Birth control and being human

From the new May-June 2014 issue of News & Letters:

Woman as Reason

Birth control and being human

by Terry Moon

Birth control has been under attack for a very long time but is big news now because of the lawsuit that has made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are suing the government over a stipulation in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that mandates that these companies–not individuals–pay for birth control in their employees’ healthcare plans.

While there has been much written on the absurdity that a corporation has “beliefs,” those who care about women’s freedom are rightly worried since this Supreme Court has declared that corporations are people and are covered under the free speech amendment in the U.S. Constitution.

Hobby Lobby is claiming–incorrectly–that morning-after methods of birth control, Plan B and Ella, work by causing an abortion. In scientific fact, these medications keep women from ovulating so they could not possibly cause an abortion. Unfathomably, the Court won’t consider that actual fact, but only what Hobby Lobby “believes” to be true! The company will also not fund intrauterine devices (IUDs) that do keep a fertilized egg from implanting in a women’s uterus. But remember–and these days it is getting harder to remember–abortion is legal and what’s being aborted isn’t a fetus but a fertilized egg! They are refusing to have corporate insurance pay for a completely legal procedure.

RABID ATTACKS

But even before Hobby Lobby raised a stink, we had Rush Limbaugh’s savaging of then college student Sandra Fluke as a slut and a whore whose sex should be filmed for his enjoyment because she supported the ACA birth control mandate. Before that, the so-called Concerned Women for America and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists proved their fanatical ideology by decrying Ella as “unsafe” and proclaiming that it “kills embryos” even though it doesn’t and has been approved safe in 22 countries. George W. Bush’s eight-year administrations poured millions of dollars into denying students knowledge about effective birth control by pushing abstinence-only education in the U.S. and by trying to fight AIDS in Africa by downplaying the need for condoms. Many states now have laws allowing healthcare providers to refuse to perform a medical service that conflicts with their beliefs, including allowing pharmacists the right to refuse to dispense doctor-prescribed morning-after emergency contraceptive or birth control pills.

The Catholic Church is a hugely powerful force behind the ridiculous notion that government funding of birth control impinges on their “religious liberty.” The opposite is the truth. Catholic medical institutions now treat one in every six U.S. hospital patients and refuse to do abortions or direct sterilizations, honor patients’ end of life wishes, give rape victims the morning after pill, or dispense any birth control. Exactly whose religious liberty is being trampled on?

IT’S NOT ABOUT RELIGION

Casting aside pretensions that this is even about religion, Senators Roy Blunt and Marco Rubio introduced a bill, fortunately defeated, that would exempt both insurance purchasers and providers–be they religious or not–from covering any services that go against either their “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

Religious liberty should never mean the right of a state, religious hierarchy, company or business to impose their concept of religion upon an individual. If “religious liberty” does not mean the right of the individual–even if that is to practice no religion–then it has lost all meaning.

The only reason to be opposed to birth control is because one is opposed to women controlling our own bodies. Either women are sluts and don’t deserve protection from pregnancy, since pregnancy is the price women should pay for any sexual activity that anti-birth controllers disapprove of; or it’s God’s plan that women get pregnant and we can’t interfere with God’s plan.

Having the right to control our bodies is inseparable from the idea of freedom. That is because the right to legal, safe, accessible birth control, and abortion for that matter, is not alone a question of “rights.” Rather, it is a question of what it means to be a whole human being.

The war against birth control is a war against the idea that women are actually human beings who have a right to control their fertility and plan when and if to have a child. Women and all human beings must have control over our own bodies for freedom to be a reality. We fool ourselves if we think we will ever achieve that without a total reorganization of society.

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