Day-after pill seems to be an exception

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Reactions continue against the Obama Administration's retracted policy that would have required religious organizations and businesses they support such as hospitals to provide health insurance for birth control, abortion, sterilization and, according to some interpretations of the Health and Human Services edict, the morning-after pill.

The issue started as a matter of religious freedom. That aspect of the on-going public debate is a valid and worthwhile topic, regardless of your faith or personal practices. The public debate was then couched as one of contraception. It's also become the starting point for conversations about women's rights. A congressional inquiry on a related issue was criticized because it didn't include a woman on the panel. That argument digressed into specifics on invitations and deadlines to reply.

However, it didn't take long to realize that there's no need for health insurance coverage for the morning after pill because it's a pharmaceutical sold over the counter. As a result, the question is asked: Why would there be insurance coverage for such a pill? Does your health insurance pay for aspirin? Even one of my former editors denied my claim for reimbursement for an antacid when I suffered indigestion after interviewing some particularly nutty newsmakers in another county nearly 20 years ago.

The convergence of two local stories made the realization possible. Those stories being Catholic bishops' reaction to a federal edict, and city councilmen changing insurance agents. The city's insurance policy covers health claims by city employees, most of whom have alrady had their children and are aware of the birds and the bees.

Anyway, does the city employees' health insurance policy cover the practices opposed by the Catholic Church, those being contraception, abortion and sterilization? Yes, but not the day after pill. That's according to a nice lady at City Hall who'd prefer to remain nameless because it's a sensitive issue. She wasn't sure that a prescription would be needed for the pill that causes a rejection of what would presumably grow into a fetus and is therefore considered by many a human life.

She suggested I ask a pharmacist.

The corporate spokesman for a national and well-known pharmacy said that a prescription isn't needed for purchase of morning after pills. Someone buying the product, however, must be an adult.

Another pharmacist with a store on the public square refuses to sell the product. It's a matter of choice. Her choice.

There was some national news controversy over whether the product could be sold to a man if his female companion wasn't present at the time of purchase.

None of this ends the public debate that's become part of this nation's on-going presidential primary and the pending election campaign.

Freedom of religion and the right of people of faith to be free from government directives over matters of religious conscience are at the foundation of why people came to the New World and those reasons are acknowledged by the founding fathers in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

It's also been interpreted to be a freedom from religion. That is, for example, The Church of England can't tell you what to believe. That was happening just a few centuries ago. It was emphasized when Sen. John F. Kennedy told voters that he would not be following any edict from the Catholic Church if he was elected president. It would appear that one of the candidates for the GOP nomination has tried to say the same thing, if not so eloquently.

So, now we know. Priests, nuns, Catholic hospitals and the like aren't going to be required to have health insurance policies that cover contraception.

What a relief and what a reminder that modern medicine and technology offer a way to outflank morality.

Meanwhile, what a relief it is to know that such debate is protected by that same First Amendment.

These views are the author's and not necessarily reflective of the Tribune's views.