In 2011 state legislatures passed 92 bills narrowing access to abortion and birth control in some way. And by birth control, I mean the kinds that women use. I couldn’t find anything published about narrowing access to men’s birth control options.
The emotional hand grenade that is abortion receives continuous attention. Questions about contraception spike in reaction to high profile events or extremist statements. Things may be different now. Access to contraception could be in the spotlight for activists from all sides.
This shift in attention has been building as laws get stricter. Then politicians jockeying for conservative credentials joined the Roman Catholic Church to thwart any mandate for insurance coverage for birth control. The Affordable Health Act exempts the Church itself from the obligation to cover contraception. Still, the Church is outraged that its related institutions’ insurance must cover it. Catholic related universities and hospitals, for example, are not exempt from the law’s mandate.
The rhetoric flared even more hotly when Rush Limbaugh cast aspersions on Sandra Fluke, a young woman who testified before Congress on how unaffordable birth control pills are without insurance coverage. Limbaugh responded to her remarks with what he seems to consider a fair tradeoff, saying “here’s the deal. “If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I’ll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”
If you haven’t read or heard Limbaugh’s words then you’re in a small minority. Earlier remarks he made seem to go, well, unremarked. Limbaugh promised Ms. Fluke the Department of Health “will send you free condoms and lube.”
Limbaugh’s outrageous “deal” validates the growing anger that conservatives are waging a war on women. This is not a helpful perception to say the least, and thus we hear conservatives like Senator Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire characterizing this as a religious liberty issue, not a women’s rights issue.
But that’s not the language we are hearing. So far the conversation is only about what choices women should have. When we hear men blithely say that women should just put an aspirin between their knees, then it looks suspiciously like a women’s issue. If this is about religious beliefs that contraception violates God’s laws then shouldn’t we ban condoms?
At some point we have to pull our heads out of the sand. Abstinence is a healthier choice for many, especially younger, unmarried people. People who are honest about the human sex drive know sex education and access to contraception is the way to prevent abortion. It’s a lot easier to prevent unintended pregnancies than it is to prevent humans from having sex.
If we are really having a discussion about morality and religious freedom; if the discussion is really not about women, then tell me how we will hold men accountable for choosing to have sex when they don’t want a baby. When men are vilified for having sex outside of marriage, and pharmacists refuse to sell condoms, then I’ll believe this is really about religious liberty.