Republicans are at fault for sensationalizing the contraception debate

It’s sad that in 2012 we still have to defend contraception rights.

Maybe it’s because the Catholic Church has been on a power surge.

Or maybe it’s because Obama’s rise in the polls are causing the GOP to scramble to put together a social controversy. Either way, the latest headlines have been all about contraception.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, on Jan. 20, the Obama administration announced plans to require all employers to provide insurance that covers birth control for their employees.

The original plan exempted religious organizations that primarily employed and served their co-religionists, i.e. churches. This meant that religiously affiliated organizations that serve the general public and employ many non-Catholics, including Catholic hospitals and universities, would still be required to adhere to the mandate.

Enter Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Soon after the decision, he released his angered passion “in a video”:http://www.usccb.org/media/video/?bcpid=911432717001&bckey=AQ~~,AAAAdgye3dk~,p0Zv3iru3vKntdSZldOI6IpJ_Ro3rVN6&bclid=987951266001&bctid=1404872889001 posted on the organization’s website.

“Never before, has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience.

This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights,” said Archbishop Dolan.

It was enough to set off a fury. Soon after 147 bishops of the country’s 195 dioceses had written formal petition letters, spoken publicly against the mandate and urged others to contact their legislators and demand this “violation of religious freedom” be stopped.

House Speaker John Boehner and presidential hopeful Rick Santorum gladly chimed in, fueling the idea that Obama was committing an assault on religious freedom.

It was a ridiculous narrative, one that aimed to make Obama look irreligious un-American, and a threat to traditional “American” values. I place quotation marks around the word American, as the GOP’s definition of “American values“ is anything but.

Taking note of the controversy, last Friday Obama gave in, announcing he would revise the mandate to place the burden on insurance companies to provide free birth control.

“These employers will not have to pay for, or provide, contraceptive services. But women who work at these institutions will have access to free contraceptive services, just like other women, and they’ll no longer have to pay hundreds of dollars a year that could go towards paying the rent or buying groceries,” Obama said. There would be no further changes, he ensured.

But House republicans are still fighting. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan announced plans to block the measure this week.

From here, I could provide you with a bunch of facts. Like the fact that currently, “62 percent of women”:http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_contr_use.html ages 15 to 44 use some form of contraception, and 99 percent of sexually active women have used birth control at one point.

Or the fact that the majority of Catholic women (58 percent) support the mandate. Or the fact that without co-pays or deductibles, birth control can cost women anywhere from $160 to $600 a year, or up to $18,000 over a lifetime.

There are many more things I could say, like how birth control effectively lowers abortion rates, avoids teenage pregnancies and lowers poverty rates.

But for the Catholic Church, this isn’t really a war on birth control. It’s a war on power. And as the church’s role in politics continues to be pushed out of Washington, they are looking for any chance to regain their control.

In between this thirst, however, they should consider the facts behind the legislation they’re pushing so forcefully against.

Truly, it’s not religious freedom that’s being undermined here, but rather, the health freedoms of the women, many of them Catholics, who rely on affordable birth control. Let’s pray that for most, the facts receive first attention. Not the sensation.

_Rebecca is a senior in LAS._