11/30/2011 11:05 am ET | Updated Jan 30, 2012

Will Obama Abandon Women for Bishops?

Many women across America are livid at the news that President Obama once again is considering selling women out on reproductive health care to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

At issue is whether Obama will renege on the promise of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that the package of preventive services available to American women under the Affordable Care Act will include all forms of prescription birth control, without a deductible or co-pay.

Because this opportunity will include the women (non-Catholic as well as Catholic) who work for institutions under Catholic auspices that employ non-Catholics, serve non-Catholics, have secular missions -- education, health care, social services -- and thrive on public taxpayer funds, the bishops are irate. They want no woman in their network of secularly oriented institutions to have access to coverage for birth control, and they are apoplectic about the very fair exemption that does exist, allowing them to refuse to provide this coverage to women working for a narrowly defined religious institution (like a church).

In fact, the women working in these nominally Catholic educational, health-related and social service entities are merely a subset of the total population of American women the bishops have targeted. They are lobbying HHS to deprive all American women of insurance coverage for "prescription contraceptives, sterilization and related patient education and counseling." They argue -- in arrogant defiance of the conclusions of the Institute of Medicine, the World Health Organization, the International College of OB-GYNs, and the American Public Health Association, among others -- that these are "not 'health' services."

It remains incomprehensible that these theoretically celibate male hierarchs -- so compromised by their blatant and naked disregard for the most basic laws of moral human interaction, for refusing to protect male and female children and adolescents from rape, sodomy and sexual abuse, decade after decade to the present day -- have the ear of anyone in power to make moral choices on behalf of anyone else, much less women.

When will America's politicians recognize that the men who run the Catholic Church have only the power that others in power are willing to grant them? Otherwise, the bishops' power is a figment of their own imaginations.

Catholics do not agree with them on the most basic moral issues -- from birth control to abortion, divorce to homosexuality -- acting in accordance with their own consciences, not the bishops' dictums. Non-Catholics, including those who work for nominally Catholic institutions, have no obligation to abide by the bishops' positions. When will our political leaders realize that they ought not to be listening either? When will Obama realize it?

If the President caves to the bishops on birth control coverage by broadening the religious institution's exemption from providing that coverage, he will not only be burdening access to a crucial primary care service for the millions of women who work for those Catholic institutions and the female students who attend them.

He will also be bowing to the demands of the representatives of an institution that is shot through with misogyny: a self-righteous and intractable commitment to silencing women, shutting them out of the highest positions of power, without voice on issues affecting their own most intimate lives, and a complete and total denial of women's most basic right to control their own bodies.

President Obama: Are these really the guys you want to be in bed with?