Denied Contraception, Catholic Mother of Disabled Child Questions Faith – Gets Abused by Believers

Why would religious believers rain such abuse on a woman who is honestly struggling?

By Valerie Tarico | 24 March 2016
ValerieTarico.com

Angry Christian priest (Shutterstock)
Angry Christian priest (Shutterstock)

Sonia Guizar used to attend mass regularly and teach at a Catholic school. But her Catholic employer’s refusal to cover birth control brought her an ill-timed pregnancy and a child with developmental challenges that stretch her family thin. When she publically shared her experience and questioned Church teachings in a Washington Post story, what she got from fellow Catholics was a heap of abuse from people whose urge to defend religious dogma and authority trumped their kindness and compassion.

Guizar’s story may be a very distant echo of the horrendous slaughter being perpetrated by Jihadis shouting “Allahu akbar!”—but it is an echo nonetheless. One of religion’s most heinous characteristics is that it elevates defense of faith above compassion, inspiring mean and aggressive behavior in the names of gods.

The American Supreme Court is considering a “religious freedom” claim by a Catholic charity, Little Sisters of the Poor, that wants to deny contraception coverage to employees in their chain of nursing homes—mostly working poor women who can ill afford either out-of-pocket birth control costs or a surprise pregnancy. They further want to block the same employees from gaining access to free contraception via an “opt out” mechanism, a religious exemption already established under Obamacare.

With the case making news and drawing protests, Guizar shared her own experience of needing birth control that she and her husband couldn’t afford. Fearing she would be fired by her Catholic employer if she tried to get the IUD recommended by her doctor, Guizar and her husband tried to make do with “natural family planning” and ended up pregnant. Their son, born from that pregnancy, has developmental delays and requires therapy multiple times weekly, and the whole ordeal has caused her to question her faith.

Her story is both ordinary and heartbreaking, and most people reading it would ache for her. But in dozens of comments, Catholic defenders of the faith saw fit instead to question the legitimacy of her devotion, or her strength or integrity:

  • This is such an obvious hit piece—no catholic would ever say “I no longer celebrate mass” every catholic knows that only a priest can celebrate a mass. [not true]
  • You couldn’t afford birth control? Really? That’s ridiculous [not true]…. And you call yourself a ‘devout’ Catholic and NOT following their doctrine? Again, you don’t know what either devout and/or Catholic means. —Angie Sharp
  • Then you really were not a Catholic to begin with. Now you just write really dumb stuff! Congratulations you are progressing. I’m sure God will forgive your idiotic apostasy.—Wasachnorth [See No True Scotsman Fallacy]
  • The Apostle Paul was shipwrecked, tortured and thrown in different jails. You? Well you were told to not use birth control and your faith crumbled. —Give-me-Liberty
  • The amazing and great thing about America is that you can change your employment! Yes, I know it sounds incredible, but it can be done! If The Church has a tenet that you do not agree with, and it does, then you can adopt a creed more to your liking or get another job. Problem solved. —Steve Fotos
  • Go find another job. You signed an employment agreement. —Robert PS
  • I can’t believe this lady ever was a devout Catholic, she may have thought she was, but it is obvious she has little understanding of faith and a great understanding of the secular world…. If she were really a devout Catholic she might try to follow the example of Mary in saying yes to God, instead of the example of Eve who said no to God and yes to the Snake! —Yvonne Yadler Bean
  • Natural planning is just as effective as any other birth control method. [not true—1 in 4 annual pregnancy rate vs 1 in 2000.]…. If you really are devout catholic, you should known what the church teaches and if you don’t like it work somewhere else. —pattyanna
  • Sonia is missing the boat as a “devout” catholic. She says she would have as many children as God intended but can’t afford??????????? If her faith in God is solid, then he will take care of the financial “burden” that comes with having kids. As a fellow Catholic . . . .—Hannah Pharis
  • Perhaps you should read the bible again. JOB would have loved to have been hit with the issue of contraception as opposed to having this faith tried by the loss of his entire family! But you are devout? —Jane1000
  • If you don’t like your faith because your employer doesn’t pay for contraceptives, then you’ve never had one in the first place. Go demagogue somewhere else. —Peter Gray

There are many morals or themes that could be drawn from Sonia’s story: The incredible human cost of the Vatican’s anti-contraception stance when it leaves families struggling to care for children with developmental issues (think Zika). The fact that a modern IUD or implant (both of which have bonus health benefits) can be life-changing for a woman and her family. The crass dishonesty of any person or institution claiming to be a friend to the poor (or “Little Sister to the Poor”) while denying poor families the means to delay or limit childbearing. The fascinating psychology of religion that compels people to lie to themselves and others once they accept a dogma. The fact most American Catholics follow their own conscience and use modern contraception at some point despite Papal edict. The fact that Catholic tradition itself is conflicted about individuals making this decision.

But during a month of jihadist violence—executions in Ivory Coast, a bombing in Brussels and a bombing in Istanbul, all by people who see themselves as defending the one true faith—what strikes me most about Sonia’s story is the mundane righteous cruelty of her detractors, the fact that even on a topic as ordinary as family planning or a setting as minor as a Washington Post comment thread, religious belief has the power to trump humanity’s deepest shared ethic—the Golden Rule—and our most cherished moral emotion: compassion.

I have written in the past about “religion’s dirty dozen,” 12 really bad religious ideas that have made the world worse. The idea that religious beliefs themselves matter more than love and kindness, more than our shared humanity, should be at the top of the list.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org. Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel. Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. May that sweet woman come on over to the other side… we humanists will embrace her and empathize. To hell with those mean-spirited religious non-thinkers.

  2. Of course, all sadistic, punitive, patriarchal religions hate women. Sin came into the world through a woman therefore, it's always our fault. Hence, why we have ideas like blaming the victim especially, when it comes to women and how they conduct themselves in society. Women are so sexualized either way, too much, too little, all due to the male gaze and we are to blame for "tempting" men for raping us.

    Women can't even take care of their own reproductive health. It is being legislated out of our control as I write this. Women are being imprisoned for miscarriages, being forced to carry a stillborn to their maybe, natural course of things, birth. In other words, Modern Medical Technology that can make a woman's reproductive life the healthiest life to offer is being legislated against women by, you guessed it, men. Mostly Christian white men and the Catholic Church are behind it. Not just in the US but, globally as well. So in other words, again, a bunch of sadistic, misogynistic, punitive, patriarchal, pedophile clergy are dictating the global laws of women's reproductive lives and the healthcare we need by refusing access for only this part of our healthcare, the most crucial part of our healthcare thereby, forcing women into reproductive slavery and having to endure reproductive torture not seen for over 100 years.

    If it were cancer they would have no problem with us having healthcare provided with all the Modern Medical Technology we can access. However, our reproductive health? They are pulling us back to 3rd century ideological beliefs rather than science facts. Modern day healthcare only applies when they (men) deem god's approval? The only place healthcare is denied is for women's reproductive healthcare because, the patriarchal god of 2000+ years ago said so?

    I’ll say it again this IS reproductive slavery and torture for anyone who goes through a difficult pregnancy to be denied Modern Medical Technology is Barbaric. For anyone who suffers a miscarriage to then be jailed for a life sentence over it, we are criminalizing women over their natural reproductive process which is complex and still dangerous for women especially, without access to Modern Medical Technology. Women will suffer needless excruciating pain and the maternal and birth death rate will sky rocket. This is insane and cruel to say the least. But, hey, misogyny has no bounds.

    Because, women’s entire healthcare, reproductive and otherwise is a whole package under the umbrella of women’s healthcare. Just like we don’t parcel out men’s pancreatic cancer or penile erectile dysfunction from men’s healthcare, it is your entire healthcare. And the world doesn’t seem to have a god to dictate to men what part of your healthcare you can benefit from Modern Medical Technology and what should be refused. Funny, how it works out for you guys, you are universally covered, as for women? We set a special place aside to allow for an archaic, cruel and barbaric, to say the least unreasonable religious doctrine to place restrictive access over a decision that is solely for her and a physician to make.

    It's up to every woman and man to fight with your religious leaders, your political representatives for women's complete, autonomous, with no outside interference of her relationship with her doctor, full, all inclusive of everything the world’s Modern Medical Technology can offer reproductive healthcare. A woman's reproductive health is between her and her physician. No husband, no religious leader, no government, NO ONE should impede women's healthcare. This is solely for her and her alone to make with the advice and care of a physician. PERIOD, END OF CONVERSATION!!!

    • Never ‘end’ the conversation.
      Continue to attack these stone aged, man controlled, impossible to prove fables written as truths, religions.
      Find ways to take them to court at every turn. Sue them for money.
      This is how we fought other criminal groups like the KKK and groups like Capone/Mafia.
      If they are noisy, take their money – they will shut up!

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