Restricting Access to Birth Control is Immoral by Katey Zeh

On a hot August day in 2012, I was taking my usual monthly trip to Walgreens to pick up my birth control prescription. As I pulled out my wallet to cover the co-pay, I was pleasantly surprised when the pharmacist informed me that I didn’t owe anything. It was the first month that the contraceptive mandate included in the Affordable Care Act required health insurance companies to provide contraceptives without a copay.


Over the years my birth control pills had cost me between $30-50 a month. It might not sound like much, but as a young professional working in the nonprofit sector, it was something I had to budget for carefully. I was also paying my own insurance premiums at the time. Throughout most of my twenties I worked as a contractor, which meant I didn’t qualify for employer-provided insurance, and with my limited budget, I had to settle for less-than-ideal coverage.

When I discovered that the cost of my birth control would be covered completely under my premiums, I wanted to show my appreciation to the Obama Administration. I quickly snapped a picture of my pharmacy receipt that showed my total as “$0.00” and posted in on Facebook with the simple phrase, “Birth control with no copay. Thanks Obamacare!”


The next morning I woke up to find my image had gone somewhat viral after the Planned Parenthood and Barack Obama social media teams had shared it on their platforms. I had a lot of support, but as you might imagine, the backlash was hellacious. I was incredibly grateful that I’d been wise enough not to capture any of my personal information in the picture I’d taken. Here are a few examples of the messages I got.

“I don’t want to pay for you to have the power to sleep around.”

“It really disgusts me that MY tax dollars are paying for other people to have protected sex and abortions. That money could go into my college fund or help pay for a car or help pay for medication that I actually NEED, but nope. The government decided that my money is better used to pay for someone else to have protected sex. I really hope you all enjoy spending MY hard earned money.”

There’s absolutely nothing factually accurate about these two comments from trolls–I was in a committed relationship and paying for my birth control prescription through paying my insurance premiums–but they do capture some of the most common arguments made against women having the ability to make decisions about our bodies and lives.

  • Women who have sex and want to avoid pregnancy should be shamed.
  • We should not do anything to support a woman making a decision about her life and body.
  • Any social program that supports women’s reproductive decision is a burden on taxpayers.

The pervasiveness of these beliefs and the disdain for women’s autonomy among white conservative men is why the Trump administration has no qualms about its plans to rescind this policy that has helped over 55 million women over the last five years. What is the premise of this decision? Religious freedom.

There is nothing moral about restricting a person’s access to the tools and resources they need to plan their lives, care for their bodies, and dream about their futures.

In March of 2014 I stood outside the Supreme Court building to speak my truth in protest of the argument of “religious freedom” used (successfully, I hate to say) in the Hobby Lobby case. I spoke these words:

As a young woman, a family planning advocate, and a Christian, I stand in solidarity with millions of women in this country whose access to contraception is at stake today.  I do this not in spite of my faith, but because of my faith.

I stand upon the firm foundation of my Methodist faith that has declared health care as a right, and access to contraception a moral good that enables women and couples to make responsible, ethical decisions about the timing and spacing of their families. To permit an employer to restrict that access through financial hardship or other means would impose upon my religious freedom—and the religious freedom of millions of other like-minded people of faith.

scotuszeh11.jpgWhat few people knew at the time was that when I gave that speech,  I was 10 weeks pregnant with my daughter who will turn three later this month. It was a planned pregnancy and a cause for joy in my life, even though physically I felt terrible. Looking back now I see how critical access to birth control was in creating the family I wanted. It allowed me to become a parent at the time that was right for me.

Isn’t that what all of us ought to be striving for?


RA82Katey Zeh, M.Div is a strategist, writer,  and speaker who inspires communities to create a more just, compassionate world.  She has written for outlets including Huffington Post, Sojourners, Religion Dispatches, Response magazinethe Good Mother Project, and the Journal for Feminist Studies in Religion. She is the co-host of Kindreds, a podcast for soul sisters. Her book Women Rise Up will be published by the FAR Press in March of 2018.  Find her on Twitter at @kateyzeh or on her website

The Intersections of Faith and Reproductive Justice by Katey Zeh

The Intersections of Faith & Reproductive Justice

Last week I participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Center for American Progress (CAP) on the intersections of faith and reproductive justice. These conversations are critically important, particularly in these political times when threats to our bodily autonomy and right of conscience are sanctioned by our current administration, Congress, and many state legislatures.

The framing of these public discussions is always interesting and somewhat troubling to me. Often progressive spaces like these do recognize that many people of faith support reproductive health care, but with that understanding is the assumption that supporting the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare, including access to safe abortion care, necessitates some kind of moral reckoning for religious people.

Continue reading “The Intersections of Faith and Reproductive Justice by Katey Zeh”

Contraception, Christianity & Law by Stuart Dean

Stuart WordPress photoNotwithstanding the widespread belief that contraception is not consistent with the principles of Christianity, there is no basis for it.  On the contrary, contraception was closely associated with early Christianity.

Matthew 19:12 is the only passage quoting Christ that is on point.  Christ has been speaking about family law (adultery), acknowledging here that the issue is not relevant to eunuchs, including those who castrate themselves “for the kingdom of heaven.”  At a minimum it seems problematic how this verse is to be understood today.  Yet, the evidence for Christians castrating themselves in the first few centuries after Christ comes from a variety of sources, many of which are considered to be otherwise reliable.  It is very difficult to see why Matthew 19:12 itself should not be taken both as evidence of the practice and Christ’s implicit endorsement of it.

Continue reading “Contraception, Christianity & Law by Stuart Dean”

IN THE NEWS: Health Care, Contraception, and Religion

A case brought forth by a mining company challenging the required coverage of contraception without a copay by employer health care plans was dismissed Friday in a Missouri court.  The mining company argued that the requirement was conflicting with its owners religious beliefs.  Continue reading “IN THE NEWS: Health Care, Contraception, and Religion”

Reproductive Justice by Gina Messina-Dysert

Following the testimony of Sandra Fluke on the lack of availability of contraception and the appalling remarks by Rush Limbaugh that took place in early March, 2012, much discussion around issues of reproductive justice has emerged.  Among these conversations, Mary Hunt recently shared her thoughts in “Contraceptive Controversies” on the issue on FSR-Inc., and graduate students Katie German and Linda Claros organized an event at Loyola Marymount University to invite faculty members, students, and interested persons to engage in dialogue on reproductive justice.  I was honored to have the opportunity to participate in that discussion and would like to share my thoughts here in an effort to continue that dialogue.

To begin, I understand reproductive justice as the call for the social, political and economic ability to make responsible and healthy decisions about gender, sexuality, and procreation for ourselves and our communities with the goal of transforming power inequities and bringing about systemic change.  The denial of reproductive justice in the Catholic Church is a symptom of the larger rape culture.  When I use this phrase I am referring to a culture that not only perpetrates rape, but all forms of sexualized violence against women and girls. Continue reading “Reproductive Justice by Gina Messina-Dysert”

Is Baptism a Male Birthing Ritual? By Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Quite a number of years ago I had a conversation with one of my professors, a feminist theologian, who posed the question “Why do I need a man to purify my baby with the waters of baptism?  Is there something wrong or impure about the blood and water from a mother’s womb – my womb?”  Before you jump and shout the words Sacrament or removal of original sin, this question bears merit in exploring, especially in today’s world where women are taking a serious beating religiously, politically, and socially.  In today’s world, violations and rants are causing women to stand up and say STOP!  This is MY Body.  This outcry was provoked by chants of ethical slurs against women– Slut! Prostitute! Whore!  The cry got even louder when the issue of religion and government was raised in the fight of healthcare coverage of contraception. The cry got even louder with the enactment of the laws in Virginia and Texas (and many other states to follow suit) that forces women to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds in early stage abortions.  The mandatory insertion of a wand into a woman’s vagina (mandated by the government, mind you), is a violation and has women crying RAPE!

The memory of this conversation did not re-appear by chance, it was prompted by a book I read for my History of Sexuality Class – Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Context by Anne McClintock who addresses the notion of baptism through origins, property, and power.  So many things are currently being taken away from women and reading McClintock’s assertion regarding male baptism is perplexing.  She believes that male baptism or baptism by a man takes women’s role in child bearing and diminishes it.  These are the same men who historically treated and regarded women as vessels.  She further asserts that this act is a proactive removal of creative agency with respect to a woman’s ability to have the power to name.  That is, the last name of the child belongs to the husband.  A point that supports the notion that patrimony marks the denial of women.  Anyone doing genealogy encounters a perplexing struggle to identify mothers because their names are essentially erased from memory and rarely attached to a child’s name. Continue reading “Is Baptism a Male Birthing Ritual? By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Preying on Victims: Radical Christianity and Exploitation of Tragedy in the Name of God By Michele Stopera Freyhauf

It is our moral responsibility, whether we identify as Christians or not, to pray for not prey on the victims of tragedies.

Over the last month, dare I say years, society has witnessed or been subjected to an all out war from radical Christians across America deploying the wrath of God and reveling in the tragedy of others to perpetuate their apocalyptic message of rhetoric and terror.   As I hear the news over the last few months, an old Billy Joel song starts to play in my head “We didn’t start the fire.”  Whether we started the fire or not, we should not feed the flames of hatred but figure out a way to extinguish it.

Here is a brief synopsis of current events that reflect this hatred and radicalism perpetuated in the name of God – examples of Christianity terrorizing or preying on victims through their actions.

The Westboro Southern Baptist Church: Preying on Victims at Funerals and Thanking God for their Tragic Deaths

Original Picture found at

Their web address says it all:  This group, which one cannot call Christian but rather “hate-mongers,” threatened to burn the Qur’an, was banned from Facebook for spreading hatred against homosexuals, and recently had the audacity to picket funerals of Americans killed in natural disasters, most recently, a teen-age shooting victim, Daniel Parmertor (age 16), from Chardon, Ohio.  Thankfully, volunteers across Ohio and a local group of bikers formed a human barricade to keep these people away from the funeral and grieving family and community.

This group preys on tragedy.  They “praise God for sending a shooter to a High School in Ohio.”  They “praise God for killing a coast guard member.’  They praise God for killing UK Singer Davy Jones.”  They also picketed the funerals of the Arizona shooting victims where Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords was shot and six others, including federal Judge John M. Roll was killed stating, “God sent the shooter to shoot you!  And He’s sitting in Heaven laughing at you!”  The article goes on into quite graphic detail, which you can read for yourself  but concludes with the statement “Thank God for his Righteous Judgments!”  This group picketed over 47,500 funerals and events to date. One has to wonder what bible they are reading and what God they are praying to. Continue reading “Preying on Victims: Radical Christianity and Exploitation of Tragedy in the Name of God By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

The Rhetoric of Freedom of Religion in the Debate about Contraception Coverage By Elise M. Edwards

Does freedom of religion include the right to impose your religious views on your employees?  Should freedom of religion exempt you from financially contributing to a medical benefit for your employees that you consider sinful?

According to an Associated Baptist Press article, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, “called a new rule [by the Obama Administration] requiring insurance plans to cover birth control — including those paid for by religious employers that believe artificial birth control is a sin — a ‘horrible decision’ that poses a problem not just for faiths that object to birth control” in the January 28 broadcast of Richard Land Live.  Land believes that this policy infringes on religious freedom.  (Note that the health care policy  does exempt houses of worship and religious organizations that employ primarily those of the same faith, but not organizations like hospitals and colleges that employ and serve people of all faiths, or no faith. An article by Religion News Service, posted here, also on a Baptist media outlet, explains the policy in more depth.) Continue reading “The Rhetoric of Freedom of Religion in the Debate about Contraception Coverage By Elise M. Edwards”

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