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The GOP Contraception Confrontation


The recent uproar about women’s rights and health care is a time machine back to the 1950’s.

Birth control has been a non-controversial issue for decades.  At least it was until Newt Gingrich, in early February, latched on to the fact that the Obama administration announced in mid-January that it had mandated that birth control be covered at no co-pay as basic health care service by insurance providers.

It took a while for the GOP to take hold of the issue and blow it out of proportion.

They cried that it violated the First Amendment, specifically the freedom of religion clause.  While it exempted churches and places of worship from having to provide the coverage for direct employees of the church, it did not exempt religious businesses like hospitals or universities which churches own and operate.

What happened next is actually unbelievable. The Right began screaming about religious freedom and President Obama’s “war on religion”. Their public outcry was really about diverting attention away from the recovering economy, while strirring the pot of pesky social issues that their hard-core base loves so much.

Under the cover of espousing religious freedom, they didn’t need to implicitly say they wanted to take away my access to contraception,but it is clear that they wanted to turn back the clock and take away women’s access to birth control.

One of the top candidates for the GOP nominee for President, Rick Santorum stated, on camera, in October 2011 that as president he would talk about the “dangers of contraception” and religious groups who think it’s OK.

“It’s not OK, because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be,” he says. “They’re supposed to be within marriage, for purposes that are, yes, conjugal… but also procreative.” [1]

It was obvious what his stance was on birth control. Rick Santorum has been a social warrior on the scene for years:

  • He was one of three congressmen who insisted that the federal government come back to Congress on the weekend to intervene in the personal family matters of the Schiavo family in 2005;
  • He led the crusade against partial birth abortions;
  • For a man who says he is not obsessed with sex, he spends a lot of time talking about it on the campaign trail, mainly telling people why they shouldn’t do it, based on the more narrow definition of sex as procreation that is part of his personal faith.

The Obama Administration compromised, as they often do, and offered the exemption to religious businesses.  It didn’t matter that many of the religious leaders were satisfied by this compromise. That did not quell the mock outrage of the GOP.

Republicans thought that they found something key to attack President Obama on,  losing advantage against him on the economy, following 23 months of private jobs growth and a rebounding stock market. So they continued the drumbeat of religious liberty and the attack on religion.  Secularism has become the new “birther” code for the Obama haters.

On February 16, 2012, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing entitled “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State.  Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?”

Someone has a flair for the dramatic. They had a total of ten witnesses testify that day. Eight were men and two were women. They allowed two women to speak about women’s health care issues. This would be like having a panel of eight women and two men testify about Viagra or prostate cancer. All of the witnesses were there to state their opposition to the health care law’s mandate to provide birth control.

There was one woman in attendance, a Georgetown law student, that planned to testify in support of coverage of contraceptives. She planned to speak about her own personal experiences and those of her friends who attended a school that did not provide contraceptive coverage.

She was denied the right to testify because she was not qualified. The two female democratic senators in attendance walked out.

The most outraged were the Catholic Church Bishops. The Catholic Church is morally opposed to contraception and they believe intercourse should only occur in a marriage and for procreative purposes. They spoke up the loudest in the beginning. This, despite the fact, as t2P reported last week, that 57%, a majority of Catholic voters, in a CBS News/New York Times poll agreed that their church and others should cover this benefit.

Then when the Obama Administration made an accommodation, the Church continued to protest because they decided that it was not right to provide birth control coverage to anyone. The nuns were no longer against the Health and Human Services decision. The US Catholic Health Association stood firm with the administration after they made the accommodation.  It was all the male Bishops who were still shouting from the rafters.

It’s hard to take a lesson on women’s contraceptives from men who have chosen the most severe form of contraception, to be celibate for the rest of their lives.

Mike Huckabee went so far as to start the rallying cry “we are all Catholics now!”

Only here’s the thing: 98% of Catholic women have used birth control at some point in their lives. 68% of Catholic women use “highly effective” contraceptives regularly.  73% of protestants and 74% of evangelicals, the most pro-life of any faith, do the same. [2]  The Roman Catholic church had even stopped teaching about the dangers of contraceptives for decades.

So no, we were not all Catholics now Mr. Huckabee.

I happen to be an Atheist. An Atheist on birth control pills.  While I would like to say I am sexually active, I am not. I take hormonal birth control pills because it is one of three treatments for the incurable disease, endometriosis. The other options are multiple surgeries and hysterectomies.

Here are some other female-only diseases that birth control prevents or treats:

  • Poly-cystic ovarian disease
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Heavy and painful menstrual cycles
  • Acne
  • PMDD
  • Infertility

In fact, for many woman who were premature births, the only way to kick-start their systems so they can procreate is to take birth control medications.

In response to the Health and Human Services mandate, Senator Blunt (R-Missouri) introduced the Blunt Amendment. It said employers were not to be forced to participate in:

“providing coverage (or, in thecase of a sponsor of a group health plan,paying for coverage) of such specific items or services is contrary to the religious be liefs or moral convictions of the sponsor,issuer, or other entity offering the plan; or‘‘such coverage (in the case of individual coverage) is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the purchaser or beneficiary of the coverage.” [3]

If this amendment were to pass, I could possibly lose coverage of the one thing that is controlling this painful disease. Even worse, employers could choose other basic health services and decide they were morally opposed to them.

Some religions are against mental health coverage and believe that prayer will chase away the blues.

Perhaps your employer decides that they are morally opposed to people who do not exercise and do not eat healthy foods, so they will no longer cover cardiovascular disease.

Maybe they are against smoking.  Lung cancer or COPD? Too bad.

Did I mention I was also bi-polar? Mental health care is still decades behind physical health care, and already carries social stigma. Should employers be able to deny medication to people that prevents them from leading healthy, normal lives because it crosses some moral rubicon of theirs? 

There is no reason that an employer should be able to pick and choose which health care services they are willing to provide to their employees. It should not be left to them to make that decision.

Senator Blunt, and co-author Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), who took Teddy Kennedy’s seat in the special election, snuck this amendment into the Energy and Transportation bill which happens to be a must pass bill.

We must speak up to our congressmen and senators and voice our outrage against this amendment, along with our unqualified support for the Health Care Act’s mandate covering women’s health services.

It is a slippery slope once the Republicans get started taking away fundamental rights of the individuals in the disguise of religious liberty.

18 comments on “The GOP Contraception Confrontation

  1. thedrpete
    February 28, 2012

    The economy is NOT recovering. What did ANY Republican say that would limit a woman’s access to contraception?

    What would be wrong about a President Santorum or anyone else for that matter talking about the “dangers of contraception”? (It does almost double the risk of cervical cancer.)

    The Obama “compromise” of which you speak was phoney-baloney. First, where does he get the authority to dictate what an insurer must cover and at what price, especially free? Second, most of the entities in question self-insure, so the “compromise” was a distinction without a difference.

    I haven’t even read a third of your post, Ms. Moss, and the silliness is overwhelming. Bottom line here. There is a difference between a wish and a right. You may wish to have someone else pay for your medical needs, but you have no right to that. You have no right to a house or groceries or nice clothes or a car or vacation cruises or a job. That is because you have no right to what someone else has earned.

    • Jane Moss
      February 28, 2012

      The Blunt Amendment would allow employers, insurance policy writers, etc. to not write coverage for birth control into their plans because of religious or moral reasons. Perhaps you would have been better off reading the whole post.

      • thedrpete
        February 28, 2012

        Why in the world should an employer or an insurer be forced to pay for an employee’s birth control? Why in the world should an employer or an insurer be forced to pay for an employee’s groceries?

    • Brian Ross
      February 29, 2012


      The economy IS recovering. All trending data from every major and minor organization not affiliated with Fox News or a Republican think tank say so. Slowly, but recovering, even with gas prices climbing again thanks to the contango strategies the Kochs illegally use to hike gas prices.

      You also throw around factoids that are dead-bang wrong. Some contraceptives can increase the risk of cervical cancer. Most do not. Many lower the rates.

      Mr. Obama gets the authority from this thing called a “law.” The Congress passes these things. HHS “dictates” all kinds of things that insurance companies and employers must provide as minimum coverage. This is no different.

      If you read the entirety of material before allowing your prejudice to rise , perhaps it would help fill out your world view a bit better.

  2. Jane Moss
    February 28, 2012

    I sincerely hope that when you go to fill your viagra prescription, you are told your insurance no longer covers it for religious reasons or worse your pharmacist refuses to refill it humiliating you in front of countless strangers at the pharmacy. Its not a point of paying for it at this point, its a point of ACCESS.

  3. thedrpete
    February 28, 2012

    My insurance has NEVER covered Viagra, Ms. Moss. If I start a business, a pharmacy, who should be able to tell me what products I must carry and sell? And from whence would come the legitimate authority to do that?

    If a pharmacist, Ms. Moss, told me that he didn’t carry what I requested, I wouldn’t be either humiliated or angry. I’d go to the next pharmacy. If unsuccessful there, I’d probably make some phone calls to pharmacies. If necessary, I’d use the internet and shop online.

    Please note that no one on the planet is required to produce or sell either contraceptives or Viagra. It’s a business decision and for some an ethical one.

    • Brian Ross
      February 29, 2012

      The government already does have a hand in telling a pharmacist what they can and can’t sell. They call that “public safety.” You wouldn’t want your pharmacist to sell some pills with gypsum board ground into them as filler. I don’t think you’d like it if they could sell class 3 narcotics to anyone who walks up and wants to buy them. The government functions as a good steward of the public interest. This notion that it is evil at every turn is simply nonsense.

  4. thedrpete
    February 29, 2012

    The U3 unemployment rate has gone up sharply from 6% since January 2009, then peaked and dropped slightly recently to 8.3%. The u6 unemployment rate shows a curve that’s similar, though now wider. It was 10% in January 2009, peaked at about 17% a few months ago, and has dipped to just slightly over 15%. U6 reflects people who’ve taken part-time employment, unable to find full-time, plus the short-term discouraged from looking and the marginally-attached.

    SGS unemployment counts long-term discouraged, who have officially now been eliminated from existence. These folks can now find no employment, can no longer get unemployment compensation, and are no longer looking. SGS was 13% in January 2009, was 22% in January 2011, and remains there today. If we look demographically, the picture is downright scary.

    The population of adults in American has increased since January 2009, but the number of non-government jobs has declined . . . by millions.

    Federal regulations and red tape are growing so rapidly that small business — the source historically of 3/4 of new jobs — are shrinking. They have a bunker mentality, protecting against unforeseen new mandates and regulations and imposed costs. Bernie Marcus, founder of Home Depot, and Jim Haslam, founder of Pilot Oil and Travel Centers, have both said that in today’s environment neither could be started.

    • Brian Ross
      February 29, 2012

      Cherry pick one, thirteen more disagree. Sorry

      • thedrpete
        February 29, 2012

        One what? Thirteen what?

  5. thedrpete
    February 29, 2012

    “Mr. Obama gets the authority from this thing called a “law.” The Congress passes these things. HHS “dictates” all kinds of things that insurance companies and employers must provide as minimum coverage. This is no different.”

    From whence, Brian, comes the congressional authority to pass a “law”. From whence, Brian, does, say, HHS get authority to so dictate? From whence, indeed, did HHS get legitimacy to exist?

  6. Jane Moss
    March 1, 2012

    Good job numbers today, fewer people being layed off, lowest unemployment applications in 4 years, estimated to be about 200,000 or more jobs for February. One sign of a recovering economy. Dow Jones hitting 13000 and Nasdaq highest since 2000, I would say those are signs of a recovering economy. Lowest housing inventory since 2006, thats a sign of a good recovering economy. Maybe its not the recovery you want Dr. Pete, but maybe you should have run for President and solved this whole mess for us instead of saving your brilliance for comments on blog postings.

    • thedrpete
      March 1, 2012

      Let me suggest just three — less than a handful — of news bites that just might make you wanna curb your optimism a tad. (1) Energy Secretary Chu yesterday slipped in a congressional hearing and admitted that the Obama Administration wants energy prices to continue to go UP, not down. They want Americans to pay what Europeans do, $9-10/gallon. (2) Fed Chairman Bernanke told congress yesterday that the country is headed for a “massive fiscal cliff”. (3) At some point — coming soon to a theater near you — new unemployment compensation applications dwindle to a precious few, then a trickle, then a dry faucet. This would happen even if there weren’t a single job left in America.

      Side notes: The Dow sydived past the 13,000 at 2:05 p.m. EST and the NASDAQ peaked at the same time and is now on a down slope. Check to see if both aren’t lower tomorrow at close after the day traders get some short-term gains.

  7. thedrpete
    March 2, 2012

    Just a mid-day heads-up, Ms. Moss: Dow Jones down 41 with downslope steepening. Nasdaq started freefall at noon.

    Let’s take the afternoon off.

    • Brian Ross
      March 3, 2012

      Blunt-Rubio. Let’s give Radical Rubio his due. Hopefully it will cost him in 2014.

  8. Jennifer Mercer
    March 3, 2012

    Yes, don’t forget good old Rubio. For a while there I thought Scott Brown also sponsored it.

    I heard Thursday that the House Republicans had a conference to discuss what the year’s legislative agenda would be. There were six things and all six read one thing: Jobs. Next day the headline reads “Boehner vows contraceptive fight “not over””. Their big “jobs” bill was supposed to be the Transportation Bill, but it looks like Boehner can’t get his conferees to agree on anything. So we will get another extension. Their next plan is “business legislation.” Read: Tax cuts, less regulation. Wouldn’t you know, they are going to stick the Blunt-Rubio amendment there again to see if it will slip by.

  9. Jennifer Mercer
    March 3, 2012

    Oh and let’s not forget Rubio’s VP aspirations!

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