Catholic institutions will resist the Obama administration decision that birth control is preventive medicine and thus must be covered by group health insurance plans. The institutions will fight this as an incursion on religion.

This is a tough issue. It is also a poor proxy for a fundamental difference in the political parties. Republican candidates, including Mitt Romney, the likely nominee, say they want to roll back federal support for family planning. Medical opinion is firm: family planning prevents unwanted pregnancy and thus discourages abortion and the poor pre-natal care that often accompanies unwanted pregnancies. Women, who are the ones who get pregnant, understand this. 98 percent of women have used contraception and the percentage is the same for Catholic women, despite the church’s firm position against it.

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Do women really agree with the archbishop quoted in this New York Times summary of the debate who describes use of condoms and birth control pills as the “culture of death”? Is there political gain in supporting a position that forces this medical outcome?

One recent Georgetown law graduate, who asked not to be identified for reasons of medical privacy, said she had polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition for which her doctor prescribed birth control pills. She is gay and had no other reason to take the pills. Georgetown does not cover birth control for students, so she made sure her doctor noted the diagnosis on her prescription. Even so, coverage was denied several times. She finally gave up and paid out of pocket, more than $100 a month. After a few months she could no longer afford the pills. Within months she developed a large ovarian cyst that had to be removed surgically — along with her ovary.

“If I want children, I’ll need a fertility specialist because I have only one working ovary,” she said.

ICYMI: The Catholic Diocese of Little Rock is fully committed to the fight against contraception. News release last week:

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