Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sex: Is it secret? Is it safe?

This post will focus much more on the latter question than the former, I just felt the need to make a Lord of the Rings reference. If thinking of Gandalf and sex in the same thought has an adverse effect on your libido, just consider that my little Valentine's day gift to you. If it does not, well, consider it a gift anyway ;) Anyway, considering that it is Valentine's Day, or was, and the major kerfuffle going on in United States politics, I thought it would be appropriate to take today to talk about contraception or, more understandably, birth control.

Some politicians are trying to mandate that employers provide their employees with health care plans that cover birth control. This is quite in line with the "American way," of requiring employers foot the bill for health care. Furthermore, since employers are not allowed to hand their employees a box of band-aides and call that their "health care," I imagine there are current standards for what health care plans must cover. This simply adds birth control to said list.

Problems arise because some religious sects within our nation feel that birth control is immoral. And I don't just mean that using birth control is immoral, but apparently buying it is also immoral. They are consequentially claiming that being required to provide their employees insurance that covers birth control is a violation of their freedom of religion.

While I am a fan of religion being a person, rather than public, matter, I feel that we already have certain limitations on freedom of religion. No matter how devout I am, human sacrifice is just going to be illegal, because the government's mandate to respond to harm to its citizens outweighs its mandate to let them do whatever they want in the name of their beliefs.  I feel that hiding behind a pulpit as one tries to manipulate women and dictate what they may or may not do in the name of reproductive health is a similarly odious example of religious abuse. To use a perhaps less inflammatory metaphor, this would be like a religious group arguing that their teachings encourage physical health, so they should not be forced to provide health plans to their employees covering treatment for type II diabetes or heart surgery. If their employees were all kool-aide drinking initiates then this might be acceptable, but insofar as a religion employs people from outside the fold they have a responsibility to treat them in a manner that society deems respectful.

That said, I do sympathize with the opposing view on some level. I do agree that paying for contraceptives should not be a church's responsibility, or Microsoft's or any employer's. And I think the same thing about heart surgery and cancer treatments. If we claim to be an enlightened, civilized culture, the healthcare available to our citizens should not be used as a stick to bully them into employment, and their health should not be made contingent on finding a job. At the philosophy conference I attended last weekend a radical Marxist made the following comment regarding Occupy Wall Street's efforts to reform capitalism, "Reforms can only show the limits of the system to be reformed." As soon as he said that my mind jumped to the contraceptive debate, as whatever validity the religious objectors have only stands as a criticism of the current, employer provided, healthcare system. However, as the US is unlikely to have a compassionate epiphany in the near future and attempt to reason out what alterations to the healthcare system would be required to extend its coverage to all our citizens, let us, for the moment, concentrate on expanding the number of women who have their own control over their reproductive health. If they, subsequently, use this freedom to adhere to the teachings of some church or another, then I say that they are truly expressing their religious freedom.


Anonymous said...

I'm always annoyed by the birth control controversy. Every poll I have ever found or heard referenced say that the vast majority of Christians (both Catholic and Protestant) have either used birth control at some point in their lives or support its use. If religion were a democracy, birth control would be considered as much other types of health care (regardless of your view on other types of health care). Instead, it seems that the religious leaders, the most vocal "keepers of the faith," advocate for a view that even their followers don't believe.

Interesting Reading: http://www.harrisinteractive.com/vault/Harris-Interactive-Poll-Research-New-Finds-Different-Religious-Groups-H-2005-10.pdf

Anonymous said...

It's a good thing the church, like America, is not a democracy. It decides to stand by its beliefs and set an example to the ones who choose to follow it. Also, why is it bad for the person that benefits from health insurance, pay for said health insurance?

Karen said...

Kenny - I know that one thing that some churches are worried about is that there is going to be an increasing number of encroachments on their freedom of religion. First they have to provide birth control, then maybe next they have to provide abortions or marry homosexual couples. I can understand the concern. I also want to point out that I think you missed the point that many leaders in the churches you refer to probably honestly believe that it is best for their followers. I doubt that it is a malicious attempt to suppress women. For example, in the Catholic church I know that they (or at least some of the churches) encourage the use of Natural Family Planning which is a joint effort between the couple and can be very effective with proper use.

I just mention that because I think it's dangerous to label people as manipulators of women when that is not their intent. (Although, I'm sure that some people have that intent, I doubt it is even close to the majority.) In a similar vein, some people against abortion have no desire to manipulate women either. Just a thought.

Anonymous - "Also, why is it bad for the person that benefits from health insurance, pay for said health insurance?"

I'm not Kenny, but I couldn't ignore this question. I found your question interesting because I could substitute so many things in the question instead of health care. For example: Why is it bad for the person that benefits from the food to pay for said food?
Or how about shelter? Clothing? Water? With this type of question as our guide, I think we could justify eliminating our country's aid to all people.

However, I think that most people believe that we have an obligation as a society to help those who are in need of help, and I'm not trying to imply that you don't. Thus, I think that perhaps a more useful question is simply, "Should our country make it a goal to make health insurance and/or health care available to all of its citizens?"

My answer: Certainly I understand that our country can't provide all the needs of all of its citizens. However, I personally believe that we should do our best to provide for our citizens. I can't in good conscience wholly defend our system because, while it works quite well for those who are well off, it just really leaves too many people in a lurch. I've read and watched documentaries about health care systems in countries that provide health care to all citizens, and I really think we can learn from them and maybe pick and choose ideas to make something work here. So, I do hope that our country decides to develop a new system that provides health care to all of its citizens.

elfarmy17 said...

(That whole first paragraph made me smile.)

Am I correct in interpreting this as churches (being employers) objecting to being forced to pay for birth control? Or are they just objecting to _any_ employer paying for it?

Although I think for a more universal healthcare system to take effect, we need to stop waging war against people. Otherwise we'll never have the money- war is expensive, and if money is going to war, there's no way tax rates will be _raised_.

I remember learning about Sweden's welfare system in middle school, and that seemed pretty great.

Kenny said...

First off, let me say that I am absolutely delighted to have two anonymous comments that do not seem to be from SpamBots! You have both made my day. Of course, hearing from Karen and ElfArmy also makes my day, so I just had four days right here, too bad I couldn't get more done with all that time ;)

@Anonymous 1: One of my friends on the other side of the issue posted a criticism of such studies. Usually their sample consists of sexually active women seeking to avoid pregnancy. Nothing terribly wrong with this, these are the people for whom birth control has its primary benefit, but it does mean that the statistics ought not be held indicative of all people of said religion. However, the study you linked may not have this issue.

@Anonymous 2: It is bad because it is hard to determine who benefits from something. The employer definitely benefits, because having an employee on maternity leave costs money. If she is sleeping with a guy or guys, they benefit, assuming they do not want to support children right now. Society also benefits because children whose parents are not able to materially provide for them are at an increased risk of becoming criminals or other anti-social behavior. However, when someone asserts that the person who benefits should pay for something, what they usually mean is not that they don't benefit from it, but that someone else will benefit more, and thus they can "play chicken" with that person to externalize the cost and still reap the benefit, which is a little disingenuous.

Setting aside the hypothesis that society as a whole does benefit from increased availability of birth control, why is it bad for society to decide that having health care should be part of our standard of living? We are a rich society, surely we can use some of this wealth to try to become a good society in which to live?

Kenny said...

@Karen: The trouble with slippery slopes is that they tend to go both ways. Yes, I can see the church being worried about increasing encroachment from government, but I'm worried about increasing encroachment into social reform by the church. Churches who believe in the morality of a hard days work demanding the "right" to utilize child labor.

Consider mom and dad, they were not married in some specific church because one of them hadn't been baptized in the right way. I'm fairly sure that, insofar as their function is actually religious, churches autonomy from the state is safe, as it should be. However, when they employ non-churchmembers, the church is acting as a public employer, and should be subject to rules governing them as such. Furthermore, I believe institutions employing mostly churchmembers would be exempt from this law, so this isn't simply an attempt on behalf of the church to tell their members how best to live, but also non-members.

Regarding labeling people as manipulators of women. As I understand it the main objection to birth control is that it leads to a devaluation of sex. It does so because it removes one of the most serious consequences of sex, namely pregnancy. Pregnancy is, predominantly, a burden bore by the women. Ergo, people are trying to keep sex taboo by preserving the hazards it poses to women, and anyone following something along these lines of reasoning I am going to call, without remorse, a manipulator of women, or perhaps something even less complementary ;)

I like your answer to Anonymous 2, which is why I spent most of my response developing an alternative answer, and only a bit on something akin to yours, because you covered that one so well.

@ElfArmy: I'm always glad to amuse ;)

I think they would object to any employer paying for it, but the grounds for their freedom of religion objection is that the church, specifically, has to pay for it.

I agree, society would need to be significantly different to implement a universal health care system, and it would be nice if we were to start moving in that direction. Not in the least because the fringe benefits of such alterations, like not making war on other nations.

Anonymous said...

@Karen - You could easily substitute food or shelter or water into my previous question, but does that mean the government should be able to force employers to provide them? That is my major concern. I agree that we as a society need to volunarily offer up our own resources to help those in need. I do NOT think the government should take our money to spend how they wish in the name of 'helping others.' I put 'helping others' in quotes because generally it is the government helping themselves, but they make their voters feel better about themselves when they tell them that they are 'helping others.'

It is not as if birth control is some scarce resource that is hard to come by, they hand it out fo free to elementary students! So why is it so important for the government to mandate it and why now? Why stop at birth control? I could make the arguement that society would be better off if everyone owned a house on the beach. Let's just mandate that employers have to provide beach houses to their employees and everyone will win!

Universal health care is also a terrible idea; it doesn't work and there is plenty of evidence to support that. What we need is for the government to get out of the insurance industry and let the insurance companies form their own plans. Have any of you ever looked at what your healh plans cover? If you could choose what you want covered by your insurance, how much of that would you actually keep? The fact is you can't choose because the government mandates that every insurance policy covers certain things (e.g. an 18 year old, single male cannot purchase health insurance that doesn't cover in vitro fertilization). These mandates drive up the cost of insurance and make it less obtainable to the general public. The government is making it so more and more people must rely on their employers to get health insurance. Get the government our tf the way and prices will go down and more people will be insured.

I am Anonymous #2.

Karen said...

@Kenny- Certainly slippery slopes go both ways, which is why I attempt to remain Queen of the Hill. ;) Yesterday, I watched Monday's Daily Show and shook my head as people were saying that Obama was declaring war on religion and compared this circumstance to Hitler's Germany. Oh dear.

I really don't think I have all the answers to this one. I recognize that there is an overreaction on the religious side which makes a lot of noise, yet I can understand those with concern about providing money that helps others to "sin". Of course, from my viewpoint, it seems odd to me that providing money to health plans that provide birth control isn't OK but that it's OK to buy clothes made in a sweatshop, etc. I also feel like they already were putting money in a company that was probably providing birth control to some people somewhere, so I'm not sure what the difference really is. I guess just that the employees in their hospitals will have access to it. Economic ethics/morality is kind of complicated.

I still question calling the people who hold these views "manipulators of women". Especially since many women hold these views, and many of the men who hold the views are willing to share the responsibility of child-rearing (although, of course, it's most challenging for them to equally share the responsibility of pregnancy). If you want to continue calling them such, I see your logic. I just try shy away from negative labels because I feel like both sides use them and it just fuels the fire instead of adding to the conversation. That's just my opinion of how to deal with things though, and I understand yours, too. (You also might be able to find times when I've used negative labels. It's hard to avoid it when you disagree with someone vehemently!)

Karen said...

@Anonymous 2- First, I must say that I thought you were referring to universal healthcare in your first post which I think will make my comment seem more relevant to the situation.

I think I am understanding that you hold the opinion that our government's role is not to provide social services to help others. I would say, though, that the services currently provided do help people. People on unemployment during a rough patch probably agree, as do my college students receiving grants, as do single working moms feeding their kids with the help of WIC. While it may help the government to help others, I feel like it doesn't make sense to stop helping just to spite the government. Of course, you might still not believe that the government is actually helping anybody, so we might just part ways in our understandings in that regard.

I do have vague knowledge that there are some ways to get free contraception (most likely condoms, I'd guess, though maybe pills). However, I'm pretty sure that an IUD doesn't ever come free, and I don't know about other options. My husband and I choose to use Natural Family Planning, so I confess that I'm pretty clueless about the process of getting birth control. At the very least, maybe women have to go to a different clinic/doctor than their primary physician to receive the free birth control, and that might be part of what they're trying to stop so that women can just get it from their regular doctor. I can't find out much about this right now because when I try to Google it, I just get a bunch of results about the current debate. Go figure! ;)

Karen said...

And continued...

"Why stop at birth control? I could make the arguement that society would be better off if everyone owned a house on the beach. Let's just mandate that employers have to provide beach houses to their employees and everyone will win!"
I believe it is due to a history of poor working conditions in our country that we have laws that require employers to do certain things. I personally believe that laws to protect employees are basically a good idea (although probably not always perfectly implemented). As such, lines have to be drawn somewhere whether it be before or after birth control. With all laws and decisions lines are drawn. This is pretty much unavoidable, I think.

I'd like to see the evidence that universal health care "doesn't work." I'm sure that it will not work as well for some people, but I think that other countries have found that it works better for many people. Every system has its benefits and problems.

I don't know exactly how prices are determined, but I'd guess that having insurance for in vitro fertilization on an 18-year-old single male's insurance plan is not making his plan much more expensive because the actuaries probably calculate that the probability of that male using insurance for that reason is low. Whereas perhaps the 18-year-old may have a more expensive plan because he has a higher probability of getting hurt by being reckless? Nothing I have read so far has ever mentioned government regulation as being a significant cause of health care prices being expensive. People avoiding insurance until they absolutely need it, yes. People visiting the ER instead of going to the doctor for preventative care, yes. Insurance companies making large profits, yes. If you have evidence that the current government regulations cause insurance to cost more, I'd be happy to see it and consider it.

The last thing I have on my mind as I write this is that you mentioned that society has a responsibility to those in need, but the government shouldn't. I just want to say that if I believed that society would/could do a better job than the government, I'd jump on the wagon. However, my personal opinion is that the government has the power to organize and use resources efficiently. Admittedly, this doesn't always happen and I'm up for some reform in areas, but my personal view is that I want to work toward fixing our system instead of scrapping it. Of course, this is just an opinion and you have every right to disagree with it. :)

Kenny said...

Wow Karen, way to write a response that was longer than the post. Or, to rephrase, way to write a response that was longer than one of MY posts!

@Anonymous 2: I'm pretty sure the government is society's way of voluntarily offering up its resources to help those in need. That said, I agree that there is a rather large and unfortunate disconnect between the will of the people and the policies enacted by politicians these days. As such, I am a fan of more local government (not smaller government, just less centralized government).

I sincerely doubt that they are handing out birth control pills to elementary schoolers. Also, check out Sweden's health care system. Whenever someone tells me a "liberal" policy "doesn't work," I check to see if Sweden is doing it. Same way when someone pushes the conservative agenda, I check to see how it worked out in Somalia.

The trouble with choosing a plan to cover what we want it to cover, is that seems to defeat the purpose of health care, that is to aggregate and share risk. What I really want my health care to cover is the conditions that I am going to get, and nothing else, but taken to that extreme I am simply paying my own health bills. I mean, who, other than someone at risk for Huntington's, would want Huntington's covered by their health insurance?

@Both Anonymous 2 and Karen: I believe that a compelling argument can be made that employers are responsible for health care because of the culture of "rugged individualism" and "Protestant work ethic" in our country. We think people ought to have health insurance, but we lack the political will to just come out and give it to people, so we attach it as a rider to employment (this is the same thing we did with Social Security) so we feel like people are earning it. No, it isn't particularly fair to employers, but it is the American way!

@Karen: I have never understood the universal aversion to negative political ads. If someone does something bad, like divorcing their wife on her sickbed, twice, pointing that out seems perfectly reasonable, as long as it is relevant (otherwise it is just an ad hominem attack). Also, I am perfectly fine calling women manipulators of women if they want to hold other women's bodies hostage to their concept of a "moral" life. They, and you of course, are free to do whatever seems right for your own reproductive health, but I would like it if they extend the same courtesy to others. Also, I consider being a manipulator of women a negative thing, but it sure seems like a lot of people want to manipulate women, so when does something stop being a "negative label" and just become a piece of information?

In regards to the men willing to share the responsibility for child rearing, that really only applies to the women with whom they are sleeping, doesn't it? They aren't offering to foot half the bill for all women in this country who could become pregnant, which is the population this birth control bill affects. That said, I think if two heterosexual people are going to sleep with each other, they ought to be on the same page regarding what they'd do in the event (however unlikely) that a pregnancy resulted. This is doubly important for the guy, since he won't have a say legally. Sure, this might put a damper on some one night stands, but I'm enough of a conservative that I'm not terribly distraught at that possibility ;)

Anonymous said...

A quick Google search shows programs in various states handing out birth control to elementary and middle school students. The fact of the matter is, the President of the United States of America does NOT have the authority to mandate what a private company sells or how much they sell it for.

I believe this is all just a political ploy to gin up votes. The media narrative is shifting from who will pay for contraceptives to Republicans trying to ban them, even though there is no evidence of this.

Karen said...

Dude. I wrote a wicked awesome comment.

I think that you maybe aren't understanding my point yet, so I'm going to try to explain a bit more. I don't really care if you agree with me about this particular point, but I think it'd be cool if I can type well enough that you understand what I'm trying to say better. ;)

See, I'm not against "negative" political ads where people point out what other candidates have done in their past (as long as it's true and, you know, preferably not misleading). However, saying that someone has had a few affairs is not the same as saying they're a "two-timing cheating booger brain." One's a statement of what they do, one is a label. Similarly, I'm OK with saying that a result of the Catholic position on birth control is that women may end up pregnant more often which will make them less able to do other things, however that's not the same as Catholics being "manipulators of women."

Catholics also believe that it's morally wrong for men to divorce their wives after they get pregnant. So is that being a manipulator of men? That's going to cost him a lot of his hard-earned money and his time which he has a right to spend as he wants (since the woman should, right?)! Just sayin'.

I also feel like you aren't very happy with morals being imposed... if you don't agree with them. I think that an important role of religion is to help guide people into moral lives, whether it be "Do not murder" or "Do not use birth control."

Let the record state though that:
a) I personally don't think that using birth control is morally wrong.
b) While I just said that religions should help guide their followers, I personally believe God is who we answer to, not our religious leaders. That is, in my opinion, each individual has the responsibility of not following ANY people/person like a sheep, at least to the best of his/her ability.

As I've been talking about this to you in the past day or so, I've realized that there are still people I really want to label. Like, oh, members of a certain Westboro Baptist Church for example. The label "hateful religious wackos" comes to mind. How does that help the situation, though? To me, I guess that it boils down to the idea that we should definitely speak out when we think something is wrong; however, I think it's more helpful to just say what they're doing that's wrong instead of trying to label them. In this case, I think it is terribly wrong to say God hates anybody, I think it is horrible to protest at funerals, and I honestly believe that their actions show hate instead of love. I think that is more helpful, and maybe more fair, then calling them "hateful religious wackos".

Abortion is another issue where labels get thrown around annoyingly often. As I think you already know, I really do think that abortions happen too often, and I think that we should keep talking things out as a society because I personally think that humans don't have enough knowledge to determine when personhood starts. However, I don't label people as "murderers" or "baby haters" if they have an abortion or support abortion because I know that they might be working with different assumptions than I'm working with. Also, I think it'd be cool if people don't label me as a "manipulator of women" or "hater of choice" for thinking abortion (usually) is awful and wishing it was not such a large part of our society. Calling me a manipulator of women doesn't help us figure out where we disagree, and it doesn't address that complicated issue that is at stake.

Anyway, maybe I somehow made my point in there somewhere. ;)

Kenny said...

@Anonymous 2: Link please? I found this, "Centers in middle and high schools provide a range of reproductive health services, but few dispense contraceptives on-site," in a report here: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/tgr/03/5/gr030505.html

It doesn't mention elementary schools, but I would imagine that handing out birth control at an elementary school is done by even fewer campus clinics. Also, contraceptives is a vague term, I think condoms are more likely to be available (because they actually ARE cheap) than birth control pills.

@Karen: Thank you for elaborating. Maybe I should simply say that they are showing a callous disregard for the well-being and even the very person-hood of women, rather than simply assigning them a negative label. I'm afraid I do not understand your divorce analogy. Are you saying that the man shouldn't have a responsibility to provide for a child, since he has no say in whether it is brought to term? However, most divorces end up requiring the man to pay child support (not fairly perhaps, but damaging to the analogy). Insofar as the church is exerting its influence to make divorce unavailable to non-members regardless of the harm it will cause them in order to advance their agenda, then I would be comfortable calling them manipulators of men on that front. However, oddly enough, divorce really never comes under serious attack, couldn't possibly be because it is quite useful to heterosexual males! ;)

"I also feel like you aren't very happy with morals being imposed... if you don't agree with them." Ouch! That makes me out to be quite the hypocritical blackguard! Actually, as I have posted elsewhere, I do not believe morals can be imposed. A moral decision made under duress loses its essence of morality, and is simply succumbing to a bully. However, the "morals" that I am ok imposing on people are the ones that allow us to live in civilized society. As such, I'm ok with people being forced not to murder, not because I consider murder immoral (which I do) but because the fear of murder causes harm to society. I agree that one common thread that religions have is that they attempt to delineate what is the "right" thing to do, however, I am not sure what that has to do with this discussion. Especially since Jesus as much as told us to mind our own business when it comes to morality. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." "Why focus on the sliver in someone else's eye when you can hardly see past the plank in your own."

I wouldn't label you a manipulator of anyone. As far as I can tell, you aren't trying to tell people what they can and cannot do (telling people what they should and should not do is an entirely separate thing). And perhaps you are right that calling people who think it is more important to uphold the dogmatic code of their beliefs than help other people names is not productive (while we are on that subject though, didn't Jesus have something to say on whether religion or helping people was the more important calling...? ;) ). I am not particularly interested in turning what ought to be a discussion of how to help people into a discussion of how messed up the Catholic Church is, although that may be what I inadvertently did. And, to be honest, my powerful dislike for the "Catholic Church," not Catholics, nor even the high up clergy members as individuals, but the hierarchical and dogmatic institution as a totality, may have colored how I responded. However, I think my ideal solution wherein we have Universal Health Care and avoid the church/state issue altogether, indicates that my primary concern is to make these health benefits accessible to all who would want them, not some sort of hidden church crushing agenda.

Other than the booger brain part, I cannot see the difference between describing what Gingrich has done and calling him a "two-timing cheating booger brain."

Karen said...

Question: In your view, can these religious leaders/people do anything, aside from deciding that they don't mind funding birth control, to not be considered callous? Just curious.

You're right, my analogy falls apart a bit due to child support. A better analogy would be that the church believes that the father should spend time with his kids and be a role model for them rather than just kickin' it with his buddies all the time (which some men may prefer to do, just as some women don't wish to have kids). And I DO think that men have responsibility for their kids, monetary and otherwise! My point mostly was that churches tend to limit behavior for both men and women. I'm not arguing that it has often been more detrimental to women, but I just think that there is a balance and just because there is a rule that affects one more strongly than the other, it doesn't necessarily mean it's suppressing the sex that it is affecting although that is sometimes the case, so I know we need to be careful.

I see your point better now about moral impositions versus "societal protection" impositions, and it does make you appear far less hypocritical. (You have generally thought things out well, so I figured you'd have some reason for your decision. You did!) To me, the question then becomes: What makes a civilized society? Does a civilized society murder? Use birth control? Perform abortions? Have women going topless? What counts as murder, anyway? Maybe it seems obvious that murder shouldn't be OK, but it probably didn't always seem that way to humans in history.

It just seems ambiguous and impossible to agree on which seems to lead us back to square-one almost. :/

Well, what if I do want to regulate abortion further at the federal level because I believe that no civilized society uses abortion as birth control? (I do believe in exceptions, personally.) Then do I become a manipulator? (In case you're curious, I still waffle back and forth on what kind of law, if any, I would hope to see. Yet, I do think that we as a society are callous with our young.)

I know we totally both agree that Jesus was more concerned about loving and caring for people over rules. I think that we all just wrestle with how exactly to do this best. In particular, how do we work in a representative democracy to help others and protect people but not make our goal be regulating morality?

Jesus also told the woman to "go and sin no more." So that leaves us in the position of feeling the need to figure out what it right and wrong so that we can avoid wrong (and hopefully even do right!).

Agreed, the government is not trying to crush the church here, and universal health care would be a nice solution.

Right, I currently have no proof (just some suspiciously good evidence) that Gingrich is in fact a booger brain. Until proof can be substantiated, all I can say is that he merely cheated on his wives and got a couple of divorces. I'm glad we're now on the same page about labels. ;)

Sorry if I'm commenting too much. :P

Kenny said...

Karen, the main reason I started this blog is because I wanted to get serious discussion of and feedback on ideas that I haven't as much since moving away from my amazingly thoughtful and critical (as in, willing to critique) McNary friends and ceased to be a practicing philosopher (for the moment). So, no, you are not commenting too much ;)

In answer to your question, yes. I would have no objection to the church working toward some solution wherein people who want birth control have the same access, whether or not the work for the Catholic Church, but the church is not directly paying for the birth control. In fact, I found an article that said that President Obama was calling for insurance companies to absorb the costs of birth control, rather than pass it along to the church. I am not exactly sure what this means, and, with Anonymous 2, I'm not sure the President can get away with mandating this, but it seems to have won over a lot of Catholic organizations.

In regard to your revised analogy, there is still no effort made to prevent fathers from spending a lot of time away from their children. On a related note, the societal norm is that women need to worry about whether they can hold a job and still be a good mother to their children, but men have far looser requirements when it comes to child rearing. Of course, being unable to adequately provide for one's family will be psychologically damaging to a woman, but will bring her much less societal condemnation than it would a man. So, I'm not saying that women have it worse in every facet of life, just that your particular analogy highlights a facet in which women seem to have it worse than men. Oh, and in regard to churches regulating everyone's behavior, as long as it is restricted to members of the church, I have no problem with that.

Kenny said...

In my opinion a civilized society is one in which citizens feel safe to associate with each other. Murder and assault must be illegal, although this may only apply to citizens. I think one can gauge something about the morality of a society by how widely it expands its civil protections, but really only citizens need enjoy them. Some form of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly seems necessary in order to facilitate interactions. Birth control and abortions aren't requirements of civilization in my view, but birth control becomes one if sexual interactions become a type of interaction that society wishes to protect (the minimal requirements above really only help social interactions), the same way contract enforcement becomes necessary if economic interactions are desired.

In my opinion, the minimal abortion laws need to provide women with some window in which to decide whether they want to bring their fetus to term. Maybe they don't allow abortions all the way through the second trimester, but no woman should be surprised by a child after the deadline. The deadline, whatever it is, should not prevent an abortion in the event that the parents learn that their child has a severe health problem. I am not saying that such people cannot live wonderful and fulfilling lives, just that raising such a child places unexpectedly high burdens on the parents emotional and economic resources, and if they are going to raise such a child, it should be their choice. Finally, any time a pregnancy threatens a serious health condition or death to the mother, it should be her choice alone whether the pregnancy is continued! Is there anything in particular in here with which you disagree?

And, in regards to using abortion as birth control, I see no reason a woman who has free access to contraceptives as birth control would choose to use abortion as birth control. In fact, the evidence tends to support a correlation, in the long term, between increased contraceptive use and decreased abortion. So yay contraception!

Also, are you calling fetuses "our young"? I'm going to have to disagree with that on a technical point, since young is a descriptor of age and, in our society, age starts at birth.

"In particular, how do we work in a representative democracy to help others and protect people but not make our goal be regulating morality?" I think your question answers itself, help others, don't regulate their morality. That is, make help available, don't require people make use of it. And yes, Jesus told her to go forth and sin no more, which leaves her in the position of needing to figure out what is right and wrong, but who did he tell to keep an eye on her to make sure she stayed on the straight and narrow?

Karen said...

That seems like a reasonable compromise. I don't understand how the money in insurance works either. (I already explained that I don't understand how this law makes things any different since I feel like all the money in the insurance company ends up being spread to everybody, so technically we're all paying for each others' surgeries, birth control, etc.) It does seem like Obama is working to provide for the secular worker while not causing moral guilt for the church people. Best of luck to him, and I hope that they respect him for it.

Yeah, I'm sure it's not a perfect example. It seems like you understand the point I was trying to make, though.

I agree with a lot of the structure that you appreciate in a civilization. In general, I think your description is often how ours works, and for that reason I do feel fairly free to form my own beliefs and do what I want in my life (within reason).

Regarding the issue of abortion, I do think that we part ways in some regards. My issues is that I honestly have no clue when "personhood" begins, and it makes me nervous to choose an arbitrary marker (second trimester, after birth) for when it does begin. I do consider fetuses our young, as does probably any mother or father anticipating the arrival of the baby in the womb. I am not talking about their age as we measure it. When I am pregnant someday, I will begin providing for my child through what I eat and how I take care of myself throughout the pregnancy. Parenthood really begins during pregnancy, and dads can get involved through emotional support and other methods, too.

As a result, I don't feel like I can, in good conscience, agree that we can set a marker for when a woman should be allowed to make a choice to have an abortion. It also worries me to make it OK to abort babies because they are not what parents hoped for (for example, many with Down Syndrome are aborted). It seems arbitrary to say that once the baby comes out of the womb, it is protected. And it is currently exactly that since partial-birth abortions are legal.

I think you know that I am pro-woman (and pro-man... and pro-people), but I just don't really know if the fact that pregnancy is an inconvenience that is held primarily by a woman is a good enough reason to say that every woman should have the choice about whether or not to carry the pregnancy to term.

So, my concerns are:
a) I can't in good conscience say I have a way to determine when a human life needs to be protected, so I lean toward not drawing a line.
b) As such, I feel like it is part of protecting our civilization to protect the unborn.
c) I do respect people trying to protect the rights of women, and I know that women's rights is still an area that we are working on in society. That being said, I personally feel like I can't really get behind the cause of protecting a woman's right to choose to end another life due to inconvenience, which is, as far as I know, what abortion is and why it's usually done.

I accept that this is a complicated issue though, for the following reasons (and more):
a) I personally agree that abortion to save the mother's life should be legally acceptable, and this might be challenging to regulate.
b) I realize that not everybody agrees with my conclusion that humans cannot determine when a fetus becomes a human deserving protection.
c) I also can't in good conscience be against legalized abortion without simultaneously standing for our country doing more to help people prevent unwanted pregnancies, support women who ARE pregnant, and support families in need.

Karen said...

Regarding Jesus and the woman: I think we both agree that God is the one that will work in her life to keep her on the straight and narrow. I wasn't trying to imply that we should regulate that. My real point is that while we as individuals try to stay on the straight and narrow, it can be complicated as we try to apply our morals making political decisions. However, I do think that people should do what they think is "right" when it comes to political action. Personally, I think we just all need to realize that it's NOT the end of the world when our side doesn't win. However, I think we should keep standing up for and discussing our beliefs and working for change if we feel it warrants it, even if it makes the opposing side unhappy that we don't just "let it go".

Anyway, that's just where I am at this point.

How far our discussion has wandered from your original post... ;)