Everything you thought about our legislature and women’s health is wrong. Not only do our legislators plan to make abortion “safer”, they want to increase demand! They want to make it hard for women to get birth control, so they will have more unwanted pregnancies and seek abortion more often. Since the “safer” clinics under HB 57/SB 130 will be imaginary, having been shut down, these abortions may be done by unlicensed providers or DIY methods. That’s great, because it gets them a twofer, a dead fetus AND a dead momma. I wonder if they’ve considered another benefit—an increased arrest rate for women who are addicted to drugs, get pregnant, and don’t abort—a boon to our burgeoning prison industry. A winner, all around, right? Pro-choicers, rejoice!
Except they’ve misunderstood us a bit. Pro-choice does NOT mean pro-unplanned pregnancy or pro-abortion. Women don’t yearn to have abortions any more than men want to have prostate procedures or open-heart surgery. We know the best option is prevention—safe, accessible contraception with good public education about safe sex.
Let’s read HB 108. We have a new category of employers created—religiously affiliated or motivated employers. Under the definition section, it turns out that any “entity that has 10 or less shareholders, members, or partners who have religious beliefs which oppose contraceptive or abortifacient drugs, devices, or methods” is included. 10 or less—that means 0 to 10, right? So a business with 100 shareholders, all atheists, is religiously motivated but one with 100% anti-contraception shareholders is not. Interesting twist!
Businesses meeting the criteria can refuse to provide insurance coverage for any form of birth control. Let’s say they fix their typo, and it becomes 10 or more shareholders, members or partners. A business with 1000 shareholders, 990 of whom have no religious objection to birth control, could refuse to cover contraception for its employees. Considering where we live, how many businesses would fall into that category?
Contraception is a big issue for women ... and a winning issue for Democrats.
How do I know it's a good issue for our side? Well, common sense for starters ... but just as telling is the fact that Republicans are trying so hard to make Democrats afraid to talk about their support for access to contraception this year by falselyframing it as an attack on religion -- or even an attack on America:
Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) likened the requirement that private insurance plans provide contraception coverage to two of the most devastating attacks on American soil.
"I know in your mind, you can think of the times America was attacked," he said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "One is Dec. 7, that's Pearl Harbor Day. The other is Sept. 11, and that's the day the terrorists attacked. I want you to remember Aug. 1, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates."
In the warped Republican universe, requiring insurers to cover contraception is just exactly like foreign attacks that killed thousands of Americans. Those little pill containers are seriously scary, huh?
Fortunately, GOP scare tactics haven't succeeded in scaring Democrats away from the birth control issue. Here's the latest Obama ad featuring women talking about contraception.
"I think Mitt Romney's really out of touch with the average woman's health issues."
"This is not the 1950's ... contraception is so important to women. It's about a woman being able to make decisions."
"I don't think Mitt Romney can even understand the mindset of someone who has to go to Planned Parenthood."
"I think Mitt Romney would definitely drag us back."
Republicans started this war, but women VOTERS will finish it. Democrats -- even in places like Alabama -- should take note of this fact, summon the courage to refute the ridiculous fearmongers and stand for what's right.
Alabama Republicans just can't resist picking a festering scab, can they? The Radical Right is wrongly defining what's going on concerning the EWTN Contraception Mandate just so they can get you to buy into a wedge issue.
The AL Attorney General, Luther Strange, is quoted by WSFA, a TV station out of Montgomery: "The freedom of religion, and to believe as one sees fit, is our ‘first freedom' under the United States Constitution," Strange said. "The people of Alabama have recognized the importance of this freedom and have enshrined it in their Constitution as well. Alabama law does not allow anyone to be forced to offer a product that is against his or her religious beliefs or conscience." And, if what he says was a good description of the truth, then I'd be right along side of him. But it's such a contortion of what's going on that it becomes a lie.
Before I get to mental health, which I promise is really coming soon, I’m going to reflect on how the current uproar in Alabama and other states over women’s reproductive rights might call for some careful editing of HR 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act. I’ve reviewed the wonderfully long list of covered services previously. Is it clear enough to stop a conservative administration from limiting reproductive care? I fear not—I believe it needs to be substantially strengthened.
Contraception would likely be covered without explicit mention. The bill covers “all medically necessary services”, and preventive care plus prescription drugs are clearly listed. There is no way we are going to list every medically necessary service in the bill itself, but other services that have been historically limited by insurers are mentioned outright, such as dental care and mental health services. To be on the safe side, we should go ahead and specify contraception coverage. Just as for other medications, there would be no co-pay at the point of service—this health plan is pre-paid entirely.
What about abortion? HR 676 needs to specify coverage, very directly. Single-payer advocates sometimes avoid mentioning abortion, even though NOW is a supporter of HR 676. It has been an uphill battle to try and get Medicare for All on the table—I am sure the thought is probably just “don’t go there. Don’t make the job even harder than it is. If it is legal, we can assume it will be ok.” That is likely a mistake.
And there you have it, America! Speaking to Andrea Mitchell on her MSNBC show a few minutes ago, Foster Friess, chief donor to the Rick Santorum super-PAC, explained that in his day, the only contraceptive you needed was an aspirin tablet. You just put it between a gal's knees and if she keeps it there, she won't get pregnant. Ms. Mitchell was visibly offended as well as shocked by the remark, but managed to continue the interview. Friess eventually said that Santorum's personal views on birth control were not an issue in his campaign for the presidency.
Here's the exchange:
Mitchell: Do you have any concerns about some of his comments on social issues, contraception, about women in combat, and whether that would hurt his general election campaign would he be the nominee?
Friess: I get such a chuckle when these things come out. Here we have millions of our fellow Americans unemployed, we have jihadist camps being set up in Latin America, which Rick has been warning about, and people seem to be so preoccupied with sex. I think it says something about our culture. We maybe need a massive therapy session so we can concentrate on what the real issues are. And this contraceptive thing, my gosh, it’s such inexpensive. Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.
Mitchell: Excuse me, I’m just trying to catch my breath from that, Mr. Friess, frankly.
Remember that Rick Santorum has said that birth control is the biggest threat to American security. (Exploding condoms? Nuclear diaphrams?) Remember also the hue and cry that goes up about Mr. Obama's personal religious views - is he a Muslim? Does he support a radical Christian minister? Did he actually quote Jesus Christ at that prayer breakfast?
Personhood bills are popping up in legislatures across the country. Here in Alabama Sen. Phil Williams (R) is back with his one page personhood bill, SB5, providing that the term "persons" in Alabama law "includes all humans from the moment of fertilization and implantation in the womb." Yeah, if we had any carpool lanes, Williams' bill would let a woman legally drive in them the morning after -- by herself!
Perhaps noting that almost these bills meddling with what's happening in the wombs of American women are usually introduced by men, State Senator Constance Johnson of Oklahoma City has hit upon a response that may jar some of these men out of their self-righteousness regarding fertilized eggs: Outlaw spilled seed as well. She proposed this amendment:
However, any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman’s vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child.
In other words, outlaw oral sex, anal sex, masturbation, and even wet dreams.
Unconstitutional? Yes. An unwarranted invasion of privacy? Yes. Ridiculous? Yes. That's exactly the point. So are the personhood bills ... including the one in Alabama.