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Tennessee, United States
Retired teacher living in East Tennessee, adjusting to life in the land of round door knobs. Photographer for our local animal shelter and foster of many dogs and kitties. Don't ask me how many dogs I have, but my son got me one of those "I'm the crazy dog lady" sweatshirts.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dear Senator Alexander,

**UPDATE** After I sent my response to Senator Alexander's e-mail, I got the exact same, word-for-word e-mail response from him, which leads me to believe that my letter to the senator never got read by the Senator, possibly not by anyone. But, I made the effort, and YOU are here reading it, and come election time, YOU are the ones who are going to make a difference.


Here's the email I got from my senator today, followed by my response to him.

February 22, 2012 
Mrs. Judy Graham
Thanks very much for getting in touch with me and letting me know what’s on your mind regarding the Obama Administration’s regulations on preventive health services and the impact on religiously affiliated employers such as schools, universities, hospitals and charities.
I believe that requiring our nation’s religious institutions to defy the basic tenets of their faith shows a disturbing disregard for the Constitution’s protections on religious freedoms. The Administration’s proposed regulation and recent clarification are an unacceptable intrusion into this important constitutional freedom and I will work with my colleagues to overturn this policy.
This is why I am co-sponsoring Senator Marco Rubio’s bill, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as well as Senator Roy Blunt’s Respect for the Rights of Conscience Act. These bills will ensure that religious institutions will not be forced to offer, provide or purchase coverage for health services that violate their religious tenets.
I appreciate you contacting me and I’ll be sure to keep your comments in mind as these issues are discussed and debated in Washington and in Tennessee.

Dear Senator Alexander,

Thank you for responding. I'm sorry, however, to read that meeting the health care needs of American women is not your priority. Do you honestly believe that some people's access to healthcare should be determined by churches, synagogues, or mosques; by priests, rabbis or imams? Shouldn't it be up to the individual conscience, not to the corporate religious conscience, what healthcare a person should receive? I find myself in agreement with the person on Twitter who suggested we build an electric fence between the government and the church and let anyone who crosses that line get zapped.

Personally, I think that making birth control available free to all women in America is a visionary move. Avoiding unwanted pregnancies is the number one way to avoid unwanted abortions. In ten years, we are going to be looking back on this as a major milestone in improving women's lives.

While you may argue that a woman working for a religious institution can still get birth control if she is willing to pay for it, in most cases, she cannot afford it without insurance picking up most or all of the tab. So, not including it in an insurance policy is much the same thing as denying access altogether. And when poor women can't get access to birth control, as a country we end up with more poor babies that those calling for smaller government do not want to help support. 

And here's another thing, isn't this really about semantics? What we commonly refer to as birth control has many other uses. Over half of American women use contraception for reasons that have nothing to do with birth control, and if they cannot get it, they suffer. As a teenager, my daughter suffered extreme mood swings as part of PMS and painful cramps during her periods. The pill brought her great relief, and allowed her to function. She was not prescribed it for birth control, but for medical reasons. As an adult, she still uses a contraceptive for her health issues, not just to avoid pregnancy. No "religious freedom" issue should deny her or any woman inexpensive access to what is essentially essential health care.

If you insist on trying to help religious institutions take away from women their individual freedom to choose what their healthcare needs are under the disguise of "religious freedom," be aware that women are watching and getting the irony.

Nothing has changed: churches are still free to preach whatever they want and their members still free to believe whatever they want and still free to choose to use birth control or to choose not to use birth control. The government regulation has not encroached on anyone's religious freedom. Truth is, this is a made-up issue, not a real one. It is also a sideshow and a distraction from much more serious issues facing the nation.

I'm sure you have figured out that I am not a Republican, but I am your constituent, and you do represent me in Washington. Near as I can tell, the House is a hopeless mess, but there are occasional glimmers of hope in the Senate.  As a woman, I feel strongly about this issue and ask you to reconsider your position.


Judy Graham