Church Stance on Birth Control, Public and “Private”

Church Stance on Birth Control, Public and “Private” October 23, 2009

Deseret Mutual Benefit Administrators (DMBA), the Church’s insurance company, does not cover prescriptive contraception, for any reason that relates to (“voluntary”) contraception. That is, any Church employee or covered spouse (including BYU employees) that wants contraception requiring a prescription must pay for it entirely out of pocket. The only exceptions for this relate to the physical (not mental) health of the woman: endometriosis, ovarian cysts, etc. Postpartum depression is not a valid medical issue that would result in an exception to this exclusion. This is clearly not an economically motivated decision.

This is not a post meant to criticize the Church; rather it is to ask about the extent to which public discourse matches the “private” (that is, non-Church-wide) practices controlled directly by the Church. As far as I know, recent discussions of this matter in public venues by General Authorities have stressed the private nature of reproductive decisions within marriage. The Church Handbook of Instructions very clearly takes this stance, using words like extremely intimate, and admonishes Church members not to judge one another on this matter.

So whence the insurance policy? Surely DMBA and its board (which includes representatives of BYU and the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop) can take the same stance that the Church articulates. Does it speak to the resilience of decades-old mentalities in Church governance even while leaders have publicly moved on from those positions? Does this stance create a hierarchy of practice, even implicitly, like the multiple honor codes of Church schools? Is it similar to the Church requiring its male employees (not BYU) to wear shirt and tie and its female employees to wear skirts and hose?

How is one to read the difference?

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