of healthcare could begin creeping into other personal choices we make about our lives, our healthcare and even the way we die.

In the last three years, 205 laws were passed restricting a woman’s right to choose. As Lauren Rankin wrote in Talking Points Memo, this is not only unprecedented — it’s a crisis.

Religious organizations and Republicans are leading the charge to take away the rights of women. They haven’t expressed it quite so bluntly, but their actions say this: A woman’s right to choose violates our religious liberties. But it’s the height of hypocrisy to wave the flag of “religious liberty” when the freedoms of others are being infringed. Liberty is not a one-way street.

Forcing people to buy additional insurance, placing onerous burdens on healthcare providers like abortion clinics and creating laws that put moral or religious objections over patients’ rights lets politicians and special interest groups control what kind of healthcare services the rest of us can receive. It’s a dangerous, slippery slope, and we’re barreling down it head first. Will people be forbidden to get a blood transfusion, take certain medications or get access to other healthcare services simply because it goes against someone else’s beliefs? It’s a distinct possibility if these kinds of precedents are set.

And what if the private sector gets involved? If Hobby Lobby wins the case that will be heard this year by the U.S. Supreme Court, it could open floodgates. An employer with a religious or moral objection to any healthcare service could theoretically refuse to provide insurance for that service to its employees. But what about the employee’s rights? With wages as low as they are for so many Americans, health insurance is a significant portion of compensation. Forcing people to pay out of pocket for additional coverage is a pay cut. It’s an unspoken threat: If you don’t like it, then quit. We all know that isn’t always an option.

America needs to protect the separation of church and state. We need to protect the beliefs of all Americans — not just Christians, but also those of other beliefs or no religious belief at all. Another woman’s right to have an abortion isn’t religious persecution against Christians, and saying so is an insult to Christians around the world who actually are being persecuted or forbidden to practice their faith.

To claim that America is strictly a Christian country is an affront to the religious freedom the Founding Fathers fought for in the first place. It’s an insult to the American people, especially coming from conservatives who want to take away others’ individual freedoms along with their food stamps, unemployment insurance benefits and any sort of social safety net. Jesus preached compassion and charity. I see very little of that in the actions of those who express such loathing for those in need or, in the case of reproductive rights, women and families who must face very difficult personal choices.

We need to keep talking about this. We need to keep fighting this, by supporting the many fine organizations that are protecting the rights of every American. Any time there’s an attempt to take away a woman’s right to choose or a patient’s right to make his or her own decisions about healthcare, we need to speak up.

This is not simply a moral or religious issue. It’s an issue of liberty — for everyone, not simply the few who shout the loudest, spend the most money or have the biggest influence with Republicans and others in power.

It is literally an issue of life and death.