We the Catholic people of the United States say enough is enough

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

by Marissa Valeri

In February, when a Congressional committee had a hearing about the new policy requiring no-copay coverage of contraception in employee health plans Nancy Pelosi pointed out something ironic— “Imagine they're having a panel on women's health, and they don't have any women on the panel—duh!” Like me, the House Minority Leader is a mother and a Catholic, and I think it’s safe to say that we’re both straight shooters. Moms don’t have time to beat around the bush. To me, being a mom means being focused—on work, on my son’s needs, on steering my family forward. It also means that I head straight for the bottom line when it comes to reproductive health policy, which in this case could be summed up with three letters—duh.

The bishops have tried to cloud the contraception coverage issue with a lot of rhetoric, but it’s not hard for me to see that they’ve been trying to speak for my conscience in a way that is anything but Catholic. My faith tradition teaches that each person should be trusted with the ability to make her or his own moral decisions, which is what the policy requiring employers to offer no-cost coverage is designed to support.

You may say that the hierarchy’s opposition to reproductive choice is nothing new, and you would be right. In the 1960s the hierarchy decided to uphold the ban on contraception, and it’s been resolutely refusing to factor in women’s health concerns, and the sexuality of Catholic couples of all kinds, ever since. I’m a Catholic mother who uses contraception: in the bishops’ minds I, and the 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women who have used modern contraception, just don’t count. The bishops have had hurt feelings about healthcare reform since the beginning, but I and other Catholics are sadly so used to having our lived experience discounted that we’re not surprised when the hierarchy pursues hurtful policies in our name.

But things have ramped up in an important way with the contraception debate. My Catholicism is important to me—it’s a vital part of who I am and it is the fuel that keeps the whole enterprise of being a mom and an advocate for reproductive healthcare going. For the past few months, the bishops’ message has been that there’s something suspect in my conviction that each woman can, and should, make the decision to use contraception for herself. And, according to the bishops, I’m somehow less Catholic for it.

Each of these profound differences between me and the Catholic bishops comes down to a “duh!” moment. To that level where those of us engaged in the really important tasks of daily living are confronted with someone who just doesn’t get it. Catholics committed to social justice have come together to tell America, “We the Catholic people of the United States say enough is enough.” When we say that each person has the right to follow what her conscience says—not her employer, not her bishop—we’re not doing it wrong. No-cost contraception coverage for all women is a no-brainer, and something we should all be able to support. This Mother’s Day, my hope is that we do – on behalf of all mothers who deserve to have their consciences and their decisions honored and respected

Marissa Valeri conducts the organization’s outreach to prochoice advocates and activists throughout the US and fosters coordinated and complementary efforts supporting CFC’s mission, including online advocacy.

This post is part of our series on supporting young moms, as a follow up to our Mama's Day Our Way blog series