Hearing on birth control consists mostly of people who do not have a uterus.

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?

8 comments

  1. I have a few issues with your article. You briefly go over the substance of what is being discussed. There are elements which you also leave out that are an important part of the equation. Please do not take this as an insult but merely a disagreement.

    1. A private school has the right to operate how it decides to operate on a great number of issues. If they go against state or federal law, or violate the constitution then they are responsible for changing their policies. There is no disagreement here. Racial and sex discrimination are examples of which universities have been forced to change with their policies. The reason ‘racial’ discrimination in universities and schools changed was because the federal government made it against the law and unconstitutional. It wasn’t the students that made the universities change policies directly. They did protest and force the federal government to change the law, and state laws, and etc. This is not about the Republicans ‘telling’ women what to do. Take any issue you want and the same questions will apply.

    The questions to be asked are,

    1. “Is it constitutionally lawful for universities to not provide birth control through the insurance programs it works with if their religious teachings have been and currently are opposed to it? Where does religious freedom end? Does it exist only as long as your beliefs don’t contradict the government’s view of your religion? You can have ‘religious’ freedom, but you don’t have real freedom to put beliefs in to practice as far as birth control is concerned.”

    2. “When is birth control necessarily a right and fall under ‘health care?” If it is a matter of just having sex, isn’t it a choice that we must be responsible for ourselves? What obligation does the taxpayer have to the college student to subsidize them having sex?

    (If it is for a medical condition, other than pregnancy, I am not of the mind personally that it is ‘birth control’ anymore than it is a treatment to prevent a disease, which does fall under healthcare. Even then, a university has religious freedom to not support this, and this can be argued and will be in the Supreme court.)

    3. Lastly, at what point does a religious institutions moral beliefs and teachings cross with the yhview of ‘healthcare’ mandated by Obama?” The last question was the one being discussed in the hearing.
    I don’t believe the young student herself was anymore qualified than the next student in her school to say anything. This is something which religious leaders, school administrators, and legislators are qualified and educated to discuss.

    Simply, use some common sense as a student. Aside from these questions, Students, whom are smart, ought to figure out that a Catholic school is going to be tied to Catholic teaching on some level. They chose to go to Georgetown knowing it was a Catholic institution, unless at some point Georgetown has separated itself from the Catholic Church entirely and has become a secular school, then that is different. However, as far as I can tell, Georgetown has made no such separation from the Catholic Church. IF you went to this school blindly thinking it was a secular private school then its your own fault for not checking everything out, OR someone lied to you about it.

    Quite honestly, I don’t have a right as a student, who freely chooses to go to this university, a Catholic university, and then dictate to the school what it ought to cover because I think I have a right to it. I believe I should have the right to carry firearms. What if I think the university should subsidize my training with firearms? Does this mean a university that believes it is unsafe for firearms, has a ban on firearms, ought to change this?

    What if the federal government mandated that all students take gun training because of the threat of violence on campus. Absurd as it is, the principle is the same. The federal government mandates something against a Universities beliefs. The federal government believes ‘x’ is a moral good and right and there for mandates the school to pay for that service. Not having that ‘service’ or right puts students at risk of not being able to protect themselves from violence on campus. The school already has security, but the security can’t be everywhere at once. The school also opposes this on moral grounds that it is not acceptable to put guns in the hands of students. Should schools comply or can they have a hearing arguing against it? Is opposition to this federal mandate and its supporters telling people they don’t want them to be able to defend against themselves? No, of course not. It is merely saying that on moral grounds and ethical grounds it disagrees. The school is saying you can get gun training elsewhere, you can even carry as long as it doesn’t violate school policy. You can choose to go to a different school where you feel safe. That is all that is going on here. It is not telling women what to do with their bodies. Women can choose to use or not use bc, and to or not to have sex. Just as men can.

    4. I don’t think whether or not women are part of the discussion above is not a big deal. A woman would certainly give a great presentation and provide insight and perspective but what is being discussed is not a woman’s health, it is laws and how far those laws go. They are talking about at what point does the government go to far in mandating religious institutions to provide funding for things they have opposed for years on grounds of moral principle and religious doctrine, not just in the U.S. but around the world for decades.

    Lastly, something which many today fail to understand and I think it would be worthwhile to consider is that moral beliefs are beliefs which bend to popular vote. The reason something is believed to be wrong or right is because there is something fundamentally grounded. People have different ‘moral beliefs’ but this still remains true. If you believe that ‘right to X’ is a moral principle and I told you that well 99% of women out there and society believed that you don’t have a ‘moral right to X’ you would not suddenly change your belief. If it was believed by a religious institution that rape was wrong, but a majority of its members still raped women, the moral belief of the institution would not change. It would still be wrong. Violating a woman’s body against her will is WRONG, and that is not going to change no matter how many men may commit the crime. Arguments from articles citing 98% of Catholic use birth control do not change the principle or moral position of the teaching by the institution that birth control is not a morally acceptable act.

    (DO not take this out of context, I am not comparing the gravity of using bc with rape, but the belief that an act is wrong on principle will always be believed to be wrong despite who or who does not participate in it.)

    5. As for Georgetown. We are ultimately responsible for ourselves. IF it is the case I need to get birth control for the prevention of a disease, I am responsible for understanding what is and is not covered. With the current law men and women remain covered until 26 years of age now. They can sign on. The message is this. educate oneself about where you are going, and what you need. IF you need insurance for this then you to a university that will provide what you need. I would not be right at all if i chose to go to a unversity and demand it change itself to me. I choose it, not it chooses me.

    6. Republicans are not telling women what to do with their bodies. Republicans are saying that the government has limits to its power over private institutions.

    Lastly, I do agree with this. Birth control needed for disease prevention is not necessarily being used as ‘birth control’ and I think that this is something which can be or should be considered on a case by case scenario with doctor approved diagnosis. It is not however the same as just saying all birth control is a right and ought to be paid for by private institutions.

    The government has limits, just what are they? That is the question.

    Thanks for Reading, Nathan :)

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