The following is a commentary in an ongoing series of “Reflections” by John Mill. John Mill is the radio persona of Ronald Bruce Meyer and can be heard on “American Heathen.” “The American Heathen” Internet radio broadcast is aired, live, on Saturday nights from 7:00pm-10:00pm Central Time (8-11pm Eastern Time) on ShockNetRadio.com.
The 2012 presidential election is turning out to be a battleground. But the battleground seems at least in part to be women’s bodies – or, at least, control of their bodies and their reproductive health. I point out that Liberals and Libertarians have already thrown in the towel on the abortion issue. The issue is not the perennial one about abortion (celebrating its 39th year, thank you!), but contraception – an issue we thought was settled with Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965. In setting new rules for employment-provided healthcare, the Obama administration has, if you listen to Republicans and neo-cons, denied religious liberty to those church-affiliated employers who are morally opposed to contraception. Principally, these are the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
How’s that again? We need to dispense with two big lies right away: first, that any church is “paying for” contraception. No, they are not: contraception is part of the general healthcare coverage that is part of the compensation received by employees. So the church would be paying for contraception in the same way that they're paying for their employee's groceries. Second, that healthcare is somehow a religious issue. No, healthcare is nonsectarian. There is no Catholic cancer; there is no Jewish geriatrics. And there certainly is no Protestant pregnancy.
The trouble with these so-called conservatives is that they are not really conservative. Nothing is really settled with them. We keep having to fight the same old battles. We had to explain to them all over again why torture is wrong. The battle over abortion never really ended. Now we have to re-fight the battle over contraception. What's next? Having to teach conservatives once again that slavery is wrong?
Do we need any more evidence that the Republican Party has become the anti-American Christian Nationalist party? In fact, there are neither Christian – at least they hate everything Jesus supposedly taught – and they are not even Nationalist – because they hate every principle of freedom America stands for. Here’s a principle I hope the Catholic Bishops can get their head around: You forget that contraception is legal in this country, and has been for two generations. If you disagree with the contraceptive rule, then go ahead and pay your taxes, you and your churches, and then lobby to bring American law in line with church doctrine!
Or, as one writer put it, “If Catholic Bishops want to make their own rules as employers, then they can stop taking federal government subsidies for Medicaid and Medicare patients in their hospitals, or have their schools subsidized by government sponsored student loans.” [Hilary Rosen, Huffington Post, 2/9/2012]
This is not a free speech issue. Nobody is preventing the Catholic bishops from speaking freely. But they are trampling on the rights of women based on religion. And that’s un-American. My hope is that this contraception controversy will finally galvanize women and men who care not just about reproductive rights but about American democracy.
And one more thing: You Republican candidates who disagree with the contraceptive rule: you have turned your back on America. You have betrayed a core American principle. Every one of you has cited a religious reason for opposing the contraceptive rule. You need to go back to Civics class. I’m talking to you, especially, Mr. Gingrich. We do not make laws in this country based on religion. That’s kind of why this country was created – because we had some painful lessons from history as our teacher.
The latest news is that the president with the jelly spine has made a concession he did not need to make. He’s putting the cost of contraception onto the insurance companies, when in fact that will serve only to make contraceptive users more conspicuous. Even though something like 99% of Catholic women of childbearing years use contraception, now they can be subject to employment discrimination based on how they use the healthcare plan that’s part of their pay!
But the real tragedy is that the Obama administration has compromised on women's rights to appease religious bigots. This is simply wrong. There is no point at which we say women are 99% first class citizens.
Copyright © 2012 Ronald Bruce Meyer. To hear an audio version of this Reflection, click on this link: Contraception Controversy
"In regard to religious matters," he wrote, "there is an intellectual cowardice instilled into the minds of the people from their infancy; to inquire or exert their reason is denounced as sinful."