By Gregory Paul | 25 February 2012
It is literally true that the Catholic patriarchy is engaged in a global conspiracy to deny women their reproductive rights. It is not a particularly secretive effort, it is one of their main projects. What is not fully appreciated is one of the mechanisms that Rome is using to work towards it’s goal as it claims victimhood due to denial of religious freedom when it comes to medical matters. Take over as much of the health care system here and abroad as possible.
To be sure, the ultimate goal of the all-boy Catholic elite is to simply use big government to ban contraception and especially abortion via secular laws. The latter has been achieved in El Salvador, where abortion is legally outright murder and any women who terminate their own pregnancies are subject to long prison sentences. Until that glorious situation applies to every nation, the Vatican is using less blatant and more private sector methods to make it harder for women to receive reproductive services that the Catholic clergy has decided are out of bounds. I say decided because the Bible does not actually ban contraception or even abortion, nor does any God show evidence of thinking that life is sacred because at least half of pregnancies spontaneously fail to come to term (and half those born have died of diseases.)
The mechanism for keeping women in their place is simply to own or control as many medical establishments as possible. Over the decades the church has expanded from operating charitable medical facilities to running an enormous medical complex in the US and elsewhere. About 600 American hospitals are tied to the church. In some locations up to and over a third of the total medical system is Catholic, and the system is growing as hospitals and clinics consolidate in response to financial pressures.
After millennia of human societies Catholic and otherwise doing an excellent job of making women’s lives too often miserable and oppressive, you would think that a focus of enlightened modernity would be bent backwards to make matters easier for the sex. The result of the rising Catholization of medicine is to instead make life increasingly difficult and confusing for 21st century women when it comes to their reproductive needs and desires, women who may have no idea what they are getting into when they seek services at a Catholic institution. This is especially true when women are most vulnerable because of emergency or poverty. Say a woman wants a tubal ligation after a C-section, a method that minimizes complications and costs. Too bad if she is at a Catholic hospital.
The most notorious American example of patriarchal Catholic intransigence was when a nun working at a Catholic associated hospital did what she and the hospital were legally and morally required to do and saved the life of a woman by authorizing an emergency abortion (details here.) She was excommunicated for doing the right thing, and the Arizona hospital later was divorced from the church when it backed the decision of their employee.
And the church’s insistence on denying women based on dubious religious grounds is causing problems for their health system. Secular institutions are increasingly resistant to merging with Catholic complexes because of the outrageously discriminatory loss of women’s oriented services that ensues. Even some Catholic concerns are severing formal ties with the church to reduce the problems, in San Francisco Catholic Healthcare West became the more secular Dignity Health.
Of course it is not just the Catholic right, the Protestant right thinks what the former are up to is just fine. And combined they constitute a too powerful theoconservative minority. Most Americans Catholic and otherwise use contraceptives, approve of the Obama requirements for providing birth control services, support basic abortion rights, and the Republican effort in Virginia to force women requesting an abortion to undergo intrusive ultrasounds has been turned back by popular pressure.
The real world reproductive rights of millions and millions of women are in direct conflict with the religious rights of a small clique of guys and their followers who think they are doing the work of a deity. The first trumps the latter. So let’s not be fooled by the smoke and mirrors trick being played by the religious right as they decry the intrusion of their rights as they scheme to stomp on those of women.
Gregory Paul is an independent researcher interested in informing the public about little known yet important aspects of the complex interactions between religion, secularism, culture, economics, politics and societal conditions. His scholarly work has appeared in Evolutionary Psychology, Journal of Religion and Society, The Journal of Medical Ethics, Philosophy and Theology. Popular essays are at Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post/On Faith, Edge and one of the most widely read Washington Post op-eds (5/29&30/11). Coverage of Paul’s research has appeared in Newsweek, USA Today, The Guardian, London Times, LA Times, MSNBC, FoxNews.
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