Shae O'Brien is an English teacher, writer, wife, and mother to three beautiful girls. She takes life with a grain of salt and two spoonfuls of sugar! Please be sure to follow her on www.facebook.com/catholicmamablog.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Birth control, Hobby Lobby, and this Catholic mama

Some days I feel conflicted within myself. As though, my faith and my gender are in constant battle. Last week, after the decision regarding Hobby Lobby's birth control exemption, I had a hard time trying to decide which part of me I should be fighting for, and which side I seemed (by default) to be fighting against. 

The truth is that if you ask most Carholic women if they see a problem following their faith as a female, they would undoubtedly say no. Most of us do not feel oppressed by our Church. We do not see the beliefs of our religion as a design to keep ladies in the kitchen. We do not live life with an attitude of being less than men. 

On the contrary, you will not find another sect of Christianity that honors women more. We have full prayers and practices devoted not to Jesus, but to his mother. We recognize that the first truly spotless soul was Mary's. We hold her in the highest regard, while most denominations may go weeks or months (maybe years?) without mentioning her name. 

Oh, but that is just one woman...what about every woman? What about our rights? The truth is, we fully believe in a woman's right to plan out her family. We encourage women to be educated and in control of themselves and their fertility. We simply don't believe that requires any kind of pharmaceutical assistance. We believe that just because something can be done doesn't mean it should be done. 

So, where does that leave me, in this post? While I hold true to my faith and stand strong in my beliefs, I still felt torn by the Hobby Lobby case. I understood why they would be against emergency contraception (a huge myth is that they were against all birth control, though that is not the case). Yet, I struggled with the idea of a government that allowed one person's religious beliefs (even beliefs I may agree with) to make decisions for someone else's life. 

When I find myself in battles of conscious, I often end up on Facebook. That statement may make you laugh, but I can honestly say that I have been informed, enlightened, and convicted almost every day on social media. (If you don't feel the same, then maybe you aren't following the right people). As it turns out, this week was no exception. I read posts from Catholics, Protestants, Atheists, Buddhists, and many whose faith may not be defined by one simple title. I read comments and memes and jokes and prayers. Some caused me to laugh, some caused me to cry, many caused me to think...and finally now, they have helped me to write this post. I wanted to share a few with you, so you could see some of what I encountered. 

This meme was posted on a Catholic group for mothers. It immediately struck me as offensive, even as a woman who does not use artificial birth control. Is it fair to assume that a woman who uses birth control is using it solely (if at all) to prevent pregnancy? Is it fair to assume that a woman who uses birth control is so premiscuous she cannot keep her clothes on? Is it fair to assume that a woman who uses birth control has less morals or dresses in an immodest manner? 

When I tried to suggest that this meme was unfair and offensive, my comment was met with responses that it was just a joke and a way for "like-minded" people to have a laugh during a trying situation. I was appalled that members of my faith found such a crud joke to be humorous and worth sharing. 

But it got me thinking: Whose job should it be to judge whether or not someone needs birth control? By giving employers a say in what people (not just women, but obviously women in this case) need or don't need in their insurance plan, doesn't it give license for anyone to judge --regardless of their background, education, or profession? Why are we allowing anyone other than doctors to make these judgment calls, and what kind of people are we becoming because we feel entitled to a say in a stranger's medical wants or needs?

This meme was also found on a Catholic Facebook group. I immediately agreed with its message. Yes! Pay for it yourself! Your choice to use it. Your money to buy it. I can then wash my hands of you like Pilot. Sounds fair, right?

But then I read this post, from a friend who stated he would be unfriending anyone who supported Hobby Lobby. I hadn't expected to be his friend at the end of the day. However, he continued to try to express the reasoning behind his anger, and I am grateful he did...

Your choice to use it. Your money to buy it...that is what I'd said, right? I felt like a light bulb had clicked on in my conscience! THIS is why I felt conflicted! Not because I didn't agree with Hobby Lobby's belief. Because they were telling their employees how to spend the money THEY had earned. They earn their insurance. It isn't a gift from their employer, it's a part of their wages. If they didn't work the right number of hours, they wouldn't get it--because they earn this part of their compensation by working for it! 

Somehow this series of posts led me to the conclusion that the Supreme Court made the wrong decision. Hobby Lobby doesn't have the right to dictate to its employees that they cannot eat McDonalds for dinner because the company believes they should eat better.  Hobby Lobby can't tell its employees to cancel cable and buy more novels because the company believes they should read more. Hobby Lobby will never set aside 10% of its employees' paychecks to give to the starving children you see on tv because the company believes we should do more for third world countries. Why not? It's not the company's money--it's the employee's!

So, through all of this, I've come to the following conclusions:

1) It is time for religious people to stop speaking up about their faith only when it is a political hot topic. If you are speaking up to evangelize for your faith, you're not going to gain fans by suggesting your poor multimillion dollar religious organization is being bullied by a government that was founded on freedom to choose one's religion. If you are speaking up to defend your beliefs, consider whether or not you are doing so in a way that is reflective of your faith and your God's attitude toward His children. 

2) If the government wants to avoid the "slippery slope" of business and religion, perhaps it is time to take health insurance out of employers' hands all together and offer a truly universal healthcare system. OR Perhaps it would also work to let employers choose whatever insurance plan they like, but an employee should have the right to opt out if there is a government plan they would prefer to better suit their wants or needs. 

3) It is integral for me, as a Catholic, not to mistake my right to believe and practice my faith for the right to use my faith in an oppressive manner over those who disagree with me. Whether this be in my role as a teacher, my voting in our government, or my words and actions in everyday life. My faith is something I should want to offer others as a gift, not use to abuse or demean them as a weapon of hate. This week opened my eyes wide to the slippery slope of our religious beliefs, and how they easily slide us into roles that serve the one we weekly pray for protection against. Let us be an instrument of peace, a vessel of love, and a defender of freedom to choose...and may we pray that our actions and words influence choices of love, as we would want others to do for us. 

ETA: Third paragraph under 1st meme. 


  1. Thank you for this! FINALLY there is another practicing Catholic out there who gets exactly what I am thinking about this whole case. Very well written post. You are so wise. Thank you again.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I admit, I was a little nervous posting this one. I appreciate your support.

  2. An incredibly difficult topic to tackle with this kind of clarity. Well done.

    I agree with the idea of truly universal health care provided by government not employers.

    Universal education, too.

    This is a great read. I love that you take the time to consider all sides of an issue. Open mind, open heart.

    Thank you.

  3. When an employer offers an insurance policy that only covers some of the needs of some of its employees, isn't that a form of wage discrimination? It seems to me that if a woman is forced to opt out to get the coverage she needs then the employer should increase her salary accordingly.i,e the amount it costs the company for an individual,s health insurance under the company plan? Of course, my own opinion is that the Surpemes made a supreme mistake and have opened A Pandora's box

    1. I completely agree that wages should be equal, and in the understanding that benefits are a part of earned wages, the employer should be required to provide insurance OR the monetary equivalent. I also say this with the reminder that this is not a GIFT from employers but rather an earned wage by employees.

  4. I can understand why you're feeling conflicted about this, but have to disagree with your conclusions. As Catholics, if we knowingly contribute to an abortion, monetarily or otherwise, we are in a state of *mortal sin.* I don't know what the beliefs of the HL family are, as they aren't Catholic, but assuming they're on the same wavelength, the government asking them to pay for abortive drugs makes them complicit in who knows how many deaths. The government has absolutely no authority over our eternal lives, and therefore should not attempt to force any of us to act against those morals. Your argument about allotting money to books and not paying for cable: those are not morality issues. The death of a baby is.

    I think the way I know that this decision is the right one is because the devil is attacking us, and doing so vehemently. Christians turning against Christians, friends falling out... that kind of divisiveness only comes from one place... And it ain't Jesus.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I hope I haven't come across too harsh. God bless you.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! I appreciate what you are trying to say, but neither you or Hobby Lobby are paying for anything. The employee is. The wages are the employee's to spend as they choose. You cannot--and should not--try to control someone else's morals or they will never have the opportunity to seek God out themselves. They will only see God as something to be forced upon them.

      Something to add (though I did not address it in this article) is that no form of birth control that was fought against by HL is proven to be an abortifient. It is a possibility that it might be capable of aborting a fertilized egg (though there is still a lot of debate as to whether or not it is true, but I would caution anyone not to accuse someone of taking part in abortion simply because they took a drug whose purpose is to prevent fertilization by delaying ovulation. We, as Catholics, believe any form of birth control is wrong because it is a barrier between the unitive and procreative purpose of sex. However, that is not the same thing as purposefully choosing to have an abortion.

  5. I think this issue is one big reason to get health insurance out of the workplace; indeed to make it like other things people buy with their own money http://rannthisthat.blogspot.com/2014/07/my-two-cents-on-hobby-lobby-case.html