Why Does Congress Allow a Pedophilia-ridden Church to Control Women’s Rights?

Jodi Jacobson

If you are, like me, confused about the answer to this question, please raise your hand....or better yet....ask your Congressperson, Senator and the President: Why is a pedophilia-ridden, pedophilia-hiding, child-abusing Church allowed to write laws controlling women's rights?

If you are, like me, confused about the answer to this question, please raise your hand….or better yet….ask your Congressperson and Senator.  And ask the President.

Why is a pedophilia-ridden, pedophilia-hiding, child-abusing Church allowed to write laws controlling women’s rights?

I am talking, of course, about the Catholic Church and specifically about the hierarchy….not the good people of the Catholic faith. 

The Church whose leadership, in case we didn’t already know this, has now been proven to have purposefully hidden an epidemic of pedophilia and–to protect priests, not born children–reassigned serial sex offenders to other parishes to offend again.  The kind of people who, if they were not priests protected by the hierarchy of the Church would not be allowed by US law to come anywhere near children or schools?

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According to the newest revelations reported in the New York Times:

Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit. [emphasis mine].

The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.

The documents emerge as Pope Benedict is facing other accusations that he and direct subordinates often did not alert civilian authorities or discipline priests involved in sexual abuse when he served as an archbishop in Germany and as the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer.

As many as 200 deaf children molested.  The Pope himself as Cardinal–and as the Church’s chief doctrinal enforcer–more worried about the possible scandal to the Church than the abuse of born children.  As a mother, I am so sickened I can barely type.

You know that doctrine that they enforce?  The one that makes women lower on the totem pole than a fertilized egg?  The one that in Nicaragua has a woman whose life is threatened with cancer, hospitalized at 8 weeks pregnant, refused either an abortion or cancer treatment because the egg, embryo, fetus is so much more important than that woman’s life (or the future of her 10-year-old daughter)?  You know the doctrine that says they will excommunicate the mother of a 9-year-old girl in Brazil because she insisted that her daughter, pregnant with twins as a result of rape by her step-father (rape of a then-8-year-old girl) be allowed an abortion?  The one that talks incessantly about the “sanctity of life” (until after you are born)?  The Church that supports organizations that threaten to remove the social services they provide to all poor people in the District of Columbia because they find offering insurance benefits to married same sex couples so offensive?

The Church that refuses to provide even preventive reproductive health care to women while using federal dollars because it “offends their morals?”

The Church of “abstinence-only” programs that have resulted in countless teens across this country obtaining sexually-transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies?

I ask again: Why is that Congress allows a pedophilia-ridden, pedophilia-hiding, child-abusing Church allowed to write laws about women’s rights?

And I am talking about deals cut over the past several years with the consent of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and other leading Democrats including:

  • The 11th hour vote on the Stupak Amendment last fall in the health reform debate allowed by Speaker Pelosi after closed door meetings with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
  • The midnight-rewriting in 2008–the night before a vote–of the original reauthorization bill of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in which the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops–aided in this case by Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), Congressman Joe Pitts (R-PA), and Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN)–worked long into the night with Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA) and his staff–with the blessing of the Speaker–to:
  • deny HIV-positive women access to contraceptive supplies to avoid unwanted pregnancies (because these women knew already they would not live to raise any child born); r
  • restrict integration of HIV prevention and family planning services, even though both unintended pregnancies and HIV infection are catastrophic public health problems in Africa and both result from unprotected sexual intercourse;
  • re-insert into that bill abstinence-only-until marriage policies despite the fact that the Government Accoutability Office, the Institutes of Medicine and countless other analysts had proven these programs only served to leave people vulnerable to HIV infection.
  • I am talking about an HIV epidemic in which women now make up the majority of those infected and in which women and girls face the highest rates of new infections.  I am talking about policies that consigned untold numbers of women to death and continue to do so.

    I am talking about the Church that is invited into decision-making bodies on teen pregnancy, HIV prevention, comprehensive sex ed, by this Administration, in which the needs of “faith-based” organizations continue to take precedence over the health and rights of women, over pro-choice and women’s rights groups representing the majority of women in the United States, and over public health evidence and human rights in shaping public health policy.

    I am talking about a Church which the male-dominated media goes out of its way to protect.

    And I am offering here but a few examples of things about which I could easily write a book.

    When will this stop?  When will we actually–not just rhetorically–care more about science than ideology?  About women’s rights over a misogynistic male organization that can not even keep its hands off of children.?

    Only President Obama and the Democratic Leadership in both the House and Senate can provide those answers and only you can make them do so.

    Commentary Law and Policy

    Here’s What You Need to Know About Your Birth Control Access Post-Supreme Court Ruling

    Bridgette Dunlap

    Yes, the Zubik v. Burwell case challenged the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive coverage mandate. But that shouldn't stop you from getting your reproductive health needs met—without a co-payment.

    In May, the Supreme Court issued a sort of non-decision in Zubik v. Burwell, the consolidated case challenging the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employers provide contraceptive coverage. The ruling leaves some very important legal questions unanswered, but it is imperative that criticism of the Court for “punting” or leaving women in “limbo” not obscure the practical reality: that the vast majority of people with insurance are currently entitled to contraception without a co-payment—that includes people, for the most part, who work for religiously affiliated organizations.

    Two years ago, hyperbole in response to the Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby—that, for example, the Court had ruled your boss can block your birth control—led too many people to believe the contraceptive coverage requirement was struck down. It wasn’t. The Zubik decision provides a good opportunity to make sure that is understood.

    If people think they don’t have birth control coverage, they won’t use it. And if they don’t know what coverage is legally required, they won’t know when their plans are not in compliance with the law and overcharging them for contraceptives or other covered services, perhaps unintentionally. The point of the contraceptive coverage rule is to make it as easy as possible to access contraceptives—studies show seemingly small obstacles prevent consistent use of the most effective contraceptives. Eliminating financial barriers isn’t enough if informational ones undermine the goal.

    The most important thing to know is that most health plans are currently required to cover reproductive health services without a co-payment, including:

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    • One version of every kind of FDA-approved contraception—that is, only the generic or the brand-name version of the contraceptive could be covered, but at least one must be. So you shouldn’t be paying a co-payment whether you use the pill, the patch, the shot, or want long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) like an IUD, which is more expensive, but most effective.
    • Screening for HIV and high-risk strains of HPV
    • An annual well-woman visit
    • Breastfeeding counseling and supplies like pumps

    There are exceptions, but most plans should be covering these services without a co-payment. Don’t assume that because you work for Hobby Lobby or Notre Dame—or any other religiously affiliated employer—that you don’t currently have coverage.

    The original contraceptive coverage rule had an “exemption” for church-type groups (on the somewhat dubious theory that such groups primarily employ individuals who would share their employers’ objection to contraception). When other kinds of organizations, which had religious affiliations but didn’t primarily employ individuals of that same religion, objected to providing contraceptive coverage, the Obama administration came up with a plan to accommodate them while still making sure women get contraceptive coverage.

    This “accommodation” is a workaround that transfers the responsibility to provide contraceptive coverage from the employer to the insurance company. After the employer fills out a form noting it objects to providing contraception, the insurance company must reach out to the employee and provide separate coverage that the objecting organization doesn’t pay for or arrange.

    This accommodation was originally available only to nonprofit organizations. But dozens of for-profits, like Hobby Lobby, sued under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)—arguing that their owners were religious people whose beliefs were also burdened by the company having to provide coverage.

    The Hobby Lobby decision did not say your boss’s religious belief trumps your right to a quality health plan. What the Court did was point to the existence of the accommodation for nonprofits as proof that the government could achieve its goals of ensuring coverage of contraception through a workaround already in place to give greater protection to objectors. Basically, the Court told the government to give the for-profits the same treatment as the nonprofits.

    The Hobby Lobby decision states explicitly that the effect of this on women should be “precisely zero.” The Obama administration subsequently amended the contraceptive regulations, making coverage available to employees of companies like Hobby Lobby available through the accommodation. Hobby Lobby added some headaches for administrators and patients, but it did not eliminate the contraceptive coverage rule.

    Next, however, the nonprofits went on to argue to the Supreme Court and the public that the accommodation the Court had seemed to bless in Hobby Lobby also violated RFRA—because having to fill out a form, which notified the government that they objected to contraceptive coverage and identifying their insurers, would substantially burden their religious beliefs.

    Following oral arguments in Zubik, the eight-member Supreme Court issued a highly unusual order: It asked the parties to respond to its proposed modification of the accommodation, in which the government would not require objecting nonprofits to self-certify that they oppose contraception nor to identify their insurers. The government would take an organization’s decision to contract for a health plan that does not cover contraception to be notice of a religious objection and go ahead with requiring the insurer to provide it instead.

    The petitioners’ response to the Court’s proposed solution was “Yes, but…” They said the Court’s plan would be fine so long as the employee had to opt into the coverage, use a separate insurance card, and jump through various other hoops—defeating the goal of providing “seamless” contraceptive coverage through the accommodation.

    When the Court issued its decision in Zubik, it ignored the “but.” It characterized the parties as being in agreement and sent the cases back to the lower courts to work out the compromise.

    The Court told the government it could consider itself on notice of the petitioners’ objections and move forward with getting separate contraceptive coverage to the petitioners’ employees, through the accommodation process, but without the self-certification form. How the government will change the accommodation process, and whether it will satisfy the petitioners, are open questions. The case could end up back at the Supreme Court if the petitioners won’t compromise and one of the lower courts rules for them again. But for prospective patients, the main takeaway is that the Court ruled the government can move forward now with requiring petitioners’ insurers to provide the coverage that the petitioners won’t.

    So—if your plan isn’t grandfathered, and you don’t work for a church or an organization that has sued the government, your insurance should be covering birth control without a co-payment. (If your plan is grandfathered and your employer makes a change to that plan, then those formerly grandfathered plans would be subject to the same contraceptive coverage requirements.) If you do work for one of the nonprofit petitioners, the government should be making contraceptive coverage available even before the litigation is resolved. And in some cases, employees of the petitioners already have coverage. Notre Dame, for example, initially accepted the accommodation before being pressured by off-campus contraception opponents to sue, so its insurer is currently providing Notre Dame students and employees coverage.

    Don’t despair about the Supreme Court’s gutting access to contraception. Assume that you have coverage. The National Women’s Law Center has great resources here for finding out if your plan is required to cover contraception and how to address it with your insurance plan if it isn’t in compliance, and a hotline to call if you need help. The fact that equitable coverage of women’s health care is the new status quo is a very big deal that can be lost in the news about the unprecedented litigation campaign to block access to birth control and attacks on Obamacare more generally. Seriously, tell your friends.

    Commentary Politics

    A Telling Response: Trump’s Mistreatment of Women Evokes Yawn from GOP Leadership

    Jodi Jacobson

    Republican leaders have been largely dismissive of Donald Trump's misogynistic track record—which speaks volumes about the party's own treatment of women.

    This weekend, the New York Times published the results of interviews with more than 50 people, many of whom attested to the fact that in both private and public life, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump made “unwelcome romantic advances” toward women and exhibited “unsettling workplace conduct over decades.” Translation: He objectified, sexually harassed, and made unwelcome comments and advances toward women with whom he worked, whom he met in social settings, or who participated in his reality show empire. He even, according to one person quoted in the Times, sought assurance that his own daughter was “hot.” Yet GOP leadership has been largely dismissive of Trump’s track record—which speaks volumes about the party’s own feelings on women.

    While important in its detail, the Times story is anything but surprising. Trump is a historical treasure trove of misogynistic behavior and has talked about it openly. In an interview with Esquire, for example, Trump stated: “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” He has frequently made derogatory comments about the looks of female politicians, journalists, actresses, and executives: He’s claimed that “flat-chested” women can’t be beautiful and mused about the potential breast size of his infant daughter. He’s suggested that sexual assault in the military is “expected” because men and women are working together and that the thought of someone pumping breast milk is “disgusting.”

    Forgive me if I am not shocked that reports indicate he’s no feminist. Female voters know this: Even conservative news outlet National Review fretted about the fact that both Trump and former presidential aspirant Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) are both highly unpopular among female voters, noting that “seven out of ten women (67 percent) have an unfavorable view of Trump, and only 26 percent view him favorably… and [some] polls have his unfavorability ratings among women even higher, at 74 percent.”

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    In interviews this weekend, the Times‘ report elicited what was effectively a yawn from Reince Priebus, chair of the Republican National Committee, the guy charged with leading the GOP both in terms of the party’s platform and in helping its candidates across the country get elected. On Sunday, Fox News‘s Chris Wallace asked Priebus whether the reports of Trump’s mistreatment of women bothered him. Priebus responded by asserting that “people just don’t care” about all these stories, although when pressed, he suggested that Trump would have to answer to his own statements.

    But that dodges the question. Priebus is the head of the party and also needs to take responsibility for his nominee’s behavior, as does the party itself. He did not say, “I deplore the remarks Trump has made during the campaign,” or, “as a party, we need to reflect deeply on why our candidates and policies are so deeply unpopular among a group that makes up more than half the U.S. population.”

    Priebus said none of that. He just shooed the issues away. The fact he did not even attempt to address the substance of the Times article is the most telling news of all.

    The real problem is that it’s the GOP leadership that just doesn’t care. This morning, the Guardian reported that “After a week of make-up meetings with Donald Trump, Republican party leaders have arrived at a new strategy to accommodate their presumptive presidential nominee: ignore his problematic attitude to women, his tax issues and his fluctuating positions on trade, immigration, foreign relations and a host of other topics, and instead embrace the will of Republican voters.”

    The reality is that Trump’s “problematic attitude toward women” is not an isolated problem. For the GOP leadership, it is not a problem at all, but the product of their fundamental policies and positions. The GOP has been waging war on women’s fundamental rights for nearly two decades; it’s just gotten more brash and unapologetic about the attitudes underlying the party’s policies. The GOP is full of candidates who think pregnancy resulting from rape is a blessing; who minimize and stigmatize the role of access to contraception and abortion in public health and personal medical outcomes; who demonize and marginalize single mothers; and who won’t pay for basic services to help the poor. The GOP platform is built on policies that seek to deny women access to reproductive and sexual health care, including but not limited to abortion, thereby also denying them the right to self-determination and bodily autonomy. So the fact that both the party leaders and the media spun themselves into a tizzy when Trump suggested he would imprison women who had abortions was all theater. That is GOP policy.

    The GOP majority in Congress and in state legislatures continues to deny low-wage workers—the majority of whom are women—living wages, labor protections, and paid family leave. At the state level, Republican governors and legislators have obliterated funding for education, child care, aid to single-parent families, aid to children with disabilities, and basic health-care services. And Trump is far from unique in this election cycle among GOP presidential candidates: Republicans in the running from Ted Cruz on down have used women as objects when it is convenient, with Cruz going so far as to parade his two young daughters on the campaign trail in bright pink dresses, seemingly to underscore their “innocence” and to stoke fear of transgender persons seeking access to the most basic facilities, though many of those are young girls themselves.

    It’s not only Donald Trump’s mistreatment of women. It’s that the GOP’s platform is based on sheer misogyny, and the leadership has to ignore it or they’d have to rethink their entire platform and start from scratch.

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