I am writing this in response to the article entitled “Why are we arguing about women’s rights?” written by Maria Stoltz, published in the Monday, March 12th, 2012 edition of the Herald Journal.
Maria asks the question, “Why are we arguing about women’s rights” and I presume she is asking this in regards to the US Department of Health and Human Services Mandate and the onslaught of criticism it is receiving from the Catholic Bishops and other communities of faith in the US. Maria does a wonderful job of highlighting all of the achievements our Nation has made for women’s rights, some more noble than others. This, however, is not a woman’s rights issue. This is a civil rights issue, a direct infringement of our rights under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
"The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances." .
The Catholic Bishops have been very clear on what this debateis—and isnot—about. “This isnotabout access to contraception, which is ubiquitous and inexpensive, even when it is not provided by the Church's hand and with the Church's funds. This isnotabout the religious freedom of Catholics only, but also of those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block. This isnotabout the Bishops' somehow "banning contraception," when the US Supreme Court took that issue off the table two generations ago. Indeed, this isnotabout the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church—consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions—to act against Church teachings. This isnota matter of opposition to universal health care, which has been a concern of the Bishops' Conference since 1919, virtually at its founding. This isnota fight we want or asked for, but one forced upon us by government on its own timing. Finally, this isnota Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.” 
The debate is about:
1.“ An unwarranted government definition of religion. The mandate includes an extremely narrow definition of what HHS deems a "religious employer" deserving exemption--employers who, among other things, must hire and serve primarily those of their own faith… Government hasnoplace defining religion and religious ministry… And if this definition is allowed to stand, it will spread throughout federal law, weakening its healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity. All—not just some—of our religious institutions share equally in the very same God-given, legally-recognized right not "to be forced to act in a manner contrary to [their] own beliefs. 
2. A mandate to act against our teachings. Those deemed by HHS not to be "religious employers" will be forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions. This is not only an injustice in itself, but it also undermines the effective proclamation of those teachings to the faithful and to the world. 
3. A violation of personal civil rights. The HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values. They, too, face a government mandate to aid in providing "services" contrary to those values... This, too, is unprecedented in federal law, which has long been generous in protecting the rights of individuals not to act against their religious beliefs or moral convictions. We have consistently supported these rights, particularly in the area of protecting the dignity of all human life, and we continue to do so." 
The Obama administration did announce a change in the HHS mandate, resulting from the strong opposition. “The new policy will still mandate that women who work for such religiously affiliated institutions get their birth-control products with no out-of-pocket costs. The insurance companiesinstead of the institutions will pay.”  As it stands, it still requires contraceptive coverage, but allows women to obtain it directly from their insurance companies — which still wouldn’t be allowed to charge for it. The change essentially added a degree of separation between faith-based organizations and birth control.  Bishop Burbidge, in discussing this change points out his concerns. “Catholic hospitals and universities will not be required to provide contraceptives free of charge, now insurance companies will. The Catholic hospitals and universities, etc. do not need to directly provide the contraceptives, but must show you how and where to get these items. Ultimately, someone has to pay for it; our concern is that the cost for thesefree services will be put back onto these faith-based organizations (premiums). These questions need to be answered and clarified.”
I recently listened to a very powerfulhomily by Father Malettagiven on February 5, 2012 at St. John the Evangelist Parish, St. John, Indiana, USA. It addresses how the HHS Mandate has taken abortion and sterilization (coined women’s health) and included it in legislation that “compromises our Catholic Conscience.”  Not everybody believes what we Catholics believe, and we are not asking anybody to believe as we do. We are simply asking that we not be forced to compromise on what we believe, “forcing us to go against our faith.”  Because of our faith we cannot and will not follow this law. The Catholic Church is the largest non-government agency providing health and social services as well as education; these services, because wecannot go against what we believe is true, would be closed because we cannot support a culture of death. As Father Maletta says, “let us provide these vital services to that segment of our Nation that needs us most." 
Now, back to women rights, yes, thank you God. I have enjoyed the right to vote, a college degree, and a large income in an industry that was predominately male dominated. Women fought for me and women like me. Those victories are true, good, and just. The bible and the Constitution agree as well.
However, I do not see how contraception and abortion have helped women’s rights? How is preventing life, a gift, given from God, or worse yet, killing this precious life after God’s loving hand granted it, a right? Even Norma McCorvey (A.K.A Jane Roe) states that the court case in 1973 (Roe V. Wade), in which she pursued the right to abort her second child, (the case “that ultimately legalized abortion on demand), was the biggest mistake of my life.” She, in fact, has three daughters and has never had an abortion. 
Contraceptives and abortion do not empower women to do what is true, good, and right and we are not better for them. They allow both men and women a right to share in a gift that was intended to create and promote life, out of love and mutual respect for one another. One of the fruits of that gift is a child. Because of contraception and abortion, both men and women endeavor into this act without having to consider the beauty, gravity, and commitment such a decision requires.
Furthermore, as Sheila Liaugminas writes “Providing free hormonal birth control to women under the guise of ‘preventative services’ and ‘women’s health’ is a lie and women of all faiths deserve to know the truth. ” An article by Jenn Giroux states that “for years pro-life organizations refused to discuss or take on this topic despite the fact that free access to birth control increases the number of surgical abortions. Most people repeat over and over that birth control decreases the number of abortions. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, today for every child born in the US, there are an estimated 2 children killed in the womb from both surgical and chemical, abortifacient drug abortions . What isn’t being talked about is that the new mandate also pre-disposes women to serious long term and permanent health problems. In conjunction with the defense of both religious liberty and the spiritual well-being of women, we must also refute the absurd and deceptive statement that “women are healthier on birth control.”
Here are some very shocking but true statistics related to “women’s health”:
1.55%-60% of women having abortions are on contraception. 
2.Alfred Kinsey, 1955: “At the risk of being repetitious, I would remind the group that we have found the highest frequency of induced abortions in the groups which, in general, most frequently uses contraception.” 
3.The pill can prevent pregnancy, true, but it can also cause abortions; causing (the lining of your uterus) to reject your child after conception. This means if you conceive while on the pill, your tiny baby will starve to death and his or her remains will be passed along in your next bleeding cycle. (The "Study of Abortion Deaths Commission" estimates that this happens in women in America who use the Pill approximately 1 to 4 million times each year.) The chemicals that cause these early abortions are called abortifacients which is the medical term for any chemical agent that causes an abortion. 
4.Since 1975 there has been a 400% increase in “in situ” breast cancer among pre-menopausal women under 50 years old. This mirrors the increased use of birth control over these same years. (“In situ” is a medical term which means “at the location”  
5.A Mayo Clinic study confirms that any young girl or woman who is on hormonal birth control for 4 years prior to their first full term pregnancy increases their breast cancer risk by 52%.  
6. "Women who use hormonal birth control for more than 5 years are four times more likely to develop cervical cancer.  
7.The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a research arm of the World Health Organization, classifies all forms of hormonal contraception as a Group 1 carcinogen. This group of cancer causing agents also includes cigarettes and asbestos.  Why is it that the FDA can require cigarette manufacturers to place warning labels and real life photos of corpses on cigarette packages to warn consumers of the health dangers yet they, in turn, take an equally harmful substance (hormonal birth control) and force companies to give it away free to young girls without parental consent and woman of all ages? 
8.For high school boys and men to take steroid drugs, it is a crime. Whereas girls and women taking steroid drugs (i.e. hormonal birth control) are now treated as if they are taking a sacred, life preserving vitamin that women cannot live without.  
9.In October 2010 the NY Times carried an article about Hormone Replacement Therapy drugs. It quoted the America Medical Association (AMA) as warning women that these post-menopausal drugs which were originally marketed as keeping a women “young and sexy” were discovered instead to be more likely to cause advanced and deadly breast cancer. It stopped short of making one other startling revelation: The only difference between hormone replacement therapy drugs which cause deadly breast cancer and the hormonal birth control drugs (now mandated by the Obama administration) is that the birth control drugs are six times the dosage — and are the very same drug! 
10.They found that women with HPV, an STD, who take the pill for less than five years do not significantly increase their risk of developing cervical cancer. However, those who are on the pill for longer than five years are nearly three times as likely to develop the disease. Those who take it for more than 10 years quadruple their risk. Moreover, the increased danger persisted for more than 15 years, even if a woman stopped taking the pill.  ... So let me get this straight... If a woman catches HPV, an STD proven to cause cervical cancer, and if you have HPVandtake the pill, the risk of developing cervical cancer is evengreater? So taking a contraceptive (for free no less), which encourages sexual activity by decreasing the risk of conceiving a baby, exposing women to STD's thereby increasing their risk of cervical cancer is good for women how? 
11. If the health risks are not enough to make a woman think twice about contraceptives; there is also a direct link to dramatic increase in the divorce rate from 1965 (the year the one law remaining, prohibiting the use of contraceptives in married couples was struck down) to 1975, rising from 25% to 50% of marriages ending in divorce (same as today). The research of social scientist Robert Michael, "attributed 45 percent of this increase [in divorce] to increased use of contraceptives." 
What can we conclude? Real-world studies show that contraception has not reduced, but has instead increased unintended births and does not promote women’s health. Women are not being warned that birth control methods are causing breast, liver, and cervical cancer. They are not being told about the “silent killer” effect which is causing them to unknowingly abort their babies. They are instead being told that they are healthier on birth control because it decreases ovarian and uterine cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, out of 100 women with cancer, 31 have breast cancer, 6 have uterine cancer, and 3 have ovarian cancer. This is not a healthy tradeoff of risks that is worth taking. 
Clearly, birth control does not help women at risk; it has proven itself toputwomen at risk, as well as their marriages.
Again, yes, praise God for woman’s rights and the wonderful advancements our leading women and men have made for us in this great Nation. Nevertheless, women’s health issues, related to the HHS Mandate are not for the good of women. The HHS Mandate is not a woman’s rights issue. It is a civil rights issue, a direct infringement of our rights under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
As Maria points out, "every American has a mother, sister, niece, aunt or grandmother who relies on theserights"; they also have a right to the truth.
Personally, I do my best to live by faith and God’s laws. The bible teaches clearly, God’s opinion of contraceptives in the story of Genesis 1:28 as well as how He handles Onan in Genesis 38:9-10.
We humans can make mistakes, and often do. Just because it is law, does not make it right. Please pray for wisdom and truth.
Humbly, In the peace of Christ & His Blessed Mother,
Kristen M. Soley
 http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html ;
 Jones RK, Darroch JE and Henshaw SK, Contraceptive use among U.S. women having abortions in 2000–2001, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2002, 34(6):294–303.
 International Pharmacists for Life 2003;http://www.prolifephysicians.org/abortifacient
 Kahlenborn et al., "Oral Contraceptive Use — as a risk factor for pre-menopausal breast cancer: a meta analysis," Mayo Clinic proceedings 2006 pp. 1290-1320, 2006
 Bosch, et al, "Effect of oral contraceptives on risk of cervical cancer..." International Agency of Research on Cancer, 2002
 International Agency for Research on Cancer, a research arm of the World Health Organization, 2010
 New York Times, Oct. 19, 2010
 Sheila Reports, Sheila Liaugminas , March 13, 2012
 Source Catholic Culture.org, US bishops decry ‘illegal and unjust’ HHS mandate, call for prayer and penance, March 15, 2012
 Father Maletta given on February 5, 2012 at St. John the Evangelist Parish, St. John, Indiana, USA.
 "Birth Control" Pills cause early Abortions, By J.T. Finn (updated April 23, 2005), http://www.prolife.com/BIRTHCNT.html
 Youtube video of Norma McCorvy (AKA, Jane Roe)
 Feb 13, 2012 – “Response to HHS birth control mandate change” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AoESXrPitc
 Deadly health risks for women: The unspoken side of the Obama birth control mandate - By Jenn Giroux, Feb 14, 2012
 Rush Limbaugh, Divorce and Contraception, 6/18/2004, By Matt Abbott
 WebMd, Birth Control, HPV and Cervical Cancer, Oral Contraceptives Raise Risk of Cervical Cancer in Women With HPV, By Salynn Boyles, April 3, 2003