by Abigail Riddick. This blog post has been used also for Choice 2.0, the blog of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina.

This past Friday, the Obama administration rejected lobbying efforts to limit women’s access to free birth control. According to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, providing women with a means to control the amount of children they have is a “direct attack on religion,” and is a violation of the clergy’s religious freedoms.

Should President Obama have accommodated the Draconian requests of the bishops, then employees of Catholic Churches, along with employees and students at Catholic universities, would have been out of luck. One protester, a student at a Catholic university, explained why she opposes the idea of a religious exemption on a Change.org petition: “I spend $25 a month on my birth control pill through a non-profit clinic. If I filled my prescription through CVS the cost would be almost $40 a month. I’m a college student with rent and bills to pay and food to buy. I can’t afford to keep doing this. And I certainly can’t afford to have a child right now!”

The exemption the bishops were calling for would also violate the separation of church and state clause of the US Constitution. In truth, it is simply not up to the Catholic Church, or any religious organization, to influence government in such a way that would limit a person’s access to medical care. This should be obvious. However, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops would like us to believe that they have the religious freedom to deny women their reproductive freedoms. It’s like saying that, should the Catholic Church one day deem it necessary to corral tithe through robbery of local grocery stores, clerics should be allowed to do so on the grounds that … they’re religious and they want to. It may be a stretch, but it is a useful parallel when thinking about how “religious exemption” is used to argue that certain groups of people should have the right to ignore the law, just because. Plus, it’s funny to imagine the Pope running out of Harris Teeter carrying sacs of money. Just saying.

Ultimately, President Obama has required that all insurance policies, regardless of whether or not they are provided by religious institutions, fully cover medical contraceptives for female bodied people.

Though this decision is marked as a success for the pro-choice community, this is not the only religious battle to have been fought over women’s bodies recently. The “Women’s Right to Know Act,” passed right here in North Carolina, is a clear example of how Christian ideology has infiltrated the law books. One aspect of the act, passed in October, requires that abortion providers state the following religious phrase to the person having an abortion: “The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique living human being.” If suggesting that a woman is a murderer for exercising her reproductive freedoms is not a direct attack on women, I don’t know what is.

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