Thinking Aloud: The Fight About Birth Control

It seems to me that the GOP is willing to wage a war over the bodies of women because of the complete absence of a sensible economic plan on their part. It’s the election-year “culture war” for 2012. (Next up, gay marriage! So 2008.)

Hey, yo, GOP: solve the economy. (You, too, Dems. And don’t bother engaging with the GOP on the birth control issue. Have better ideas for the economy. That’s going to win the election. Hint: Clintonomics.)

I was glad to see President Obama change tact on the birth control mandate for Catholic institutions. Unlike chocolate and peanut butter, politics and religion do not mix well.

People are going to do things with their bodies that other people are not going to agree with. They aren’t going to agree with others’ choices because of religion, aesthetics, moral and ethical reasons that have nothing to do with religion, and just because they find such things distasteful and/or icky.

Too bad. People can’t outlaw all the things that other people do with their bodies. Consensual sex between adults is legal. Artificial birth control is legal. Practicing religion is legal. Having big families, small families, and choosing to remain child-free are all legal. Tattoos are legal. Abortion — despite the fact that many, many people are anti- it — is legal. (Yes, I’m against abortion. I believe in my heart that it is murder. However it is legal.)

As to the Catholic church, and the Council of American Bishops (okay, I don’t know if it’s actually called that): Look, I understand that you are toeing the line regarding artificial birth control and abortion. For the record, I toe the line on those things, too.

However, you gotta work on your delivery. First of all don’t conflate artificial birth control and Plan B medication with abortion. It’s tempting to do, but the science just doesn’t bear you out. Quit doing it.

Second of all, you keep toeing that line, but try to demonstrate compassion and understanding for the Catholic couples who decide to go ahead and use artificial birth control to plan their families. Pray for them if you must. But try not to look like a bunch of paternalistic, condensing, “father knows best” bunch of dunderheads. Pray for every baby to be a wanted baby.

Third: get off Capitol Hill. Just walk away. You don’t want government in your religion? That’s cool. A lot of people, including religious people like me, don’t want religion in their politics. We don’t want a theocracy. A lot of us want a government that defends us, helps us educate our children, provides safe infrastructure, and (speaking for myself) looks out for the little guy/gal (i.e. provides a social safety net). If government leaves you — us! — in peace to practice our religion the way we want to, then I think we should let government do the things it does best, too. (Although, granted, some days I’m not 100% sure what that is.)


Minor asides:

First: Stop throwing around the 98% of Catholic women use BC stat. It’s inaccurate. About 68% of fertile Catholic women between the ages of 15 and 44 choose to use artificial birth control (that’s in the Guttmacher study, if the media had read it better and reported it accurately). Updated to add: Huh. I stand corrected. Thanks, Politifact.

Second: IT’S NOT JUST WOMEN USING BIRTH CONTROL. In best-case scenarios, women and men together in loving committed relationships have talked about their options and made their choices. M’kay? It’s not just a women’s issue. Sex, birth control, parenting, and abortion affect men, too. Updated to add: Men shouldn’t be the only people talking about it on Capitol Hill. *facepalm* Really, Congress?

18 thoughts on “Thinking Aloud: The Fight About Birth Control

  1. My short points:

    1) if they would just accept the science that birth control /= abortion then;
    2) ACTUAL abortions would decrease. If people can plan for their families as they choose there would be fewer abortions. There would be smaller health care costs for all, and stuff like this:

    Would not be happening. THAT is howling barbarism that these people want to drag us back into. Blaming women for being sluts and getting pregnant in the first place doesn’t help anyone. Saying that the woman in the above link DESERVED what she got for getting pregnant and then having an abortion is DISGUSTING and UNCHRISTIAN. For a lot of really complicated reasons you can’t say “adoption is the answer” and let it go at that.

    You’re right. Abortion, whether you agree with it or not, is legal. And that is is why it is a CHOICE. It’s not being pro-life, it’s being anti-choice. I am pro-choice. I have planned my family to my liking and we have taken steps as a family to make our current make up permanent. Thank goodness those choices exist. But I would neve dream of telling someone who lives in the midst of a domestic violence relationship that she should be made to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term (and that’s just one example). It’s not my job to tell others what to do with their bodies. If you don’t like abortion DON’T HAVE ONE. It’s simple (general you, not you you RPM).

    And as for the idea that OH NOES your tax dollars go toward supporting this! Excuse me? My tax dollars financed two wars I was vehemently opposed to, they financed needless torture, and they financed getting policies passed that I abhor (DOMA anyone?). That’s how taxes work. It all gets put into one pot to pay for lots of different things – some you’ll agree with; some you won’t. If you don’t like birth control, don’t use. Simple. Then shut up when the government wants to make it more widely available in order to REDUCE health care costs. Which would you rather pay in the long run?

    Wow. That got longer than I thought. Sorry. This whole topic makes me want to stab things. Also, when I say ‘you’ I almost always mean that in a general sense – not attacking!

  2. Hear, hear, and kudos to you! I am with you on this – and with Cari, too. Keep the politics out of the religion and the religion out of the politics; make good public policy; accept the fact that not everything that is done by government will be liked by everyone, but minimize damage done and look at the bigger picture. We operate as a society. We sometimes have to support things (or at least, allow things to happen) that we don’t necessarily like very much, but are for the benefit of said society. (Like the overall lower health care costs Cari mentioned . . .)

    I am anti-abortion, but also 100% pro choice. I defend the RIGHT to CHOOSE to do things. Much like the right to march – I may be very much against some groups that choose to do so, but I will defend their RIGHT to do it to the day I die. I am, in effect, defending my own rights when I do so.

    Why oh why are so many people stuck on one or two issues and generalize everything else based on those one or two issues?

    Let’s look at the bigger picture, people.

  3. Thought one: Birth control’s benefits are not limited to contraception. Denying access to the pill exposes women to a host of conditions – preventable conditions.
    (Hey, look, Guttmacher.)

    Thought 2: Yesterday really did not make the GOP look good. The Foster Friess thing about the aspirin between the knees was bizarre, and Andrea Mitchell’s reaction of stunned disbelief was awesome. The Talking Points Memo article was spot-on.

    Thought 3: As an aside to the CPAC dress code, there was the BYU student dress code story yesterday.

    Thought 4: Three bills on reproductive health care in Illinois are going to be heard in front of an AGRICULTURE COMMISSION! This has prompted the ACLU to throw a “Women are not Livestock” rally next week:

    Thought 5: There’s that Blunt Amendment in Congress, which is attached to a highway bill and sponsored by a guy who looks like Jack Nicholson as The Joker:

    Thought 6: I’m a man. I should probably shut up while I’m ahead. As should many of my fellow heterogametic colleagues. Before someone starts reading Lysistrata.

  4. I, personally, don’t think I could have an abortion. That said, I’m completely pro-choice. The fact that someone thinks it’s OK to tell me or any other woman out there what we can or cannot do with our bodies is wrong. The fact that there were 5 MEN as witnesses testifying on the birth control benefit right now on Capitol Hill is WRONG. The fact that we are being repressed and told we’re horrible individuals for living the life we want to live is WRONG.

    What boggles the mind is that the GOP is SO against abortion and now it seems, birth control, yet, they are also anti welfare….what’s wrong with this picture? Yes, women. You MUST have your babies if you engage in recreational sex, even if you can’t afford the baby, but to hell if we’re going to help you once the baby’s in existence.

    As I told my friend yesterday, why do they need to make us feel disrespected? No man has ANY idea what it feels like to be a woman. If we don’t want to be mothers, it doesn’t mean we have to become celibate. Not to mention, what are they going to legislate the man to do? How about this, make abortions illegal, then the man has to pay for every bit of what insurance doesn’t cover, any other fees, and X amount of money every month until the baby is 18. See what they think of THAT.

    The GOP picked a really stupid topic to try to conquer right now. Really stupid.

    • I honestly can’t believe in an election year that the GOP “went there”. The stupidity is rather stunning. The only way it makes sense is that it makes us forget there is no sensible plan for economic recovery. Women and men are OUTRAGED about the whole thing.

  5. (commenting on my own post. how meta. or solipsitic.)

    A couple notes:
    1. It’s true, there are people who disagree with this issue (this issue being health care coverage for birth control) because of ideas of religious freedom and/or a position against socialized medicine. I am not making those arguments. It looks to me like the Catholic church ultimately won the battle for “religious freedom”, and I frankly am a little stunned that the argument is ongoing.

    2. I also don’t understand why the Republican party doesn’t see the idiocy of wanting to outlaw abortion, and restrict access to birth control, and require invasive unnecessary procedures for women seeking a legal medical procedure, AND whittle away the social safety net. Pro-life and family values seem to mean vastly different things depending on where you consider yourself positioned on the political spectrum. As a woman who considers herself “pro-life” I have a lot more life in mind than an unborn baby’s, although I feel that I have his/her in mind too. I would like the number of abortions to be reduced. I just think outlawing it outright isn’t the way to go about it. Let’s talk about comprehensive sex education, and go from there.

  6. Lots of good points here. I will say that I think it is correct to skew birth control more towards a women’s issue because in most cases the impact of a lack of birth control disproportionately impacts women. The clear example is a would-be dad that skedaddles while the woman grapples between the hard choice of completing an unplanned pregnancy or having an abortion, but even for happily married couples mothers tend to be more impacted by additional children. First is, of course, the fact that the woman is the one who has to be pregnant. (I actually liked being pregnant, but there are certainly some very uncomfortable side effects.) Then, although not true for all families, it is more likely to be the mother who may need to stop working to stay home with kids or, if she continues to work, decrease her upward mobility because of the need to be able to take time off to care for sick kids or even just leave on time to do a daycare pick up, which can be perceived as slacking in many organizations. (I know I get many looks when I dare to leave a meeting at the scheduled end time of 5 PM.)

    Until the burdens of unplanned pregnancy are shared more equally across the genders I will continue to label access to birth control a women’s issue, but, yes, I ultimately believe it is a *human* rights issue.

    Oh, and the Oklahoma Senator who wanted to add an amendment to the personhood bill to “require the father of the child to be financially responsible for the mother’s health care, housing, and other expenses while she is pregnant” is my hero.

  7. Here are a few weird facts to add to all of this.

    Abortions are at their lowest level since Rowe v. Wade made them legal. And teen pregnancy is at its lowest rate in this country. Old Guttmacher studies show that in the 60s there was a high rate of spontaneous miscarriages being treated in emergency rooms. And that rate lead to the conclusion that abortion rates were not all that dis-similar to the ones being performed legally in the 1970s.

    I would rather we are pro-choice so that abortions can be safer. I hope that my daughter never has to have one. I would prefer that my insurance company would provide birth control for me, especially if they are willing to pay for Viagra.

    And why is it that women always, always, have to be the one responsible. Last time I looked it took two people to create one baby.

  8. I like to think the Catholic church will someday change its stance on birth control, but I won’t hold my breath (but, hey, girls can now be altar servers, so there is some hope). That said, I get the stance, even if I don’t agree with it, and I am okay with the church not wanting to pay for BC for their employees (regardless of what religion their employees are). But to paraphrase what someone above said, it is short-sighted and nonsensical to be anti-birth control and then not be willing to help pay for unwanted kids. I am not sure, however, that describes all or even most Republicans; I thought the anti-BC stance was mostly Catholic, plus that church is certainly not against helping people out. But maybe I don’t have that quite right.

    Excuse my ignorance, but Viagra is not covered under this, is it? I know that at least some insurance companies cover that and yet not BC, which is beyond words. Out of curiosity, I keep meaning to call my husband’s insurance, but I am afraid if I find out that BC pills are twice as expensive as (or even just a little more than) Viagra, I will go off on someone.

    • I actually doubt the church ultimately will change its stance on birth control. I’m kind of okay with that, and I’m going to talk about it later this week. You are correct that the church is very active in charity work and helping less fortunate people and families. That is a cornerstone of the religion. However many conservatives in government seem to want to restrict access to social services, restrict access to BC, and outlaw abortion. Whether or not that’s because of their religious faith is much less clear.

      And, um, you may not want to check into that viagra thing. Because it is technically for a dysfunction, it probably is covered under health insurance.

  9. All I can say is that I am really impressed with this whole discussion. This can be such a volatile topic and it is so refreshing to read thoughtful and respectful comments, not inflammatory rhetoric. I just have to say that I am grateful for the healthcare and contraceptives I received in my 20’s from Planned Parenthood, and grateful for my catholic education and upbringing. I am no longer a practicing catholic, and a lot of that has to do with their stance on contraception and homosexuality, but I respect the organizations Catholics have created to help those in need.

    I am SO tired of election season already, I mean , 20 debates already? REALLY? I can’t believe we have another 9 months of this! Can’t we just vote now so everybody can get back to work and actually accomplish something? So much time has been wasted already!

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