I was moved to write this a few months ago and reposting it would be a good way start the resurrection of my blog. The liberal leanings in this piece are very much representative of my general viewpoint on the world, so if that's not your cup of tea - alas, you probably won't enjoy a lot of the posts here (if I do manage to post a lot - here's hoping so!)
February 22, 2012
A few more thoughts on this whole birth control issue (even though, since I'm a woman, many of our elected representatives believe I don't have anything useful to contribute to this discussion):
I keep reading the statistic that 98% of American women will use contraceptives at some point during their lives. I can only assume this means that the majority of people in this country, even those who consider themselves very religious, are not philosophically opposed to the basic concept of family planning.
So what is the justification for all the current debate about requiring insurance coverage for birth control? If it was entirely about money (as it so often is), employers and insurance companies alike ought be clamoring for the law to be put into effect, as it is much less expensive to pay for contraceptives than it is to cover prenatal care, hospital births and more dependents on insurance policies. Preventing unwanted pregnancies is good for business.
And yet money is still a big part of the issue, because the fall-out from the politicization of these issues always most greatly affects those who have less. Women of means can afford contraceptives whether they are covered by insurance or not. It will be poor women who are most likely to suffer if the objections of a small minority are allowed to prevail in this current situation.
Nor does that political quagmire abortion seem to the root of the latest situation. Although some choose to boil the entire issue of women's reproductive health down to abortion, common sense tells us that the use of contraceptives will prevent unwanted pregnancies, resulting in fewer abortions. That many of the same people who want abortion made illegal also oppose policies that promote access to contraceptives makes no sense unless the actual goal is to punish women for their sexual behavior by taking away any control they might have over their own fertility.
It is a very small number of conservative, mostly male members of Congress, responding to a very small number of religious leaders, who have thrown a wrench into the process of making a basic health service available to the women of America. The objection is that the rights of some religious institutions might be violated if they are required to provide their female employees with insurance coverage for contraceptives. But Freedom of Religion and Separation of Church and State are two sides of the same coin. While Freedom of Religion dictates that religious institutions not be forced to follow laws that are in direct opposition to the tenets of their faith, Separation of Church and State requires that US laws not be shaped by the religious beliefs of any particular group. This makes the compromise decided upon by the Obama Administration to require insurance companies themselves to cover contraceptives for employees of religious institutions not wishing to provide such coverage a good one. That this is not good enough for some legislators and religious leaders begs the question: since when does the right to freedom of religion of a group or institution equal the right to take away the rights of individuals who might not even follow that faith?
Although I am not a religious person, I have the utmost respect for the religious beliefs of others - right up to the point where those beliefs are used as a justification for blocking the rights of those who don't share them. I am frustrated and disheartened that we are having this debate, couched in these terms and conducted mostly by people who don't even have the affected body parts, in 2012. This sort of controversy would never happen over any issue related to the health of men, but the power of women's bodies, to entice and to give life, has been politicized throughout history as something threatening that must be controlled. The current debate is just one in a long line of instances in which the personal rights a large number of the most vulnerable women are affected by the archaic ideology of a handful of powerful men.