This is a draft essay for my English 102 class. I appreciate all corrections, comments and constructive criticism.
The religious and political debate over mandated health care coverage affects every American woman. Religious leaders seek freedom to express beliefs according to their theology, while women's rights advocates seek lawful equality. This bi-polar approach leaves many women feeling torn by their loyalties to both their faith and their sex. They wonder, "Will the benefits I reap from contraceptive care outweigh my employer's right for religious freedom?"
Women do benefit from contraceptive care. Contraception has multiple, significant health benefits. According to President Obama's blog titled Women's Health and Contraception, "women using contraception reduce their risk of developing ovarian and endometrial cancers to about half the rate of the rest of the population". Women who use contraception experience more regular and less painful menstruation cycles. The regulation of menstrual cycles also helps reduce Pre-Menstrual Syndrome such as painful cramps and emotional fluctuations related to hormone imbalance. Women who do not receive adequate health care can suffer from monthly emotional upheavals, cramps and are at a higher risk for developing endometrial and ovarian cancers. Due to these serious health issues, it is important for women to receive complete health care coverage, including contraception, regardless of their employer's political or religious views. Given that healthcare is imperative for every woman, an employer's religious belief does not trump a woman's need for adequate care. Individuals should be able to determine for themselves if they require medical care.
Individual men are afforded choice while making their reproductive decisions, and women require the same level of reproductive care as men. Therefore, women should have equal right to make health-related decisions. Since women are afforded the same rights as men, it is essential that they demand equality from their employers .The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the United States Constitution states, "Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation." According to Wikipedia, "Twenty-one states have a version of the ERA in their state constitutions." Although the ERA has not been ratified in all states, it is clear that women's rights are legislatively and legally recognized as being equal to men's rights. It is therefore an employer's responsibility to provide women the same basic healthcare choices that men freely enjoy, and it is the government's responsibility to ensure that employers comply. The federal government must protect the people when state governments and corporations strip them of their rights.
Accessing contraception through healthcare is one of those rights. Contraception use is clearly beneficial to women's overall health. According to a blog article titled, Women's Health and Contraception, "Health care experts like the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend contraception as a preventive service. At oralcontraceptives.com we learn that, "[Oral Contraceptive] OC use has been associated with a lower incidence of ovarian cancer... Women who use OCs have about half the risk of developing ovarian cancer as do women who never used them. Each successive year of OC use reduces the risk of even further ovarian cancer. The incidence of nonmalignant ovarian cysts is also lower in OC users. Progestin in both combination and progestin-only OCs contributes to a lowered incidence of endometrial cancer and benign breast cysts and tumors. The incidence of endometrial cancer is reduced by 50% after at least 1 year of use." It is clear that contraceptive use has health benefits that reach beyond the scope of controlling pregnancy.
It is also noted that, "Women who use OCs have more regular and predictable menstrual cycles, with a reduction in the days and amount of menstrual flow, which in turn reduces the risk of iron deficiency anemia. The incidence of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) may also decrease some in women using oral contraceptives.
Use of OCs has also been shown to lower the incidence of ectopic pregnancy and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). OC use may also increase bone mineral density, have a modest positive effect on cholesterol levels, raising HDL-cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol) and lowering LDL-cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol). This is a result of the estrogen component, as some progestins alone have a modest negative effective on cholesterol levels."
In short, non-pregnancy related health benefits include decreased incidents of: ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts, endometrial cancer, benign breast tumors and cysts, ectopic pregnancy, PID, menstrual regularity and controlled flow. Women have a right to be concerned about these serious health concerns, and to take appropriate preventative measures, such as oral contraception. A woman must take steps to care for herself if religious freedom fails the individual. At this point, a woman's individual freedom juxtaposes with an employer's overall religious freedom.
Religious employers are concerned that providing health care coverage including contraception violates their right to religious freedom. They are concerned that the definition of 'religious employer' is too narrow. The American Medical Association's blog entitled The Religious Exemption to Mandated Insurance of Contraception defines the exemption as, "...an organization that has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose, primarily employs and serves people who share its religious tenets, and is a nonprofit organization under sections of U.S. law that refer to "churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches" and to "the exclusively religious activities of any religious order". Religious leaders have countered by writing H.R. 1179: Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011. The Act attempts to stipulate that, "...nothing in PPACA [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ] shall be construed to authorize a health plan to require a provider to provide, participate in, or refer for a specific item or service contrary to the provider's religious beliefs or moral convictions. Prohibits a health plan from being considered to have failed to provide timely or other access to items or services or to fulfill any other requirement under PPACA because it has respected the rights of conscience of such a provider." Women must decide if their personal need for healthcare trumps the concerns voiced by religious leaders and employers. This important decision is not easy. Many women are also faithfully religious.
It is therefore imperative that women inform themselves about the benefits of contraception and define for themselves what constitutes a religious employer. Women must decide for themselves what constitutes a religious leader and what role government should or should not play in the healthcare debate. Women must discern the difference between the government's definition of religious employers, and employers' definition of the same. I hope women will feel compelled to research information about contraception and women's overall health care independently. Ultimately, I hope readers will feel empowered to share their findings with others.
Women will begin to share their opinions about contraception and healthcare after they have invested time researching and educating themselves. Education is paramount when presenting an argument on a topic that is so emotionally charged. Facts are an essential part of an argument that has historically been fought using a pathos appeal. Facts do not attempt to sway the reader, only to inform. It is important for women to feel informed without being judged; an ethos-based discussion best serves this purpose.
Women are empowered to define their options, make their own decisions, choose health care methods that are appropriate for them and weigh their own religious beliefs. Women must ensure that their rights are mandated by local, state or federal government.
Employers must respect the rights of women as set forth by the government. It is important for women to receive comprehensive health care coverage through their employer that includes contraception. Using contraception is a personal medical decision that each women should make for herself. Employers should not inhibit the use of medically necessary procedures or medicines. According to Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, "Religious institutions do not seek to dictate what their employees can purchase or use; they seek to avoid a mandate that would force them to violate their religious convictions." Employers should not be allowed to determine a woman's religious beliefs for her.
I hope readers respond to my essay by asking the following questions or raising the following objections: How is religious freedom defined? How does the government define religious freedom? How does the church define religious freedom? How does that definition apply to my employer? Can an employer choose to determine my health care needs based on their religious principles? Under the Affordable Care Act, according to the White House Fact Sheet, exemptions are, "...churches, other houses of worship, and similar organizations from covering contraception on the basis of their religious objections."
I ask readers to enquire what their rights as an American, and how those rights compare to their rights as a religious person? They should ask themselves, "If my individual rights are protected by the American government, how can my employer deny health care coverage? How does my right to individual freedom juxtapose with my religious beliefs? How does my right to individual freedom compare with my employer's right to their religious freedom?"
It is clear that the debate over mandated health care coverage affects more than just the government and employers; it affects every American woman. Women must demand that religious leaders not only seek not only religious freedom, but healthcare equality. Women of faith must ensure that legislators protect religious freedom as well as lawful equality. Obtaining both religious freedom and access to affordable healthcare coverage is a delicate balancing act, but it is every woman's obligation to educate herself and make her voice heard.
FACT SHEET: Women's Preventive Services and Religious Institutions. February 2012. Web. 26 April 2012.
Statement of Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith. 28 February, 2012. Web. 26 April, 2012.
Women's Health and Contraception. 3 February, 2012. Web. 26 April, 2012.
Equal Rights Amendment. Web. 26 May, 2012
Wikipedia. Web, 26 May, 2012
oralcontraceptives.com, About Contraceptives (OC's) Web, 26 May, 2012
American Medical Association, The Religious Exemption to Mandated Insurance Coverage of Contraception, Adam Sonfield, MPP. February 2012. 26 May, 2012
govtrack.us, H.R. 1179: Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011. Web. 26 May, 2012