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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