Columns 2012

Why does the Catholic Church cover Viagra and vasectomies

I really believed what Lisa Murkowski said about representing the people who took a chance on her and gave her another term in office. Then she voted against health insurance coverage of birth control for women based on the claimed principle of religious freedom. I thought she was intelligent enough to see through that charade and understand the vote for what it was, the ongoing war against women by men who – while still overwhelmingly controlling this country and its institutions – are feeling threatened by women’s advances in society.

Don’t believe that? Let’s look at some facts. The Catholic Church claims forcing it to pay for birth control for women is against its core religious beliefs.  Having been brought up Catholic, I know those same beliefs say that sex outside of marriage is a sin. Yet I’ve not heard a single Catholic prelate raise the issue of insurance covering Viagra for unmarried men. Since I can’t think of a single “health” issue that Viagra covers other than the inability to perform sexually, why are they not screaming about their right to not cover erectile dysfunction drugs unless the man is married? Why are Catholic employers not demanding that men prove their marital status before those prescription claims are paid?

Need more proof? OK, how about this.  The church’s stance against birth control for women is based on its core belief that sex must always happen within a marriage with the intent to procreate. So how do they justify paying for vasectomies? What is the purpose of a vasectomy if not to have sex without the slightest possibility of procreating? Why is it immoral for a woman to try and control her reproductive abilities but perfectly fine for a man to do it? And why isn’t the lovely Rush Limbaugh calling those men who would dare to ask society to pay for their vasectomies prostitutes and whatever the male equivalent of slut and whore might be?

If these questions come to my mind when conservative Republicans, backed by the Catholic Church, try to claim that the only reason they’re voting to deny women a health care benefit is because it infringes on their religious freedom, then why didn’t they occur to Murkowski? This is especially true considering that for some women, birth control pills actually deal with issues beyond sex – ovarian cysts and dysfunctional monthly cycles, for instance – as opposed to Viagra that seems to only cover a problem some of us might not consider all that medically critical.

The Catholic Church wraps itself in a cloak of morality. Yet, I find the sight of a pope who lives in a golden palace, surrounded by incredible wealth, wearing silk robes, Prada loafers and sporting precious stones on his fingers, telling poor starving people whose lives are riddled with AIDS, violence and famine that using condoms is a sin as the real immorality. John Paul II said it in 1990. In 2009, Benedict XVI went so far as to say that condoms would aggravate the AIDS epidemic.

Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world. Apparently the pope didn’t get that memo given that he lives a life that only kings ever experienced. He rules an empire in which men kneel before him while he sits on a sumptuous throne. Does anyone really think Jesus would be comfortable on that seat?

The Catholic Church is an organization entombed in a medieval structure that treats women as second-class citizens. It is an all male organization pledged to never having a relationship with women in which they are not subordinate. It grows less and less relevant with each passing day. Unfortunately, it still gives cover to conservatives who would like women to please go back to being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen while they run the world and make our decisions for us.

Lisa Murkowski lost my trust with her vote. If she wants to regain it, maybe she could raise the question of Viagra and vasectomies on the Senate floor and ask for a discussion on how mandating that coverage impinges on religious freedom. I’d love to hear the committee testimony on that topic – testimony accepted only from women just as the testimony on female birth control was heard entirely from men.

That’s a show I’d tune into C-Span to watch.