By: Bailey Parrish

My name is Bailey Parrish. A 23-year old-employee of a Catholic hospital, I grew up in Ozark, Mo., and moved to Springfield, Mo., to study psychology, biomedical science and religious studies at Missouri State University. When I was 20, I was hired on as a nurse's aide. It's hard, unglamorous and underpaid work, but together with nurses, doctors, social workers, housekeeping and administration, we take care of our patients. We also take care of each other.

I will continue to work with what has become my family until I move to Washington, D.C., in the fall to study public health promotion. This will be a happy move because my education will allow me to reach more people, but it will be sad because I will be leaving the mothers, grandmothers, sisters and brothers that have changed me for the better.

The Obama administration recently made a decision to protect affordable access to birth control. Now, millions of women including those in my surrogate family, who are employed at religiously affiliated hospitals or universities, will receive the same health and economic benefits as everyone else. These are benefits we need.

When I first started, I didn't care about being an active contributor to the system or becoming a better person; I needed a job. But like any good first job, my experiences there have taught me the value of discipline, the power of a positive attitude and ,most importantly, love and tolerance for others whatever their personal differences.

When on the clock, I understand that I am not there to form opinions about people, and I am not there to inform others. I may not refuse to provide a service that medical science has proved to help others because of how it makes me feel, or how I feel about the one giving me the order, or sometimes even what I know to be true. Although ministry is a valuable ideal, the organization I work for is primarily focused on providing medical care for all who need it by employing people capable of providing it.

That is all that this provision, which has received so much media attention, is trying to do: provide care. By making birth control available and affordable for all, it gives women and families choices.

Others would have you believe that this provision tramples on religious choices of institutions. What they fail to mention is that the original compromise on this policy gave churches and houses of worship the freedom to opt out of this policy. Approximately 335,000 are exempted.

Recently, President Obama went even further, making special accommodations for religious employers like mine who operate like any other employer in terms of employees and people served. These include huge hospitals and universities, which have a primarily secular purpose and hire thousands of people based on secular criteria. The new policy says religious organizations will be allowed to deny contraceptive coverage should they choose. Importantly, though, the president clarified that insurance companies will offer contraceptive coverage to those employees with no additional burden or cost. If you have been told differently, that person was either misinformed or lying.

America values religious freedom because it values personal freedom -- not the other way around. Employers also must respect personal freedom, something on which conservatives and progressives can agree.

People will always disagree. But when we make policy decisions, we need to stick to the facts.
* Women of all faiths use birth control. Catholics do so in the same proportion as other women.
* Birth control allows women to plan their families and have healthier pregnancies. This means more healthy mothers and children.
* A majority of the American public supports this new policy.

Sometimes on our quest to serve God, we see only potential threats to His world. We forget that He is also about tolerance and choices. This provision will not force anyone to consume or provide birth control; it only makes it affordable for all.
Parrish works at a Catholic hospital as a Nurse's Aide. She is a recent graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield, MO, and will be attending George Washington University in the Fall to pursue her masters degree.

© Missouri Forum. 2/12.


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