ASSIGNMENT 13: Church and State

By: Alyssa Fenske Email
By: Alyssa Fenske Email

LA CROSSE (WEAU)- Birth control is a hot topic across the nation right now.

You’ve seen politicians dive into the debate as well as religious leaders.

In fact, the department of health and human services recently finalized a birth control mandate.

We have a unique perspective; that of a local doctor who has balanced her catholic faith and her practice.

Doctor Mary Keuhl takes her religion seriously; it defines who she is, a catholic doctor.

“My faith is part of everything I do whether out in the community or parenting at home or in my profession as a family practitioner,” said Dr. Mary Keuhl.

The mandate requires employers or their insurance companies to cover birth control and plan B, commonly known as the morning after pill. But that goes against Keuhl’s current practice and beliefs.

“I don’t prescribe contraception in my practice. I never have. I’m encouraging natural family planning as a way of women using their own cycle,” said Dr. Mary Keuhl.

In the past couple months, this issue has exploded into controversy on the national stage, front and center in the GOP race for president.
Some democrats call it a war on women, but Keuhl doesn’t see it that way. Instead, she says it’s more about the constitution.

“It’s an American question. Do people have the freedom of religion? That’s what I think is wrong with the mandate, it’s trying to erode that first amendment right,” said Dr. Mary Keuhl.

Bishop William Patrick Callahan of the La Crosse Diocese agrees.

“We didn’t ask for this fight, we didn’t try to get involved, we didn’t pick the fight. This is an issue of religious liberty and that’s were we stand as patron of the faith and patriotic Americans,” said Bishop William Patrick Callahan.

President Obama did try to compromise with religious institutions, stating they would be exempt and the burden would be passed along to their insurance companies. But that’s still wrong says Keuhl.

“The best way I equate it. If I have to kill my husband or ask someone to kill my husband in that instance I would still have to go to jail,” said Dr. Mary Keuhl.

The future of the mandate is still uncertain, but no matter what happens Keuhl says it will not shake her faith. She plans to keep doing her practice as she’s always done it; saying that it’s her strong ethics that keep her patients coming back.

“When people come to a physician they want that physician who has morals and ethics to be able to display those morals and ethics and to take care of them in that wonderful way without intrusion,” said Dr. Mary Keuhl.

The mandate is scheduled to go into effect in 2013, but until it is official many Catholics and non -Catholics alike are going to fight against it.

“As far as it takes. We are going to fight this. In this instance we believe we are patriots. It’s been enlivening because I see so many people, people of good will, not necessarily faith. I see Jewish Muslim catholic coming together saying yes this is something worth fighting for,” said Bishop William Patrick Callahan.

“What is truth is truth, what is right is right, and human dignity is what is right. And when life begins is when human dignity starts and so I cannot go against that whether the government tells me to or not whether anyone tells me to or not,” said Dr. Mary Keuhl.

Right now there are options for women who don’t have insurance or health care and wish to have access to birth control or contraceptives. Option clinics are placed all around the state, and provide health care to those in need for little or no cost. We talked to Exectutive Director of options clinic in La Crosse to get their take on the Birth Control Mandate. Like Doctor Keuhl, they believe that the option should stay between the provider and the patient.

“The decision to be on birth control or use birth control should be between a women and her provider. It’s a personal decision; it’s about good health and good medicine. When we make it a political issue it’s unfortunate because it limits the access to care and access to good medicine,” said Options Clinic Executive Director, Beth Hartung.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Rebecca Location: Holmen on May 11, 2012 at 04:01 AM
    This was awesome to see! We need more solid news coverage like this. Thank you so much for presenting the topic in a balanced and fair approach.
  • by Eau Really Location: Former EC on May 8, 2012 at 11:40 AM
    I can solve this problem. The company I work at charges me $500 less for medical and $100 less for dental because I'm certified as a non-smoker. Why doesn't the church just add to the employee insurance contribution for people who want birth control and pass the cost on the individual. They have tools for monitoring if someone is lying, like reimbursable health accounts, audits from their insurance provider, etc. If it's reasonalbe to charge the smokers more, why not this?
    • reply
      by Anon on May 8, 2012 at 04:32 PM in reply to Eau Really
      Won't work, gender based, discriminates against women since there is no male contraceptive available. Most insurance companies will be more than happy to pay for having your tubes tied or a vasectomy though even if it is elective.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on May 9, 2012 at 10:36 AM in reply to Eau Really
      wow
  • by Heidi on May 8, 2012 at 06:50 AM
    It's a real sad story when men are more in favor of protecting unborn babys than the traditional protector of children - women.
    • reply
      by Laura B. on May 8, 2012 at 08:39 AM in reply to Heidi
      Sorry dear, but if the sperm doesn't meet the egg there is NO WAY THE EGG IS A BABY.
  • by Beth on May 8, 2012 at 06:47 AM
    Support planned parenthood. Let the union abortion democrats get rid of their own kind. Natural selection in action as it should be.
  • by Anonymous on May 7, 2012 at 10:43 PM
    How about when churches, ministers, preachers, deacons, priests, bishops and all PAY TAXES, then they can have a voice in government policy. Until then, it's like France telling the USA how to do its business.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on May 8, 2012 at 09:33 AM in reply to Anonymous
      Its about being exempt and entitled and if it were a union the same people for this would rally against it.
      • reply
        by Anon 2 on May 8, 2012 at 03:23 PM in reply to
        Aren't churches just like unions? They've got members, they collect money (like dues), they tell members what to do (or not do), and they give benefits (hope and support). Now if they could just negotiate for better wages...
        • reply
          by Anonymous on May 9, 2012 at 10:39 AM in reply to Anon 2
          woopsy. He he.
  • by Mari Location: La Crosse on May 7, 2012 at 07:29 PM
    Thank you, Assignment 13, for carrying this important news piece.
  • by Janen Location: Catawba, WI on May 7, 2012 at 06:15 PM
    Thank you for reporting fairly on the topic of the HHS Mandate and allowing Bishop Callaghan and Dr Keuhl to speak about our Catholic Faith. I am so tired of the media getting it wrong and finally your station cares enough to go the extra mile. Thank you Allyssa Fenske for doing a great job on this story. I would definitely send my daughter to Dr Keuhl for care!
  • by Jo Location: Wisconsin on May 7, 2012 at 03:45 PM
    The government should not be able to force someone to provide contraception or abortion coverage if it is against their conscience. There are many other conscience clauses. Get real. Anyone who wants birth control can easily get it at little or no cost. This is another ploy to water down Christianity. All Christians were AGAINST birth control until quite recently. Now if anyone stands against it they are considered freaks. So darn sad.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on May 8, 2012 at 06:04 AM in reply to Jo
      "A recent Guttmacher research report found 98 percent of sexually-active Catholic women said they have used artificial forms of birth control — like the pill or condoms. Only 2 percent of Catholic women rely on the church-endorsed natural family planning (NFP), which used to consist of the rhythm method" http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2012/02/10/good-question-why-are-catholics-against-birth-control/ Please quote your scource that "all Christians were against BC until quite recently."
  • by Connie Location: La Crosse, WI on May 7, 2012 at 03:39 PM
    I agree with our Bishop! This is an attack on religious liberty. We stand firmly on the side of the Church hiarchy!! We will not be frightened or coerced into anything but repeal of this mandate.
    • reply
      by Laura B. on May 8, 2012 at 04:01 AM in reply to Connie
      Bull. Nobody is telling anyone they HAVE to USE birth control, just telling insurance companies they have to cover it for the ones that DO!Church is a seperate issue, that is up to the person, but a business that makes money off of everyone no matter what faith they are or are not, is still a BUSINESS!A doctor is working in a profession that is supposed to help people with medical issues, it has nothing to DO with church or religion!Birth control is NOT cheap, Jo. You think so, but you are wrong.A religion can't rule those that don't belong to it!
      • reply
        by Mary on May 8, 2012 at 08:45 AM in reply to Laura B.
        Here are the two backward ways of thinking in many minds. First, it's ok that pushing birth control is a BUSINESS which leads to places like Planned Parenthood's REAL BUSINESS- ABORTION. Do you realize planned parenthood pushes birth control on purpose? They the lowest dose possible that needs to be taken at exactly the same time everyday KNOWING it will fail! Then they jump in with, now you have a problem that we can also help you with because she becomes pregnant with a human child. Second, she does not have a PROBLEM or a medical ISSUE such as a tumor that needs to be removed.
        • reply
          by Anonymous on May 8, 2012 at 09:32 AM in reply to Mary
          Your are delusional and paranoid. Nothing about the scenario you outline makes any sense. Please get help.
        • reply
          by Laura B. on May 8, 2012 at 01:40 PM in reply to Mary
          Mary, that is so silly, you know better.PP never has done that many abortions dear, and they have been around for well over a hundred years.Much of what they do is preventive health stuff, scans for cancers in both men and women,Pap tests, ect. Birth control info is only part of it, and something like 3 percent of visits are for abortion, 3 percent is not that many.
        • reply
          by Don on May 8, 2012 at 04:38 PM in reply to Mary
          Laura B. Why make your child wear a seat belt? After all not everyone that doesn't wear one dies in a crash. They are expendable you know.
    • reply
      by Laura B. on May 9, 2012 at 07:19 AM in reply to Connie
      Don, an egg is not a baby.
      • reply
        by Don on May 9, 2012 at 09:44 AM in reply to Laura B.
        We are not talking about unfertilized eggs, I dare you to watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3SYR0qCDdQ
        • reply
          by Laura B. on May 10, 2012 at 05:36 AM in reply to Don
          Don, I am talking about birth control pills, pills which block the sperm from meeting the egg. Now, how hard is that for you to understand?If the sperm and egg do not JOIN, then there IS no baby Don.This is not even ABOUT any "day after" pills, this is about regular birth control.
  • by Marie Location: La Crosse on May 7, 2012 at 02:18 PM
    Science has shown us that human life begins at conception. Many people don't know that most types of contraceptive pills will destroy this human life in its earliest stages. Thank you, Dr. Keuhn, for your stance on protecting human life in all its stages, and for honoring the oath you took when you became a physician.
    • reply
      by Laura B. on May 8, 2012 at 04:04 AM in reply to Marie
      No it has NOT Marie.There is no cortex until later on in development , no brain to think with or have emotion or feeling until later on.Brain dead people are pulled off of breathing machines all the time,becaue they don't function.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on May 8, 2012 at 06:49 AM in reply to Marie
      you clearly don't understand how hormonal birth control works. You cite "science" as showing something that it unequivocally does not. You clearly also don't understand the Hippocratic oath. Denying a patient a treatment option because you have a personal moral objection to it is the exact OPPOSITE of what a doctor is supposed to do.
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