I’m not a Catholic but I know a little bit about words. As an attorney, author and talk radio host, words are my currency. The Catholic church does not like the word divorce, but they acknowledge there are situations in which people need to live separately and move on with their lives. Catholics call that an annulment, even though the real definition of annulment is a marriage that never was, as, for example, an elopement in which the couple never consummated their vows. Nonetheless, couples with children (see, e.g., the Kennedy family tree) often receive annulments, allowing them to remarry in the Catholic church. Priests and laymen find it useful to employ the fiction of ” annulment” in order to bless further unions in the church.
The Catholic Church has a problem with the word “contraception” too, even though the vast majority of Catholic people in the United States use contraceptives to help them avoid unwanted pregnancies. The Church’s rigid stance on the issue has caused a clash with the Obama administration, which has issued new regulations requiring all employers, whether Catholic or not, to offer health insurance covering contraception as a paid benefit. Prominent nuns who supported Obamacare, as well as the President of Notre Dame, another former Obamacare supporter, have confronted the Obama administration with harsh accusations that such regulations infringe their freedom of liberty.
Being a lover of words, I propose a win win solution.
Birth control pills have a wide range of uses, including stabilization of irregular menstrual bleeding, treatment of mood disorders exacerbated by irregular hormones, and the treatment of painful side effects of menstruation in some women, including severe cramping, abnormal bleeding and premenstrual mood swings. Given these medically necessary reasons why many women need to be taking “the pill”, why not change the wording of the regulation itself to require that all employers provide “hormone replacement therapy” as a free medical benefit?
I would much rather see us finagle a definition or two in a government regulation than create a showdown in which one side loses. If the loser is the Catholic Church, we all lose, because each of us has a stake in religious freedom. If the loser is the Obama administration, we lose as well, since each of us believes that women are entitled to receive optimal health care.
By changing the words, we women win on the substance of the issue. We get what we need when we need it. By changing the words, the Catholic Church saves face. They do not buckle to what they see as an unreasonable infringement of their faith. Plus they avoid a direct confrontation on an issue with which most of their laity disagree.
Let’s make a deal.