Freedom of Conscience is Freedom of Choice: Women’s Reproductive Needs, Rights, and their Therapeutic Implications


Using reasonableness, we examine the U.S. Catholic bishops’ opposition to provisions of the Affordable Care Act of 2010. Weaving contributions from theology, philosophy, and jurisprudence, we emphasize the reasonable importance of mental health therapy for women within a relevant Catholic/Christian dialogue, particularly in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on healthcare. We principally identify socially imbedded factors that contribute to ending unwanted pregnancies, and argue that freedom of conscience is indeed freedom of choice within which women’s reproductive needs lie under protections of the U.S. Constitution. We recognize that Catholic tradition originates in the words and behaviors of Jesus. Examining closely these actions toward women, we find no reasonable justification for the bishops’ position against women’s freedom of conscience. We also discovered that revelation does not belong exclusively to the bishops; truth continues to be revealed to all human consciences, and true freedom does not allow for coercion/castigation of dogmatic import. We advocate for women’s ability to openly discuss their struggles to meet their reproductive condundra and to deconstruct their sexual stereotypes in mental health therapy. We provide crucial recommendations to augment choices for women’s reproduction condundra, and incite the need for new epistemic frameworks to address the complexity of female sexuality.

Share and Cite:

Del Rio, C. (2012). Freedom of Conscience is Freedom of Choice: Women’s Reproductive Needs, Rights, and their Therapeutic Implications. Advances in Applied Sociology, 2, 214-222. doi: 10.4236/aasoci.2012.23028.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty (2012). Our first, most cherished liberty: A statement on religious liberty. Washington: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
[2] Anderson, R. T. (2011). Protected in law, cared for in life: The new health-care act fails to support pro-life principles. First Things, 215, 41-45.
[3] Bennett, J. M. (2008). Forgetting the past. Gender & History, 20, 669- 677.
[4] Boushey, H., & Gundersen, B. (2001). When work just isn’t enough: Measuring hardship faced by families after moving from welfare to work (Briefing Paper). Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute.
[5] Bradwell, V. Illinois. 83 U. S. 130, 137-138 (1872).
[6] Bujalkova, M. (2007). Debate and education: Birth control in antiquity. Bratisl Lek Listy, 108, 163-166.
[7] Charles, V. E., Polis, C. B., Sridharab, S. K., & Blum, R. W. (2008). Abortion and long-term mental health outcomes: A systematic review of the evidence. Contraception, 78, 436-450.
[8] Coleman, P. K., Coyle, C. T., Shupin, M., & Rue, V. M. (2009). Induced abortion and anxiety, mood, and substance abuse disorders: Isolating the effects of abortion in the national comorbidity survey. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 43, 770-776.
[9] Cornwell, J. (2001). Breaking faith: The Pope, the people, and the fate of Catholicism. New York: Penguin Putnam, Inc.
[10] Cusack, S., & Cook, R. J. (2009). Stereotyping women in the health sector: Lessons from CEDAW. Washington & Lee Journal of Civil Rights & Social Justice, 16, 47-78.
[11] Daniel-Rops, H. (1962). Daily life in the time of Jesus: An authentic reconstruction of biblical Palestine and the day-to-day lives and customs of its people. New York: Hawthorn Books Inc.
[12] Dixon, R., & Nussbaum, M. (2011). Abortion, dignity and a capabilities approach. Chicago Public Law and Legal Theory Working Paper number 345. The Law School, The University of Chicago. Retrieved from
[13] Dudley, S. (2003). Women who have abortions. In Abortion facts, National Abortion Federation. Retrieved from:
[14] Eisgruber, C. L., & Sager, L. G. (2007). Religious freedom and the constitution. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
[15] Federal Register (2012). Administration. 29 CFR Part 2590. RIN 1210-AB44. Department of Health and Human Services. 45 CFR Part 147. Group Health Plans and Health Insurance Issuers Relating to Coverage of Preventive Services under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Retrieved from
[16] Finer, L. B., Frohwirth, L. F., Dauphinee, L. A., Singh, S., & Moore, A. M. (2005). Reasons U.S. women have abortions: Quantitative and qualitative perspectives. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 37, 110-118. doi:10.1363/3711005
[17] Fischer, J. M. (2010). Precis of my way: Essays on moral responsibility. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, LXXX, 229-241. Riverside, CA: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, LLC. doi:10.1111/j.1933-1592.2009.00320.x
[18] (2012). Minorities now surpass whites in U.S. births, census shows., Politics. Retrieved from
[19] Girzone, J. F. (2006). My struggle with faith. New York: Doubleday.
[20] Girzone, J. F. (2009). Jesus: A new understanding of God’s son. New York: Doubleday.
[21] Gisin, N. (2010). Are there quantum effects coming from outside space- time? Nonlocality, free will and “no many-worlds”. Geneva, Switzerland: Group of Applied Physics, University of Geneva.
[22] Greeley, A. (2007). Jesus: A meditation on his stories and his relationships with women. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
[23] Greeley, A. (1979). The making of the popes 1978: The politics of intrigue in the Vatican. Kansas City, KA: Andrews and McMeel, Inc.
[24] Green, M. H. (2008). Gendering the history of women’s healthcare. Gender & History, 20, 487-518. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0424.2008.00534.x
[25] Grisez, G. (1983). The way of the lord Jesus: Christian moral principles. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press.
[26] Guttmacher Institute (2011). Abortion. Fact sheets: Facts on induced abortion in the United States. Retrieved from
[27] Heflin, C. H., & Butler, J. S. (2012). Why do women enter and exit from material hardship? Journal of Family Issues, Published Online 11 April 2012. doi:10.1177/0192513X12442822
[28] Hennette-Vauchez, S. (2011). A human dignitas? Remnants of the ancient legal concept in contemporary dignity jurisprudence. Oxford University Press and New York University School of Law, 9, 32-57.
[29] House Office of Legislative Counsel (2010). The patient protection and affordable care act of 2010. Retrieved from
[30] Jesani, A., & Iyer, A. (1993). Women and abortion. Economic and Political Weekly, 27 November 1993, 2591-2594.
[31] John Paul II (1995b). Evanvelium vitae. Retrieved from
[32] John Paul II (1995a). Letter of Pope John Paul II to women. Boston: St. Paul Books and Media.
[33] John Paul II (1988). Mulieris dignitatem. Retrieved from
[34] Joffe, C. (2009). Abortion and medicine: A sociopolitical history. Management of Unintended and Abnormal Pregnancy, 10, 1-9. doi:10.1002/9781444313031.ch1
[35] Katz, S. N. (2011). Family law in America. New York: Oxford University Press.
[36] Kertzer, M. N. (1978). What is a Jew? New York: Collier Books.
[37] Kimport, K., Foster, K., & Weitz, T. A. (2011). Social sources of women’s emotional difficulty after abortion: Lessons from women’s abortion narratives. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 43, 103-109. doi:10.1363/4310311
[38] Kwitny, J. (1997). Man of the century: The life and times of Pope John Paul II. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
[39] Major, B., Applebaum, M., Beckman, L., Dutton, M. A., Russo, N. F., & West, C. (2009). Abortion and mental health: Evaluating the evidence. American Psychologist, 64, 863-890. doi:10.1037/a0017497
[40] Meehan, M. (2011). Why should liberals defend the unborn. Human Life Review, 15-30.
[41] Mortensen, O., Torsheim, T., Melevik, O., & Thuen, F. (2012). Adding a baby to the equation. Married and cohabiting women’s relationship satisfaction in the transition to parenthood. Family Process, 51, 139. doi:10.1111/j.1545-5300.2012.01384.x
[42] O’Brien, J., & Major, W. (1982). In the beginning: Creation myths from ancient Mesopotamia, Israel and Greece. The American Academy of Religion. Number 11.
[43] Otterman, S. (2012). Dolan says Obama policies threaten “Sacred Liberties”. The New York Times, NY/Religion. Retrieved from
[44] Paul VI (1968). Humanae vitae. Retrieved from
[45] Paul VI (1965b). Dignitatis humanae. Retrieved from
[46] Paul VI (1965a). Dei verbum. Retrieved from
[47] Paul VI. (1964). Lumen gentium. Retrieved from
[48] Pham, J. P. (2004). Heirs of the fisherman: Behind the scenes of papal death and succession. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.
[49] Posner, R. A. (2002). The problematics of moral and legal theory. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
[50] Potts, M. (1967). Legal abortion in Eastern Europe. Eugenics Review, 59, 232-250.
[51] Reindhardt, U. E. (2012). Awaiting the Supreme Court’s healthcare ruling. The New York Times, Economix: Explaining the Science of Everyday Life.
[52] Reindhardt, U. E. (2012). The Supreme Court and the national conversation on health care reform. The New York Times, Ecomix: Explaining the Science of Everyday Life.
[53] Reynolds v. U. S., U. S. 145 (1878).
[54] Rhoda, A. (2007). The philosophical case for open theism. Philosophia, 35, 301-311. doi:10.1007/s11406-007-9078-4
[55] Rovner, J., Totenberg, N., Frick, A. (2012). Countdown to the Supreme Court’s ruling on health care. National Public Radio. Weekend Edition Sunday.
[56] Rowe, V. Wade, 410 U. S. 113 (1973). Retrieved from
[57] Shah, I., & Ahman, E. (2009). Unsafe abortion: Global and regional incidence, trends, consequences, and challenges. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, 31, 1149-1158.
[58] Svetlichny, G. (2012). How free will could will. History and Philosophy of Physics, 1-11. Retrieved from: arXiv:1202.2007v1 [physics.hist-ph]
[59] Torfs, R. (2011). The internal crisis of religious freedom. International Journal for Religious Freedom. 4, 17-27.
[60] U. S. Census Bureau. (2012b). U. S. statistical abstract, 2012. Retrieved from
[61] U. S. Census Bureau. (2012a). 2010 Census data. Retrieved from
[62] United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (2012). Bishop Lori tells parable of the kosher deli and the pork mandate in congressional testimony, 16 February 2012. Conscience Protection. Retrieved from
[63] Wertenbroch, K., Vosgerau, J., & Bruyneel, S. D. (2008). Free will, temptation, and self-control: We must believe in free will, we have no choice (Isaac B. Singer). Journal of Consumer Psychology, 18, 27-33. doi:10.1016/j.jcps.2007.10.006
[64] Wildsmith, E., Guzzo, K. B., & Hayford, S. R. (2010). Repeat unintended, unwanted and seriously mistimed childbearing in the United States. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 42, 12-22. doi:10.1363/4201410
[65] Yip, A. K.-T. (2010). Special feature: Sexuality and religion/spirituality. Sexualities, 13, 667-670. doi:10.1177/1363460710384555

Copyright © 2022 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.