War on Women: Why the GOP is Obsessed With Your Uterus
For those who think the Catholic Church and social conservatives’ objection to Obama’s new offer on birth control coverage is based on “conscience,” I have God’s first iteration of the Ten Commandments to sell you.
For those who haven’t kept up with the news lately, “pro-life” institutions, which just so happen to already enjoy cushy tax exemptions and a whole slew of other special privileges, have been up in arms over a provision of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a, Obamacare) that requires all businesses to cover birth control (including the pill) for their employees on the grounds that it violates religious liberty (never mind the fact that many of these organizations already cover condoms and Viagra for men).
The stipulation in question already exempted religious institutions themselves from having to include birth control in their plans. However, charities and hospitals connected to said religious institutions were not exempted.
Alas, in a move that suggests he still doesn’t fully understand the nature of the culture warriors he’s dealing with, Obama sought compromise by giving his critics exactly what they wanted: carte blanche for religious-linked companies and organizations to avoid covering forms of birth control that violate their conscience. Instead, female employees of these organizations can claim subsidized birth control coverage from outside providers.
Far from placating the nation’s religious zealots, the President’s offer opened the floodgates for a fresh slew of accusations that he does not understand or respect religious liberty. All of this begs the question: what were they possibly expecting from a Kenyan, socialist un-American Muslim dedicated to undermining traditional values?
In all seriousness, it doesn’t take a revelation from God to understand what this would mean. An across-the-board “conscience waiver” would allow any business, for whatever reason at all, to decline covering birth control. In some cases, this may indeed stem from religious convictions. But far more likely, businesses will simply use such an exemption as a pretext to avoid shouldering the costs of morning after pills and other expensive but vital forms of birth control for women.
If anyone can object to a law based on their “conscience,” then it might as well not even exist (which, in this case, is of course what social conservatives want). On other matters, especially when it comes to sentencing minorities to long prison terms, the G.O.P. constantly claims to hold the “rule of law” sacrosanct. Allowing, say, a petty drug dealer to walk free would, according to this logic, undermine respect for the law in general. Why does the same argument not apply when it comes to birth control for women?
The answer is that beneath all the talk of religious liberty and conscience, all this is really about is controlling women. Read the reactionary tirades of such social conservatives as the National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez and Yuval Levin, and it is clear that these individuals and the viewpoints they represent are dedicated to “preserving” an American culture that has not existed for over a century, if ever. Reactionaries in the vein of pioneering anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly, these people, when speaking to their own followers, are quite open about what they see as the proper role for women in a healthy society.
While, to my knowledge, they’ve never gone so far as to say “pregnant and in the kitchen,” this is essentially what their views amount to. Many of these pundits support abstinence until marriage, something which never really made sense to begin with but is even more preposterous in an era when most Americans do not marry until well into their twenties, if not later.
Pro-life fanatics like to claim that they are fighting on behalf of religious freedom, as if somehow institutions like Catholic Church is a victim, rather than a beneficiary, of federal attention. This claim is demonstrably false: 82% of Catholic women and comparable percentages of women of other faiths find birth control morally acceptable. The real agenda of these reactionary hypocrites is forcing anachronistic cultural values down the throats of American women “for their own good.”
Their real agenda is making it impossible for women with the audacity to have sex for pleasure to do so without risking unwanted pregnancies. For wealthy females, or those living in socially-liberal regions, this is outrageous. For poor women (often minorities) living in states such as Mississippi that have practically outlawed abortion, it is downright dangerous.
Some conservatives couch their anti-choice position in fiscal terms, citing the high cost of birth control and claiming that mandating coverage will drive up health insurance costs. Such arguments do not hold up to scrutiny. Compare the cost of unwanted pregnancies to that of birth control pills, and it is obvious that the former is far more expensive.
This comparison does not even factor in the cost of supporting unwanted children once they’re born, which inevitably falls on taxpayers. There are not enough foster parents or couples looking to adopt in the entirety of the United States to raise and provide for unwanted children. So inevitably, the government is left to pick up the tab with U.S. tax dollars. Fiscal conservatives, who promote the assumption that they are “saner” or less backward than other Republicans, would do well to consider the fiscal consequences of heeding their evangelical allies.