If you ever doubted that the GOP really, really doesn’t care about the female half of the U.S. population, all you need to do is look at the picture to the right. This is a picture of the all-male panel assembled by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in order to discuss the Birth Control mandate in Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act. As noted by Medha Chandorkar in Obama’s Compromise, Obama reached a compromise with pearl-clutching Catholic-affiliated organizations that were indignant over now having to pay for birth control; Catholic-affiliated organizations do not have to pay for birth control, but their insurance providers do. While this compromise satisfied people on both sides of the issue, Republicans and religious leaders still grasped at the opportunity to whine and complain about the persecution of religious beliefs. Because of the Republican majority in the House, Republican congressman Darrell Issa was able to handpick the panel – and who better to speak on a panel about birth control than a group of men who will never have to birth a baby in their lives! Two women did speak during a later panel, which means that less than 1/3 of the panel’s speakers actually possessed a uterus.
Democrats were denied their request to include third-year Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke on the birth control panel. The reason? As a college student, she did not have the “appropriate credentials” and since “the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the Administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, [Representative Issa] believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness.”
Sandra Fluke’s testimony was going to focus on the sad story of her friend who lost an ovary and may never have children because Georgetown University refused to prescribe her birth control that would reduce the likelihood of ovary cysts. It’s important to note that “the Guttmacher Institute estimates that roughly 14 percent of birth control prescriptions are written for non-contraceptive purposes, helping some 1.5 million women with issues like ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, and endometrial cancer.”
Besides the fact that a mandate about birth control has everything to do with “reproductive rights” and “contraception,” I fail to see how a female college student is a less appropriate witness than a male religious figure who will never take an oral contraceptive in his life. It is the female college students who will be most affected by the mandate, not the male religious leaders. In addition, the fact that oral contraceptives are used by women to prevent life-threatening diseases proves that the coverage of birth control should be seen as a life-saving measure, and not as an anti-religious one. It is important to remember that “98 percent of sexually experienced women of child-bearing age and who identify themselves as Catholic have used a method of contraception other than natural family planning at some point in their lives.” In Ed Kilgore’s piece in The New Republic, Kilgore notes that the difference in the birth mandate’s approval among Catholics and the general population is virtually indistinguishable.
Republican congressmen may continue to try to control what young American women do with their bodies, but luckily President Obama has stood firm and shown that he truly is women’s most powerful ally when it comes to health issues. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said about the GOP. Now until this matter is laid to rest, can we please get an all-female panel on the insurance-coverage of Viagra?