Street Corner Soapbox: Joe Pitts, Religion, and Healthcare

Category:  Street Corner Soapbox
Thursday, November 10th, 2011 at 9:00 AM
Street Corner Soapbox: Joe Pitts, Religion, and Healthcare by Jay Stevens
A. Conaway

Recently, Representative Joe Pitts – Republican representative of Pennsylvania's 16th district, which spans all of Lancaster county and parts of Berks and Chester counties – called together his Health subcommittee of the House committee on Energy and Commerce to blast the Obama administration standard to mandate that insurers cover contraceptives without co-pay or deductible.

Why? Pitts isn't happy with the present exemption for churches and religious organizations that might object to providing coverage for birth control. Instead, he wants to expand it to employees of all Catholic-affiliated organizations, like schools, universities, and hospitals – many employees of which aren't Catholic.

But that's assuming Catholics are behind Pitts' proposal. According to the group Catholics for Choice's testimony at Pitts' hearing, 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women have used contraceptives.

Which makes sense. After all, deciding when – and whether – to have children is one of the most important and fundamental acts of self-expression that a woman has. Not to mention that pregnancy and childbirth are enormous health risks for a woman. In short, birth control is essential to a woman's health and self-identity, and placing the state between a woman and her health seems...bad.

But this isn't Joe Pitts' first flirtation with policy that's potentially harmful to women. Just a few weeks ago the Pennsylvanian introduced legislation – the “Protect Life” Act – that would forbid women buying insurance that covers abortion through health insurance exchanges, and would allow hospitals and care providers to deny women abortions even in life-threatening situations. Apparently women shouldn't be entrusted to spend their money as they like, or receive life-saving care if it conflicts with Pitts' particular form of ideology.

But then it doesn't appear Pitts is necessarily working in the best interest of his constituents. At least, not the ones who vote for him.

Basically, Pitts, in these bills and others, is running errands for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a group as a religious organization able to hide behind its tax-exempt status and keep the extent of its lobbying efforts secret. Still, according to a Huffington Post report, a Conference official – Richard Doerflinger – admitted to helping Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Pitts draft the contentious anti-abortion amendment (with Kathy Dahlkemper's support) that nearly upended the healthcare reform bill, as well as admitted to having “some input” into Pitts' Protect Life Act and to helping architect the sweeping religious exemptions for health care coverage.

Pitts was also a leading character in Jeff Sharlet's expos? of a secretive cell of religiously inspired politicians and policy-makers called “The Family.” Members of the family – which includes a number other Representatives, Senators, and Pentagon and Department of Defense staffers – “desire to see a leadership led by God,” at least according to the group's mission statement, to do work that “advanc[es] His Kingdom.” According to Sharlet, The Family – with Joe Pitts at its wheel – has worked behind the scenes to steer policy for decades against abortion and other women's rights.

Pitts is along on a collective messianic spiritual quest to bring about God's Kingdom. The rest of us, apparently, just should get out of his way, no matter the cost to our health or personal beliefs.

Erie Reader: Vol. 5, No. 8
Now Available — Pick It Up Today

CURRENT

The veteran alternative band put on an extremely fun performance during a special two-set show at Cleveland's Beachland Ballroom.

The local singer-songwriter seeks help to pursue an opportunity to have her songs recorded and produced in the Big Apple.

Independent TED conferences are held around the world. TEDxErie is on its way.

Greater Erie Film Office hosts seminar on intellectual property for creative works. 

Earth Day turns 45 on April 22. How well are its original goals aging?

IN THIS ISSUE

Highlighting some of the movers and shakers of Erie's toddlers.

Award-winning gospel recording artist Vickie Winans comes to Erie to provide “music ministry.

The veteran comedian discusses his upcoming show at Jr's Last Laugh and how he he keeps comedy fun after years in the business.

A Fool to Care should please nearly every music fan from the last 60 years.

Death Cab for Cutie shows some spark on *Kintsugi, resulting in a very solid record for the veteran group.

You’ll be hooked by what could have been just a gimmick in a lesser musician’s hands.

Carrie & Lowell finds Stevens examining his relationship with his troubled mother, a person he loved despite the emotional aches she caused him.

How a design competition is creating and shaping local business. 

Meeting Fernando Aguirre, Assessing Jordan Spieth, Putting Matt Bauer on the Radar, and Remembering the Trials of the Negro League Players

 

A data-driven, public health model approach to revitalization.