By Denise Bossert
I had a poorly formed conscience by the time I graduated from high school. My engaged cousins were whisked off to their family doctors to get a prescription for birth control pills, while the rest of us watched and waited for our own love stories to unfold. Our mothers had made it clear that sex was to be saved for marriage, but they also said that responsible husbands and wives made sure that they managed their fertility.
At 17, I bought the lie about artificial birth control. With pregnancy averted, I ran headlong down the path of pre-marital sex. I married young, and the two of us worked on our undergraduate degrees. Planned Parenthood offered free birth control. We took it without question. The ease with which we could get artificial contraception lulled me into thinking our choices were fine. I didn’t think twice about artificial contraception until my husband had his first post-college job and the health insurance did not cover birth control pills.
I distinctly remember my confusion. I was irritated, but I was mostly just perplexed. Why wouldn’t an insurance company cover this when my whole family (with its plethora of Protestant preachers and missionaries) believed it was right and necessary? I purchased the contraception out-of-pocket, but the “no” from the insurance company gave me pause. In fact, it was the first time I realized that not everyone believed artificial contraception had the divine stamp of approval.
When my non-sacramental marriage was crumbling, I discovered I was pregnant again. I believed that abortion was wrong, but I scheduled the sterilization surgery for the afternoon following my baby’s birth to avoid another unplanned pregnancy. Once again, I had my family’s blessings. Most of my cousins had already undergone vasectomies or tubal ligations.
The non-sacramental marriage ended anyway.
In time, I remarried. My husband had no children of his own. I desperately wanted to have a child with him. I had a choice. I could have the tubal ligation reversed or I could pursue in vitro fertilization. At that time, Illinois and California were the only states requiring insurance companies to cover IVF. Tubal reversals weren’t covered by any insurance policies – not in any state.
It is a fact that insurance standards affect one’s perceptions. I saw it as a green light for IVF and a red light for tubal reversal. The insurance companies had spoken.
I tell you these things for one reason. What insurance covers matters! It sends a message to the policy holder. This is acceptable. That is unacceptable. This is good. And that is bad.
And the American public buys into the lies. We begin to accept birth control as a standard. We believe sterilization is the final stop on the path to family planning. Some consider abortion when their decisions fail to prevent pregnancy.
The fallacy that one could (or should) master her own fertility triumphs. The journey back from that place is long. My fault, my fault, my most grievous fault.
I suppose there are many Catholics who don’t feel they should voice their opposition to the mandate by the HHS that institutions that serve people outside of their religious organization must offer insurance coverage that includes artificial contraceptives, abortifacient drugs, and sterilization.
Sometimes, a simple “no” will shake someone out of apathy or break through the lies that lull the masses into places where angels fear to tread.
The reality is this: what insurance covers matters. There is a hidden message. And institutions that follow the HHS mandate actually facilitate and participate in the lie.
We cannot remain silent at this most critical time in our history.
(The author blogs at