Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog

Contraception Isn’t a PR Game; It’s a Woman’s Right

Feb 09, 2012

In public relations, 'spin' is the term people use when they would like a topic or story covered in a specific manner, in a certain light. In the realm of politics, unfortunately, some elected officials and their mouthpieces like to apply the same tactics while masking the truth from everyone. Case in point: contraception and the Catholic Church. Before falling victim to the hype, let's get one thing clear, this issue isn't about religious freedom or the federal government; it is about the rights of women all across this country to have access to appropriate care. It is about protecting the rights of those workers at religious institutions who may not be of that faith (and have no choice but to find work there), but deserve the same health care that a woman in corporate America does. This is about the notion that some religiously affiliated hospitals and schools receive federal money and therefore cannot deny a woman a federal guarantee. Let's get one thing straight, this is real 'class warfare' from the right and this time the victims are the most vulnerable -- women from lower-income neighborhoods.

Everyday, women from all corners of this nation head to work in religious Catholic hospitals and universities providing the necessary services so many of us rely on. Even in my hometown of New York City, many of the finest hospitals are religiously affiliated, and simultaneously staffed by an overwhelming number of women from the outer boroughs of Manhattan or from poorer neighborhoods within the city. In the unfortunate circumstance that you fall gravely ill in the Big Apple, chances are pretty high that a nurse, secretary, orderly, etc. helping to save your life works at this institution not because of her unyielding faith to religion, but because of her dedication to helping others. And though we may not want to face reality, often times, this woman is working at this facility because there simply are no other options available for her to provide for her family. Don't these women deserve the same rights as those on Wall St.? Why should they be denied access to contraception because their employer may be religiously opposed to the idea? If an institution is employing women from all sectors of society, how can they possibly dictate what these women can and cannot do when it comes to their own bodies?

As pundits and legislators scream about the federal government infringing on the religious rights of people, they might want to remember that many of these religious facilities have no trouble accepting federal aid. From Medicare to Medicaid and more, these institutions are taking taxpayer money to provide services, and should therefore provide appropriate coverage for their own employees. You cannot accept money from the federal government and then turn around and say 'federal government, you must do what I say'. This is hypocrisy at its highest and a coy attempt at slowly stripping away the liberties of all women. First, they will attack those without a voice; tomorrow, they will attack you.

There's a reason why most women -- including Catholic women -- use birth control and have no objection to its widespread usage. Unlike what the spin-doctors would have you believe, birth control pills aren't only utilized to prevent pregnancies, but rather a multitude of women use them for other health care needs. From regulating a woman's menstrual cycle to preventing ovarian problems, women everywhere take birth control as a means of protecting their own health, their bodies and the health of their future children. No one should be denied that right.

As Republicans realize more and more everyday that their potential candidate (whoever that may be) doesn't present a real challenge to the President, they will continue to fabricate these sorts of social wedge issues. Playing games with people's beliefs, they will try to make us think that President Obama is somehow infringing on our religious freedoms, when he in fact already exempted over 300,000 Churches from this rule. But when a religious institution employs people of all faiths and services people from all faiths, they have no right to obstruct women from having access to vital services. If it's women today, tomorrow they could just as easily decide to stop offering coverage to homosexuals, divorced individuals or any other group. Where would you draw the line?

Don't believe the spin, this isn't about religious freedom, this isn't about the President, this isn't about states' rights; it's about women -- all women -- having the ability to control their own health and well-being. And no man, hospital or university should ever be allowed to tell them otherwise.