This post is not about abortion. It is not about whether using birth control is right. It is not about the fact that God would prefer that your seed land in the belly of a Snooki, Paris (or Nikki) Hilton, or Kardashian sister than fall on the ground (or in a tissue). It has nothing to do with your religious beliefs being right or wrong.
But it has everything to do with it being unbelievably backwards, stupid, and unconscionable for politicians to want to deny all citizens of the United States, not just women, the right to use contraception in return for votes.
Something we take for granted these days is the availability of condoms and “the pill.” We are able to do so because back in 1965 the case of Griswold v. Connecticut, a challenge to a Connecticut statute outlawing the provision of birth control of any kind including condoms to even married couples, struck down such a prohibition, seemingly for good. Recently, however, the questions considered by Griswold have come back in two somewhat related ways.
First, the would-be Republican presidential candidates have spent a great deal of time bashing contraception and suggesting that it be banned, likely to appease what their polling shows as a field of religiously motivated voters.
The second way, in lock step with the election motivated speech, and as a demonstration that they care to those that are complaining about “Obama Care” forcing them to cover anti-baby pills, House Republicans recently introduced the Blunt Amendment. The amendment is an attempt to backdoor a change to the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care), which would allow companies that provide insurance plans to employees, and insurance companies that underwrite those plans, to avoid providing coverage for contraceptives if they have a moral or religious object to it.
That, in a word, is crazy.
Leave out for a moment the impact this would have on a significant number of people: the unplanned pregnancies, the increased likelihood of breast cancer, the likely spike in HIV if we include the proposed elimination of all contraceptives (like condoms), the increase in abortions despite the borderline abusive laws being put into effect, and increase in teen pregnancies despite the majority of adults/parents okaying birth control for teens in school, etc. An exception like this becomes an enormous loophole for insurance companies and employers.
Most, if not all, of these companies will be able to find enough religiously affiliated people of one denomination or another within their employees and/or management to make the case that they do not support the use of contraceptives. And by the way, religious organizations would have been exempt from the requirement. When you consider that something like 98% of Catholic women use birth control, 70 percent have used the pill or IUDs, this amendment to the Affordable Care Act could feasibly end coverage of contraceptives for everyone, effectively pricing a great deal of women out of their use.
While it is great that the GOP can provide a cost savings to some insurance companies, as well as allowing their executives to get right with God, the talk of eliminating birth control in addition to the attempt to eliminate coverage for it would probably do nothing for anyone. Consider that once the resulting children are born, they and their expenses will have to be covered by the insurance companies.
Aside from that bit of goodness, what the Republican candidates have been discussing has already been deemed offensive to the Constitution.
The Connecticut statute in Griswold also provided for a prison term of 60 days to one year in prison for prescribing, “…any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception…” Looking back at it from 2012, it seems unfathomable that such a law ever existed, let alone that it is being contemplated again.
The Supreme Court looked at the appeal of the doctors arrested for providing birth control and decided that the law was unconstitutional. They did it for good reason, and frankly, they did it for reasons that the candidates should celebrate and agree with; specifically, because:
…a law cannot stand in light of the familiar principle, so often applied by this Court, that a
’governmental purpose to control or prevent activities constitutionally subject to state regulation may not be achieved by means which sweep unnecessarily broadly and thereby invade the area of protected freedoms.’ [Griswold citing NAACP v. Alabama]
In other words, a law cannot be created, or allowed to stand, that expands governmental interference into the home or governing what people do “behind closed doors.” It creates a governmental power that could eventually, and did at one time, allow people to be jailed for wanting to have safe sex and not always have a child be the end result.
As the Supremes note, there is a special relationship between husband and wife (or husband and husband or wife and wife these days) which lies under the penumbra of the Bill of Rights. The attempts to eliminate coverage for birth control are measures that would have “a maximum destructive impact upon that relationship.” [Griswold]
So, this idea of eliminating contraception could be harmful to the institution of marriage and put the government into the home in a way that Republicans usually virulently oppose. And, of course, even if that amendment to the Affordable Care Act had been passed, it could have been struck down as an attempt to abrogate the reproductive rights enumerated in Griswold.
These rights exist for The People to use or not use as they see fit. There are certainly groups that can demonstrate that they have a religious gripe with providing birth control, but is not an excuse to take an action that is a combination of religiously motivated and injurious to a well settled right. While the GOP’s objections center around the idea that companies being required to provide coverage for birth control inhibits free practice of religion, that is demonstrably untrue.
No one is being required to use contraception. If companies are religious in nature they are exempt from providing coverage. Also, while corporations have been (erroneously) recognized as having rights, free practice of religion isn’t one of them, unless the company identifies itself as strictly religious.
The practice of religion, including not using birth control, is not being inhibited. People can still choose to use contraception or not. Really, the whole debate about mandatory coverage for birth control really boils down to a distraction from the most important thing in this election cycle.