NPR: Why Catholics Say ‘No’ To Contraception, But ‘Yes’ To Viagra

NPR’s Julie Rovner asks an excellent question in her report today about the ongoing uproar over new federal rules that would require employers to cover contraception as part of an overall package of preventative care for women. She writes:

If health insurance plans offered by Catholic-sponsored entities refuse to cover contraceptives for women because of the religion’s moral teachings banning artificial birth control, do they cover Viagra for men?

She says she got several emails asking just that after her story on the Obama administration’s change in the initial rule mandating coverage of birth control. (As part of the change, Obama said that hospitals, universities and charities sponsored by religious groups could opt out of covering contraception if their insurance companies did offer it to employees.)

So why is Viagra ok? Rovner reports:

The answer on Viagra coverage is usually yes, Catholic leaders say. And they argue that’s neither hypocritical nor sexist. Procreation is something the Catholic church encourages. And Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs can be of help.

Still, Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops tells me that many Catholic-based health plans are now adding caveats that such drugs “should be prescribed for a medically identifiable problem to prevent wide abuse.”

Vasectomies, on the other hand, are banned by Catholic-sponsored health insurance. “We have the same objection to male sterilization as to the female variety,” Doerflinger says.

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  • Randy Lock

    Why do religious organizations even have drugs available period. Shouldn’t faith heal all ailments?????

  • thesarah7799

    We need to take religion out of healthcare. PERIOD.

  • http://www.facebook.com/beth.jones.184881 Beth Jones

    Many not-for-profit Catholic healthcare organizations are quite well off financially; they are run more often by guys in expensive suits than sisters, and they are buying out less sound hospitals in adjoining areas. Then you have Catholic mega-hospital groups, and communities where patients and healthcare workers have little or no choice. I once talked with a woman employed at a Catholic-owned nursing home, as was her husband. They were CNA’s, had been there since finishing high school and getting certified. 3 kids 12 and under, and they still lived with her parents because their income was so low. She got gestational diabetes with each pregnancy, and almost lost her life with the third. She was told by her Dr not to get pregnant again.
    They use NFP as their insurance won’t cover contraceptives, but her menstrual cycle is very irregular. She was literally terrified for her life – no one should have to live like that in modern times. A tubal ligation was what was needed, and reccomended, but without insurance coverage she had no way to pay for one, and she was afraid even if she somehow found a way, she would lose her job once it showed up on her medical records. Just wrong, wrong, wrong!!!

  • G

    Is a 60 year old man married to a 60 year old woman going to procreate? What about peri-menopausal women who have received great relief from pain and excessive bleeding using birth control pills, a cheaper and less invasive treatment than surgery?

  • sabien95

    But if a man’s body stops performing sexually, who are we to say that’s not God’s plan for that particular man at that particular point in his life? Are we saying that God messed up and meant for that man to be able to continue to procreate, but for some reason the man’s body is going against God’s plan and needs us to intervene on God’s behalf?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dallas-Gard/1496336754 Dallas Gard

    So, how much procreation does Viagra result in? One would assume that the 50-something man was having sex with his 50-something wife. Don’t see many babies resulting from that situation. Next!

  • Jblover12379

    Ok the Catholics say yes to Viagra and no to birth control because Viagra is not stopping people from having children it is helping.

    • mccmomof3

      But if that man is not married, it’s more consistently against Catholic teaching of no sex outside of marriage, no? The BC question was voted on by cardinals and theologians and the vast majority of them thought the pill should be allowed.  Also, the doctor who developed it was a devout Catholic himself.  It was only the pope’s veto that made that decision….

    • vbeebs

      Still, they shouldn’t be able to pick and choose what parts of their religion they want to follow. If you’re going to protest that something is against your beliefs because “the bible says so” then they should probably be avoiding a few other things as well (eating pork, covering their hair, no sex before marriage, etc).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1043964644 Dan Schaub

    Viagra is designed to treat a medical dysfunction.  Birth control is not.  Or at least it was not initially designed to.  Quit comparing the two that way.  Start touting the many OTHER benefits of bc, and you’ll get much further.  Regardless of how good of an idea birth control itself is, no halfway intelligent adult is going to buy the fact that ANYONE has the right to demand their company cover pharmaceutical fertility management, unless it is warranted by an underlying health concern.  Mature adults have other options.  Birth control for birth control’s sake is a convenience.  Not a right.
    Also, Catholics are loonies.

    • Guest007

      Of course birth control treats an underlying health concern – it is a preventive measure against unintended pregnancy, which carries health risks including death.  It is no different from a vaccine that prevents one from being infected with a virus that may make you sick.  How in the world should your health insurance NOT cover preventive care?  They will cover the prenatal care, labor and delivery, so that must be a medical condition.  Why would they not cover costs related to avoiding that very medical condition?  That would be like refusing to pay for statin cholesterol pills but then paying for the bypass surgery. 

    • mccmomof3

      Birth control pills are used for many medical dysfunctions, actually.  But if you want to say that birth control has nothing to do with health, ask the women who died at extremely young ages simply from having too many children.  The devout Catholic doctor who developed the pill did so because his mother died at 50 from birthing too many children….

    • vbeebs

      Yep, we need to start touting the other benefits of BC. Women also use the pill to: reducing cramps or
      menstrual pain; menstrual regulation, which for some women may
      help prevent migraines and other painful “side effects” of menstruation; treatment of acne; and treatment of endometriosis (4%).

  • Josh Lee

    What about Viagra for single men — Catholic church clearly subsidizes fornication with obstacles and punishment just for women.  Double standard meant to keep women down, the actual end that justifies these means, and politicians should fight it instead of embrace it.  

  • catholic school grrrl

    devout Catholics can’t engage in artificial insemination or other fertility treatments, so I don’t see how viagara is ok. The church’s position has been that humans should not artificially interfere with the process of procreation. 

  • Ms.Marsh

    It is hypocritical and sexist…unless of course the Catholic organizations refuse to cover Viagra for unmarried men.  Why isn’t that question being asked by the media?  

  • Janice Valverde

    I laughed out loud when I saw this question. Men don’t use birth control. Women don’t use Viagra.  What else do you need to know?  And underlying that simply truth is the fact that the Catholic Church is the institution most deeply entrenched and dedicated to sexism and patriarchy. I submit that there are not many Catholic women–except those in the third world where there may not be access to birth control prescription med–who don’t decide for themselves whether or not to use birth control and buy it however it is most convenient and affordable.  Do they really care about all this nonsense?  This is one of silliest debates ever. All of a sudden, after Catholic women have been using birth control for 40 years, it becomes a big election year political football. Another red herring for the criminally out-of-date to throw out and waste time and resources on.

    How about devoting some attention to issues that address the future of our planet in the 21st century, not issues that are all comfortably settled since the 1970s?  In case these great religious leaders need some ideas of worthwhile issues to save women from “wide abuse,” here are just a few to start the list: women are being raped as part of warfare in Africa, China’s Communist central government is still forcing poor rural women to have abortions (sometimes in 2nd and even 3rd trimester), there is rampant activity in the child sex trade in many nations,   girls in parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries in that region are still not being educated.  

    • Sula

      Just to correct you Janice, I am from a Latino America country myself and I find it unbelievable that I couldn’t get anti-conceptive without a prescription. That it takes me 5 days sometimes for a blood pregnancy test. In my country  it only takes me 15 dollars in 15 min. So America is as scary for me as any other Muslim country, really, specially after this week, and all this religious fanaticism. 

      • Muppethead

        If it takes 5 days for you, find another Dr. or get an over the counter test. Your country probably doesn’t have all the red tape to go through when testing  also. If America scares you, you are free to leave. We don’t want to see you go but if you are equating a political debate with what goes on in Muslim countries, maybe what you offer our country, combined with you being scared, means you need to go back home.

    • mccmomof3

      I know, the most ridiculous thing is that ever since it was available, the same percentage of Catholic women have used BC as the rest of the women in the US — it’s just men arguing about what women should do.  Why isn’t anyone talking about whether it’s right to pay for unmarried men’s Viagra or Viagra for men whose wives have gone through menopause (I have actually heard a Catholic say that sex is ONLY for procreation, so then why should those couples be “facilitated” to have sex?)?  I of course don’t agree with this any more than I agree that Catholic institutions ought to be able to refuse to pay for birth control, but it begs the question….

  • Cleatusjr

    Why should women get free contraceptives in the first place? I think this is the true argument not this religious stuff. This is just a distraction from the real issue. If they choose to have sex, they should take the measures to prevent pregnancy themselves, or choose not to risk sex.

    • sula

      They don’t get pregnant alone idiot. America is the only country in the world that still debates over this stupid issue, in any other country in where democracy is in place this is not even a topic of debate, anti-conceptive are available without a prescription and accessible. But this country behave as extreme as any muslin extreme country, just a bunch of misogynistic. 

      • Guest

        I agree.  The focus of such emotions and finger pointings should be at our country.  Look at us, we are fighting one another, tearing each other down, disrespecting each other over an issue that other countries don’t have problems with. If contraception is made more affordable and accessible in general, then we wouldn’t be arguing about who should provide it.  The answer on who should make contraception more affordable and accessible is our government itself, not private religious institutions.  This is a very sly way of US government to dump the blame and put all the weight on the Catholic church and just sit back and see who wins: Catholic church vs general public.  We’re being played.  

        And to those who say that the church is a bunch of men making decisions, who do you think run our country?  We’ve never had a female president! 

    • http://twitter.com/MsWorld3911 Miss World

      Cntraception is used for a plethora of medical reasons, not preventing pregnancy alone. Sex is not wrong or bad either and we as humans have hormones that release telling us to have sex (to procreate) but we have evolved past needing to have as many babies as possible. So those who do not or can not have children still have the urges to have sex. Sex is also a beneficial activity for exercise and connection with your partner. It is a hugely important medicine that protects people from a wide range of medical problems that people are just ignoring so they can rail against sluts who have sex. Well I don’t believe that sex is wrong, but that’s only one part of this issue. Insurance covers many other medicines that are a “choice” but we argue about helping women with their “terrifying” medical problems of the reproductive area.

    • P. McCoy

      Men should choose not to have sex either, Hense no need for Viagra. Consent to sex is not consent to pregnancy. By the way, if you don’t want to pay for my birth control based on ” religious grounds”, them MY religious beliefs say that I don’t want to pay for the caring of your downs syndrome adult child or child when the cost of that child breaks you financially. Better get rich and support it 100% yourself, give it up for adoption, or better yet, be responsible and abort it as soon as you know it’s defective.

  • Argostolitotisa

    Contraceptives vs religion. Ok. I got it. Now, here is a job, I don’t have one and I need it. I am not a catholic. Should my employer, no matter who they are, provide my lawfully-given rights to me or not? My answer is this: A woman should not have to leave her civic rights at the door to enter ANY place of employment. I don’t know the statistics, but I am certain that religious institutions – from the Washington Post (reverend Moon) to the Mormon enterprises to the Catholic hospitals and Universities — our country is full of places of employment that wear the “religious” garb. If we are to excllude these jobs at a time when there aren’t enough to go around, I am sure our unemployment would climb even higher. So are we? To exclude them I mean? Or am I, as a woman, suppose to exclude my own needs  and beliefs and sacrifice them to the job I very much need? Are they, at this point excluding me from their job market? If these institutions want to maintain their religiocity, then they need to say on their job applications “ONLY CATHOLICS NEED APPLY.” Which is illegal in this country the last I checked. I rest my case. This isn’t about religion. It is about women’s rights. A man will not have to decide if he needs to work vs. if he needs to birth children. Moreover, it is about our constitution, which protects us from religion’s differential attitutes and beliefs, when it comes to the greater good of having our population employed.

    • Laubrenn

      minor point – the Moonies’ connection is to the  Washington Times, not the Washington Post….

    • Bob

       Don’t even bring up the Constitution in an off-based rant like that. First and foremost, there is no “right” to contraceptives. Neither is there a right to health care. Those are called “entitlements”. This indicates that while you may not have the contraceptives you would want, you want a force (the government) to use coercion in order to take from another and give to you. Or are you like the many others who say that the government won’t actually paying, and that it is mandated by the government for the insurance companies to give it away for “free”. Free? Free? How? “There is no such thing as a free lunch”. Sit back and watch the premiums skyrocket. Unless… The government has a total takeover of the health care system, as Europe has done. Won’t that be a lovely sight. Free health care! How can anybody buy that for a second? You will pay for it with taxes, long waits, poor service, and end up looking overseas for quality health care, as so many Canadians do to the United States. The key is looking at WHY it all costs so much. Government intervention is the sole reason for the jump in costs over the last fifty years.

      That was my little rant. But I’m going to do you a little favor here. Educate yourself. http://breckshire.wordpress.com/2007/03/18/rights-vs-entitlement-and-privilege/

  • Helenedcmc

    This is still a mans world. This is a womens issue and the church is run by men so I am not suprised at what is going on. By the way military wives are getting contraceptives free and have been for more than 40 years. What if the gov’t decided not to issue the contraceptives to military wives who are catholics. Put the shoe on the other foot.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Inceptone-Desistam/100003367489987 Inceptone Desistam

       Actually, in this case it’s not a women’s issue and the church is not interested in preventing women from getting contraception if that is what the women want.  This issue is about the government forcing a religion to do something against their moral conscience — forcing those who teach that procreation is the purpose of human sexuality to FACILITATE the act they teach is immoral — in short, sex outside of that purpose — and worse, the killing of human life.

      It’s the catholic woman’s decision whether she obtains and uses contraception or abortifacients through the military or private insurance; and the church is not suggesting that the catholic faithful be denied the ability to obtain and use them — but the government has no right to force the catholic church to tempt her (or a woman of another denomination or faith) with them by facilitating access or providing them through the purchasing of such insurance.

      Last I checked, no one was forced to work for a catholic institution; we’ve just been fortunate to reap the benefits of their existence.  There is still a choice here, but it’s not to throw away Amendment #1; if this is such a critical concern, find a job at a non-Catholic institution.

      • J. Kemp

        Last I checked, no one was forcing the Catholic Church to run hospitals. If they choose to engage in commercial activities, then they are required to follow the law. To quote Antonin Scalia, “[w]hen followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity.”

      • Anonymous

        If all the employees who work for Catholic institutions quit because they don’t practice Catholicism, the hospitals, universities and charities would be in a hell of a mess, now wouldn’t they? And what about their freedom of religion? Just asking. Oh, if these institutions aren’t willing to accept the laws of the land, maybe they should give up all their federal grant monies and maybe even pay taxes. 

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Inceptone-Desistam/100003367489987 Inceptone Desistam

           That’s the government suggestion — employ and serve only Catholics to gain an exemption.  Seems foolish given the good that the hospitals and charities do for the community.  Not to mention what would happen to the unemployment rate if the government forced these institutions to terminate non-Catholics and rehire only from their own ranks.  Regardless of how the media attempts to portray them, Catholics are here first to serve, and that’s why these institutions were opened in the first place.

          It used to be that health coverage was a benefit that people would consider when accepting a job offer –  and if abortion/contraception coverage is a deal breaker, don’t accept the job.

          • P. McCoy

            Killing women as what happened to Savita whose life was suicided for the heart beat of a rotting, septic fetus is not my idea of good health care nor of helping the community. Get the Catholic Church out of health care and the social services industries. Make them pay taxes since they are a political movement bent on establishing a Catholic Taliban structure here, controlling, what we read, what we see, say and wear just like IN SAUDI ARABIA

      • sula

        Well I guess my religion will fit perfectly, they completed does not support the supply of blood even in very difficult operations or life situations. I am so glad America is so open to let them impose their believe to their employees too, if they happen to be the CEO of the company. 

      • Barry

        What moral conscience?  This is about insurance not faith.  If churches are going to be in the insurance business then they have to follow the rules like everyone else does.  Government imposes all sorts of regulations on insurance companies to keep them from ripping us off (not that it’s effective) – and they need to get with the program on this – after all, they are male bishops  who have taken an oath of celibacy.  What do they actually know about the real world?

      • Dee

        So what strange logic do you have for them allowing coverage for Viagra?

      • mccmomof3

        I’m assuming that those same institutions don’t pay for unmarried men’s Viagra either, then….

      • P. McCoy

        Outlaw and strip all government funding for religious institutions that discriminates against women who wish to use contraception. Tell pharmaceutical companies that due to discrimatory practices that they ought not to sell goods

        nor give customer support to Catholic institutions that view women as disposable breeders and help men get unnatural sexual arousal with the use of Cialis or Viagra. America needs to disengage itself from the religious tyranny involved in all the social services of the Catholic Church. We need penal laws like Great Britain used to have, which effectively curtailed the pernicious influence that Catholics had upon a country. Then these struggles over abortion and LGBT rights would be a moot point.

  • Alyson

    oohhh.  It is too sexist.  Who uses Viagra solely for procreation??  Honestly. Viagra should be banned as it allows for sex for pleasure, which is essentially what they’re against, as does the pill.  Ban one, ban the other. But I’ve been wondering about this question, literally, for years and would love to see it taken up on a national level.  (Not to mention I would love to know what the wives/mothers/daughters of all those against birth control and abortion are doing)

    Thanks so much for giving it a look.  I think a lot of people would be interested in a much more involved and thorough investigation

    • Vinsondgranado

      Sorry Alyson but Viagra and the pill are two totally different things. As you know, the Church’s stance on contraception has been consistent throughout the years. Not allowed.

      The pill can be used to prevent pregnancy (which is why it is classified as a contraceptive.) Viagra, on the other hand does not prevent pregnancy, thus not a contraceptive. Therefore you can’t ban one, ban the other in this case.

      • http://twitter.com/ESETResearch ESET Research

        no comment.

        • guest

          There are more options available to women & couples to delay/prevent pregnancy than contraceptives for example NFP or even combine that with the lunar method (both scientifically & medically proven methods to help with delaying-preventing pregnancy and even can be used to help couples conceieve) – its just that sofew women or even men bother to use these methods because it means 1 – learning the methods in some cases going to a class, being patient while learning your bodys signs and the method (this can be very time consuming and 2- the  BIGGY is it often mean abstaining from intercourse for a week -2 while the women is potentially fertile.
          It really comes down to your patience and self control – simple as that.  – oh and those particular methods mentioned have a proven scientific and medical protention rate as good even better than the rate of condoms etc. Maybe people ought to start practicing a bit of self control and willingness to learn what ELSE is actually out there and available before having a whinge.
          Oh and lastly- the methods I mentioned are NOT just practiced by religious people they are also practiced by non-religious people who have a willingness to learn and have more control over there own fertility.
          Oh and lastly I am not a man trying to dictact contol over women i am a very intelligent, pro-choice and pro/equal rights woman- who just happens to see that maybe both women and men of any culture etc should have more of an awareness on ALL options out there and how to use them rather than thinking there is just a few.

          • Veronica Avegunskvall

            Hmmmm, natural family planning? Using a calendar, a thermometer and checking the texture of cervical mucous is “natural”? Abstaining to prevent pregnancy by definition is CONTRA-CEPTION.  Latin Contra= opposed to Cept = Catch or receive.  

            Opposition to catching or receiving by avoidance is still contraception. DUH

          • mccmomof3

            I’m assuming you agree that unmarried men should not be allowed to have their Viagra paid for as well…

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1806226603 Katherine Duszka

             As someone who has unfortunately a crazy cycle and enough headaches from it I’d rather use the birth control and know that 98% of the time will I not only not be pregnant but have a great cycle. Natural planning does not work for women like me who have fluctuating month to month cycles that don’t follow the bs 28 day rule.

          • P. McCoy

            NFP is faulty birth control and a joke. You may want the women in your life to commit suicide from childbirth, I choose not. Abortion is as akin to murder as breaking an egg to make an omlette is as akin to animal abuse.

      • Seahawk345

        How many young men have erectile problems.
        Viagra is for old men who are not looking to procreate .
        They want a boner for pleasure only.
        No pill for women, no pill for old men

      • http://twitter.com/MsWorld3911 Miss World

        THe point Mr. Patronizing- is that it is “against GOd’s will” if those guys can’t get hard, God’s is CLEARLY saying he shouldn’t have sex.

        So if Catholics allow men to go against God’s will to ahve sex (which they understand because they are all men and want the right to have sex whenever they please) they must stop this evil hated on women for wanting the same right.