Thursday, February 9, 2012

Paging Lysistrata - please pick up the red phone

Magazine cover, 1913, showing women in ancient dress, bearing sign "We want our rights" - Library of Congress. Click to "embiggen"
 I don't normally do politics here, but....

Perhaps you have heard that late in January, the Obama Administration's Health and Human Services Adminsitration announced a rule that would require, under the Affordable Care Act, that every employer insurance plan - with some exceptions - would be required to include contraception coverage with no co-payment.

The exceptions include churches and houses of worship who, objecting to contraception on religious grounds, would be allowed to drop contraception coverage for their employees.

The exceptions did not extend to institutions such as universities, hospitals, charities and schools that serve the general public, even though they may be religiously based.  The principle behind this is that employees like custodians, nurses, landscapers, budget analysts, IT specialists, radiology technicians, cafeteria workers and all the other professional employees that work for these institutions should not be discriminated against on the basis of sex as regards their work benefits.

Slightly NSFW image below the jump

"Lysistrata" illustration by Aubrey Beardsley, 1896
This announcement was greeted with an immediate outcry, primarily from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is the national political lobby for the Catholic Church in America. Their freedom to practice their religion was under assault, they claimed - presumably they don't trust their own parishioners to follow the church's teaching against contraception.

Speaker of the House John Boehner called the administration's action "an unambiguous attack on religious freedom" - I guess he means the freedom to deny women benefits.

The Republican candidates for president weighed in as well, with Rick Santorum, flush with his symbolic victories in Missouri, Colorado and Minnesota, hysterically claiming that "President Obama and his overt hostility to faith in America" would usher in a new French Revolution, complete with guillotine and decapitations.

(if you'd like to learn more about Rick Santorum, feel free to google him.)

The hysteria from the religious right that greeted this announcement surprised me, then appalled me, began to frighten me, and now it enrages me.

An estimated 70 million American women use birth control, primarily oral contraceptives, which is what we're talking about here. Most use it to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but many women are prescribed oral contraceptives to treat hormonal disorders or other medical conditions. If you're young, you've never known a time when oral contraceptives were not available, but in fact as recently as 1972, states were allowed to outlaw their use.

Photo from Wikipedia
You might ask, well even if birth control is in such high favor, why did President Obama decide to upset so many people with such a controversial announcement, suddenly requiring employers to offer it in health plans?

In fact, it's not controversial at all. It's been a requirement for over ten years.

In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that employers who provide prescription drugs to their employees but don't provide birth control were in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex. A federal court upheld the ruling in 2001.

Employers can choose not to offer prescription coverage, or they can choose not to offer any coverage of all, because those choices treat men and women equally. But in fact, many Catholic institutions have been offering coverage of contraception in their employees' insurance plans for years, including Fordham, Georgetown and DePaul Universities. Twenty-eight states have laws on the books enforcing compliance with the EEOC ruling.

President Obama's new rule simply adds this already-in-effect requirement to the Affordable Care Act.

This entire outcry is a fabricated tempest in a tea-pot, being used by opportunist right-wing radicals to attack the President, wreak havoc with the Affordable Care Act, and - as the cherry on top - further restrict the reproductive rights of American women and control their sexual behavior.

Now, legislation introduced by Mark Rubio (R- FL) in the House, The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is intended to reverse the Administration's decision, but it goes much farther than that. Not only would it allow religious institutions to suspend insurance coverage of contraception for its employees, it would allow any employer to deny coverage of contraception, for pretty much any reason that can mask as a religious objection.

Suffragettes, 1918 - photo Library of Congress. Click to "embiggen"
Ladies, I think it's time for action. Before the women of American go all Lysistrata on their asses, contact your lawmakers. Tell them to vote against Mark Rubio's ridiculous bill. And contact the White House, and let them know you support the decision to make contraception accessible and free.


cardinal said...

I can't agree more. I've been enraged a lot lately, and this latest birth control bit is putting me into the crazy zone. The "don't get me started" list is so long, I'll just say thank you.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I think we are thinking a lot of the same thoughts lately.

Deborah said...

Thanks for this post Aunt Snow. You summed up my feelings as well... and I zipped right over to sign the petition.

Still amused by Santorum's largely ceremonial caucus win here in Colorado, but then we do have a rather large evangelical contingent in our state. In fact, the fine folks from Focus on the Family have their headquarters here. Yay.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

This announcement was greeted with an immediate outcry, primarily from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops,

Not to mention, all the hideous gasbags employed by our media as "pundits".

smalltownme said...

This makes me so angry.

Anonymous said...

"Their freedom to practice their religion was under assault, they claimed - presumably they don't trust their own parishioners to follow the church's teaching against contraception."

oh, yes -- God forbid that people would follow their consciences instead of listening to some unmarried religious man about contraception and family planning!

Letting the Pope or a politician make my personal decisions? You'd have to be crazy!
Politicizing health care is exactly why we need health insurance reform. These fools are not doctors! They need to keep their hands off my body and out of my business.

I'm not anti-Catholic. I am a woman of faith. My hormones are my own concern and are between me and my health care provider.

Kaylen said...

This was a great post! I had no idea what was going on with this.
Overall- I'm really enraged at most everything that is happening in our government right now. I feel like certain people, we'll call them republicans, are doing anything they can to spin the media to say negative things about our current president. And this caters to the ignorant people who only watch Fox News or who just pick up on soundbites and then spin out of control about NOTHING.

kellyg said...

I take great pleasure in the fact that when you google Santorum, the Spreading Santorum site is at the top of the list.