Population Growth, Poverty, and Politics
Through a recent discussion with a cousin of mine I had an epiphany. I don't know why I didn't notice the Republican party fighting with itself before that moment. Perhaps it's because I'm a Democrat and I don't pay too much attention to the other side but I'm beginning to wonder if anyone else sees the circular reasoning in American politics?
Years ago people were required to have a large family in order to sustain themselves. Whether the children worked on the family farm or in a factory itself their contribution helped everyone survive. Today's world is much different. Many of us don't run a family farm and child labor laws thankfully prevent kids from working alongside their parents.
Anyone who has ever had a child knows a year's supply of birth control is drastically cheaper than prenatal care and a trip to the hospital. For those who do not have adequate health care coverage the medical bills of those less fortunate are paid with tax dollars. As a nation trying to get out of debt and balance our budget it is fiscally responsible to spend our money wisely. If people choose to have kids despite a lacking monetary circumstance America is a free country. For those who do not wish to have children they should be able to obtain contraceptives with an equal amount of freedom. I believe that is why Obama suggested insurance companies nationwide cover the cost of contraceptives for everyone.
Naturally the president is under attack by the Catholic church and those who oppose contraceptive use. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows that Catholics only make up 23.9% of the US population. More shocking is the fight that is occurring for what seems like no good reason. The Catholic church urges women not to use contraceptives but they are clearly not very successful. Studies show that 98% of Catholic women have used birth control at some time or another. With less than one quarter of America's religious population and women who do not follow the anti-contraceptive tradition, they are potentially leading America's health care system down a very dangerous path. The members of congress who support the Catholic church and anti-contraceptive supporters are fighting to allow any employer to deny coverage for any health care based purely on moral or religious objection.
If any employer is allowed to deny coverage based on their moral objection our already lacking healthcare system will further decline. In a fragile economy the incentive for businesses is to cut their expenses. Imagine how a company could cut its insurance premiums by omitting coverage for health care procedures. What if the company owner decides all illness is God's will and medical procedures oppose the company's beliefs? For those who don't think business can be so cruel remind yourself of the "pre-existing conditon" debacle. Insurance could deny coverage for medical procedures if they decided the condition originated before insurance coverage began. If Catholics or anyone for that matter doesn't want to use contraceptives that is their prerogative, but don't stand in the way of contraceptive coverage and basic health care for those who do seek it.
Some argue that a Catholic institution who pays for insurance that covers something they don't believe in is an infringement on their religious freedom. However, they are not directly paying the insurance company for the contraceptive coverage. The mandate does not require church-affiliated institutions to directly pay for insurance policies that include contraceptive coverage. Despite this fact some Republicans are still calling the compromise something of a card trick or an illusion because the religious institutions pay the insurance companies for their healthcare coverage. If the monetary amount paid to the insurance companies does not increase, what's the difference? The religious institution is going to pay the insurance company to cover their employees anyway. Without any extra out of pocket expense the employees simply have an added health care benefit. I wonder if those who oppose contraceptives realize their availability does not make them mandatory.
Although I have read several articles on-line about this issue I'm saddened because the voice of women is rarely heard. The church leaders and the House Oversight Committee, all comprised of men, speak the wishes of men, not women. With a pit in my stomach I am reminded of an episode from FRIENDS. The character Rachel goes to the hospital for Braxton-Hicks contractions and the male doctor shrugs them off as minor discomfort. She whips around and says "No Uterus, No Opinion". Why is it these male authority figures feel they can dictate what a woman chooses for her body in the free country of America? Prescription contraceptives are manufactured for women so shouldn't they have a voice or an opinion on the issue? Then there are the women who simply need oral contraceptives for medicinal purposes to combat endometriosis or menstrual cramps.
Women gained the right to use contraceptives in 1965 and there is a very real potential our struggles in the past could all be for nothing. In 2007 the former Hackley Hospital in Michigan merged with a Catholic hospital and it's employees lost their contraceptive coverage. One of the employees would like to have a tubal litigation because she cannot afford anymore children and recently suffered a miscarriage. In the past she got pregnant twice while taking oral contraceptives so they are no longer an option for her. Denying employees such as these contraceptive coverage simply because of a merger has taken away a freedom many American's enjoy because the new owner has a different belief. Many stories such as these will be heard everywhere if Republicans and anti-contraceptive believers have their way.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with American politics Republicans stand firmly with those who are pro-life. So not only do they encourage people to have unwanted children they also don't want to prevent the unwanted pregnancy in the first place. Statistics below show that the majority of children are born in households with smaller incomes. The irony of Republicans opposing contraceptive coverage is that they oppose spending on social programs. Their arguments are counter intuitive. They don't want people to rely on public assistance but they're not going to slow the growth of that demographic.
In 2011 the US poverty level was set to $22,350 per year for a family of 4. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates 17.3% of Americans are currently living in poverty. That's nearly 1/5th of the nation struggling to get by. In America 1 million women with income levels 250% below the federal poverty level are not using any form of contraception. Fourty-nine percent of large insurance plans do not cover the cost of contraceptive prescriptions. It is said that children are a blessing from God and that is absolutely true, so why are so many not living a blessed life?
We would all like to think unplanned pregnancies always have a happy ending but that is not always the case. On any given night people can turn on the evening news and hear a heart wrenching story about a child who has been abused. Family Relations published a study on 518 public assistance mothers showing an increase in unplanned pregnancies increases the probability of child abuse and neglect.
The federal government's Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-4) found that:
- Abuse is three times more common in poor families.
- “Neglect” is seven times more common in poor families
According to the UNFPA, The United Nations Population Fund, high fertility and and poverty have been strongly correlated for the past 7 decades worldwide. In the graph below it is clearly shown that households with smaller incomes tend to have more children.
Statistics from the Video Below
Some will argue that there are social programs available to those in need. While that is true are they enough, do they work? The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has compiled a list of the 34 wealthiest nations in the world. Would you like to guess where America falls on that list? We are currently 31st with only Mexico, Chile, and Israel falling behind. In the US 20.6% of children are living in poverty compared to 10.1% in the UK and 7.6% in France. Infant mortality rates are defined as the number of children who die before their first birthday. Per 1,000 births France has 3.3, the Japan has 2.8, and the US has a staggering 6. Many of these are unnecessary deaths due to a lack of prenatal medical care.
How Does US Poverty and Child Welfare Compare to Other Developed Nations
I always believe in hearing a story straight from the horse's mouth. In the two videos below you will hear Republicans talk about those less fortunate. For some reason I think they genuinely believe American's are out of work simply because they are lazy and their small government checks make their life too easy. Yes, there are people who abuse the system but that is the system's fault. There is never a place or justified reason to call people names and solely place the blame of a broken system on them.
Welfare Recipients Compared to Racoons
Republicans To Unemployed: You're Spoiled, Drug-Taking Hobos & Animals, Who Shouldn't Breed.
An Unending Fight
I don't see how this debate can ever end because each stance counters the other. Republicans are fighting with themselves if they support creating an obstacle for free access to birth control. Not only are they urging people to have unwanted children, they relate those who need public assistance to raccoons, hobos, and drug-takers.
So where did the religious stance against birth control originate?
The Bible mentions at least one form of contraception specifically and condemns it. Coitus interruptus, was used by Onan to avoid fulfilling his duty according to the ancient Jewish law of fathering children for one’s dead brother. "Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.’ But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he slew him also" (Gen. 38:8–10).
The quote above is from Catholic.com. Clearly I'm not Catholic but did this whole tradition really begin because a man wouldn't sleep with his brother's wife? Never mind that his brother was dead, but isn't that an act we would largely frown upon today? Despite the peculiar details of the origin of the belief, if the modern world shows us facts and statistics contrary to that belief shouldn't we at least consider them? We teach our children by giving them consequences for their actions. Shouldn't we look at the consequences of ours? Children who are born into poverty are more likely to drop out of high school, be unemployed, use drugs, and have children out of wedlock which further perpetuates social spending. Let's treat children like the treasure they are and allow their parents to decide when they are born so they can create a life for them they deserve.
Facts on Investing in Family Planning and Maternal and Newborn Health
The benefits of fully meeting the need for both family planning and maternal and newborn health services in developing countries would be dramatic. Roughly doubling the current global investments in family planning and pregnancy-related care, from $11.8 billion to $24.6 billion, would reduce:
- maternal deaths by more than two thirds, from 356,000 to 105,000;
- newborn deaths by more than half, from 3.2 million to 1.5 million;
- unintended pregnancies by more than two-thirds, from 75 million to 22 million;
- unsafe abortions by almost three quarters, from 20 million to 5.5 million; and
- deaths from unsafe abortion by more than four-fifths, from 46,000 to 8,000.
It's time to look at the numbers and reevaluate the right course of action. In a struggling economy and the impact it has on children should we continue to uphold a belief that may not have our children's best interest at heart?
- Should Religion Evolve With Society?
If religious beliefs hurt people, fall on deaf ears, or conflict with modern society should they be reconsidered?