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February 17, 2012
 

Birth control debate is really about women’s rights

I’ll just go right ahead and say it. The right wing never ceases to shock me with its level of collective ignorance and complete lack of even a basic grasp of reality. The latest example is a stunning trumped-up “controversy” over a requirement that all employers include contraception coverage as part of their medical insurance plans.

The “controversy” in this case is that churches and church-related businesses are demanding to be exempt from the requirement. The policy primarily applies to religious colleges, hospitals, and other groups owned and operated by churches. In fact, churches have always been exempt:

Group health plans sponsored by certain religious employers, and group health insurance coverage in connection with such plans, are exempt from the requirement to cover contraceptive services.  A religious employer is one that:  (1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization under Internal Revenue Code section 6033(a)(1) and section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii).  45 C.F.R. §147.130(a)(1)(iv)(B).

Let me make one thing clear. This policy is not a part of any imaginary “war on religion” as some of our right wing commentators like to insist. This is entire controversy is little more than a thinly-veiled an attack on women.

Before anyone starts with the shrilling of “war on religion,” I should point out that the policy in question was found on on the US Department of Health and Human Services website on a page entitled “Women’s Preventive Services: Required Health Plan Coverage Guidelines — Affordable Care Act Expands Prevention Coverage for Women’s Health and Well-Being.” That’s right. It’s a page specifically dedicated to women’s prevention coverage.

Two major panels were convened recently on the issue. One was held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and the other by popular radio show host and Fox News star Sean Hannity. I’ll give you three guesses as to how many women were  on these panels.

The Republican-controlled House committee actually blocked testimony from a female witness. Apparently, Rep. Darryl Issa (R-California) only wanted clergy on the panel — not  the women the policy would impact.

The Hannity panel had more than a dozen men on its panel (and no women), including religious leaders who blathered about “being willing to die” for their beliefs. Yeah. They are willing to die to keep women from getting the birth control they need. Good luck with that, boys.

For the sake of humor (and knowing that it would get a fair amount of shock value), I posted the following status update on my Facebook page recently:

NEW RULE: To decide on birth control policies or testify on religious panels about who gets birth control coverage in health insurance, you cannot have a penis.

I was encouraged by the fact that nearly everyone who “liked” the post was a woman. Apparently, I tapped into something that actually made sense.

Being a man, and a gay man at that, I really don’t have a dog in this hunt. As such, it gives me a certain amount of objectivity on certain issues, contraception being one of them.

As I said before, it’s a women’s issue. Contraception is often a way of life for women — and not just to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Many women are prescribed hormonal birth control pills to help control their menstrual periods.

I’d like to think that conservative and religious leaders would have learned their lesson by now to stay out of women’s uteruses. Interestingly, they’re buckling down on this issue.

Really, now. What man is truly qualified to comment on menstrual periods? Our “weaker sex” often has to deal with abdominal pains that would cause us big, burly, macho men to double over. Every. Twenty. Eight. Days. A good way to manage those cramps is, you guessed it, birth control pills.

So how widespread is contraception coverage? According to the Guttmacher Institute, nine out of every ten insurance policy already includes contraception coverage. All federal insurance plans include it. More than half of the states in the union have laws requiring prescription contraception coverage.

Sixty-three percent of reproductive-age women who practice contraception use nonpermanent methods, including hormonal methods (such as the pill, patch, implant, injectable and vaginal ring), the IUD and condoms. The remaining women rely on female or male sterilization.

Contraceptive choices vary markedly with age. For women younger than 30, the pill is the leading method.  Among women aged 30 and older, more rely on sterilization.

And that’s not including the birth control pills that are prescribed for hormonal regulation.  Once again, the “religious liberty” folks are far more concerned with how their premium dollars are spent than whether or not the women who work for them have coverage for their contraception (yet they demand that secular tax dollars are spent for school vouchers).

Quite simply, the facts are not on the conservatives’ side on this issue. Especially since the latest announcement from the White House has clarified that religious employers (colleges, hospitals, etc.) are still required to provide contraception coverage, but insurance companies will absorb the costs of that coverage.

I’m not really sure how things will look once the dust settles. It’s becoming more clear that the women — whose lives the birth control issues affect directly — are going to have the last word. I can imagine just what the conservative men are going to end up saying eventually:

“Yes, dear.”

Note: This post was also published on David’s personal blog, Skipping to the Piccolo.



About the Author

David W. Shelton




 
 

 
 

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