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Freedom from Government (Birth) Control


CARRIE GRESS

Source:
Catholic World Report
Type:
Media/Opinion
Date:
7/1/2013

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ABSTRACT Freedom from Government (Birth) Control | Catholic World Report - Global Church news and views HOME ARCHIVED ARTICLES EDITORIAL CWR BLOG VIDEO ABOUT US NEWS BRIEFS / RSS FREE eNEWSLETTER DONATE ADVERTISE Current Issue:   Interview Interview Freedom from Government (Birth) Control July 01, 2013 An interview with Helen Alvaré of Women Speak for Themselves Carrie Gress Washington, DC – More than 40,000 women are putting religious freedom ahead of the political fiction that says all women want free contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients.   The group,  Women Speak for Themselves , was founded by Helen Alvaré and Kim Daniels in response to the Health and Human Services mandate for insurers to provide contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients at no cost to their clients.    Catholic World Report caught up with Helen Alvaré to find out more about what this growing group of women is doing to fight the HHS mandate.    Alvaré is a professor of law at George Mason University, a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Laity, a consultant for ABCNews, and the chair of the Conscience Protection Task Force at the Witherspoon Institute. She co-authored and edited the book,  Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak For Themselves .    CWR: What is “Women Speak for Themselves” and how did it come about?   Alvaré: It came about because I was shocked and dismayed that the news reports about the response to the HHS mandate, as well as the words out of the mouths of some members of Congress, claimed that this HHS mandate fight was women vs. men. And bad men, particularly religious men, hated women and therefore opposed the mandate. I knew that this was untrue in my own situation and I knew many women who would feel the same.    The news reports were pouring in on February 16, 2012, and I decided that I should draft an open letter. I bounced it back and forth with my good friend Kim Daniels, who is a religious liberty attorney, and we crafted it and sent it out to a couple of dozen friends and asked for signatures. This cascade of signatures started to come in so that in about 48 hours we had about 2,500, and by the end of the week we had 7,500. We hadn’t done any asking beyond that original couple dozen women, so we knew there was an untapped, unvocalized sentiment out there. We expressed it in two points: one is that women particularly care for religious freedom and second, the idea that contraception equals women’s freedom and trumps religious freedom was simplistic and wrong.   It has now grown to about 40,000-41,000 women online with whom I correspond about every three weeks to keep them up-to-date on things that affect the mandate and religious liberty, but increasingly things that affect the whole plane that basically says the ability to express yourself sexually is the biggest part of women’s freedom.   CWR: What is the current situation with the HHS ruling?    Alvaré: I read the HHS executive summary this morning. And basically they have said: “We have taken care of all the religious liberty problems by forcing the insurers to do all the work.” And what I mean by “doing all the work” is the insurers tell the eligible employees and their daughters, “Hey, I’ve got some free contraception coverage for you, and here is the educational materials about it, and here is the scope of your coverage, etc...”   Two points on that. One, they’ve forgotten that it is the religious institutions buying the health policies that triggers the coverage, so [those institutions] are still implicated. And two, they haven’t grappled with the question of institutional religious freedom. That is, can the government not only force a religious person or institution to do something, but can it walk inside the relationship between an employer and employee of a religious institution and say, “Okay, we are managing part of that relationship here on a topic that ties extraordinarily closely to your mission.”    So, based on this executive description of it—and what I think was tweaked was the self-insurance provision, but this was altered to the direction of “we will get contraceptive coverage through a religious institution to your people one way or another.”   CWR: And what about the recent ruling on Hobby Lobby that is allowing them to continue to challenge the mandate without paying the fine for non-compliance? Is it a good sign?   Alvaré: That’s big. It is a good sign because it wasn’t just Republican-appointed judges that joined in. There was one, I believe, Democratic-placed judge who made up the five-judge majority there. It is at the Court of Appeals level. That is significant.    Additionally, here you have a company, for-profit, r.......