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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