Contraception: A New Third Rail?

Last night Rachel Maddow argued that banning contraception is a losing issue, even in Mississippi.

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Rachel makes some of the same points about the HHS rules on contraception as part of employee benefit packages as Sarah Posner

Obama’s greatest sin, in this view: violating the religious beliefs of the Catholic hierarchy. Not the beliefs or practices of lay Catholics, or the Catholic and non-Catholic employees of Catholic institutions.

The fact is, the enormous majority of Catholic women have used birth control. Apparently a whopping majority of American Catholic lay women quietly have decided the bishops ain’t gonna go through labor and raise the baby, so they don’t get to make the rules.

However, Joan Walsh writes,

I knew the president’s decision would be controversial, but I underestimated the firestorm he would face. Since 98 percent of Catholics practice forms of contraception forbidden by the church at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control, I assumed many of them would speak out in favor of the new regulations. How could they expect the president to follow church teachings if they did not?

I was wrong. Too many Catholics are insisting that while they may personally disagree with the church on contraception, they defend the bishops’ opposition to the HHS moves as a matter of “religious liberty.” Others are silent. But silence lets the most right-wing forces of reaction prevail. It’s time for the 98 percent to speak up.

What cognitive dissonance hath wrought. But I suspect the silent ones will pay no more attention to the bishops in the voting booth than they do in the bedroom.

Further, I question whether standing up to the bishops would hurt Obama among non-Catholic religious voters who might otherwise vote for him. I suspect most Protestants and Jews respect the Catholic bishops about as much as they respect telemarketers.

So why does anyone care what the bishops think? Republicans are trying to make an issue out of the bishops, but Republicans seem to have entered a suicide pact on a lot of issues lately.

There’s a lot of talk abut whether President Obama will walk back the HHS decision for political reasons. I personally think he would lose more support than he would gain by doing so. The people screaming about it aren’t likely to vote for him anyway, and I think everybody else would be disappointed if he backed down. As the recent Komen for the Fail debacle showed us, a whole lot of people out there are getting fed up with letting a small bunch of screaming jack-booted whackjobs dictate public policy that impacts everyone.

See also:

Obama Weighed Religious Politics Before Contraceptive Decision

Public Health Includes Women

Many Catholic Universities, Hospitals Already Cover Contraception In Their Health Insurance Plans

Catholics, the Contraception Mandate, and Public Opinion

18 thoughts on “Contraception: A New Third Rail?

  1. I hope the White House doesn’t change its position, especially since it really seems like the opposition is motivated by politics. As one of those links documents, there are states in which Catholic hospitals are already required to provide such coverage, and yet the world still spins, and life goes on.

    As for the extremely annoying “religious freedom” argument, one analogy I saw, while not perfect, highlights the problem: if Rastafarians ran hospitals, would it be OK for them to require that their non-Rastafarian employees smoke ganja? Just because Catholic dogma says that sex should only be for procreation doesn’t mean they should force their employees to believe that too.

  2. The problem seems to be that there’s some degree of, for lack of a better term, “complacency,” on the part of women – specifically younger women, on issues like contraception and abortion.

    Has familiarity bred that?
    What you see today – it wasn’t always thus.
    You couldn’t always go and get “The Pill.”
    Your husband/boyfriend/date couldn’t always run out and buy a prophylactic at any one of dozens of places, all within driving distance.
    And YOU didn’t get to make the decision about an abortion – men, and society in general, did. And too often, the answer was, “NO!” And if you wanted one, you had to go to some seedy hack in some back-alley abortion butcher shop, to get it done.

    I think it’s kind of ridiculous when a never-married, 54 year-old man who hasn’t had a date in years, worries more about these issues than so many women.
    If Catholic women are going to be complacent, or docile, with the decisions of the MALES in the their church, then other women need to pick-up the slack.
    Because if you think “The Handmaid’s Tale” wasn’t precautionary, you’d better think again.

    It can happen here.
    And it WILL happen here – unless we’re the ones who work to stop the forces of the “Forced Labor” movement.
    And if it comes to that, I think the “Forced Labor” people will say to me, “Why do you care, when women don’t?”
    I don’t have an answer to that. So YOU’D better have the answers before that question is asked, because at that point, it may already be too late.

    • The problem seems to be that there’s some degree of, for lack of a better term, “complacency,” on the part of women – specifically younger women, on issues like contraception and abortion.

      Let us be frank — those of us old enough to remember what it was like before Roe v. Wade are postmenopausal now. And frankly, a big part of me would like to dump the whole issue onto younger women and say, look, this is your fight now. I’m done with it. But it’s still mostly us old biddies who get worked up about reproductive rights.

      I have long thought the one way to get rid of the Fetus People once and for all is the same way America got rid of the Temperance Movement — pass some bleeping “life” amendment and make abortion illegal. A few years of that, and the younger folks will be tripping all over themselves fighting to get it repealed. And we crones will be sitting on the porch of the Old Folks Home saying, “Told ya. Listen to us next time.”

  3. It would seem that Catholic church dogma takes precedence over the well-being of the poor among us. So when the Church, my church by the way, advertises itself as a champion and protector of the poor, it’s not telling the truth. It only champions and protects the poor who are obedient to its dogma.

    I seem to recall many incidences in the New Testament when Christ took strong issue with those who put the dogma of Judaism above the well being of God’s children. Then again, Christ and his teachings disappeared from Christianity a long time ago, so…

  4. Good point, maha. The complacency of young women is because they’ve never been without access to contraceptives or an abortion clinic. Making both illegal would definitely be a wake-up call.

    (Frankly, it’s not beyond imagination that given half a chance the fetus people (love that term) would like to create a society ala “The Handmaid’s Tale.”)

  5. Dear Barbara, I’ve felt this way for years about anything regarding women’s rights – reproductive, workplace, etc. – that the efforts my generation (and those before mine) made are very much taken for granted, and that foolishly. The fight may never be over. But I can’t bear to see the battle having to be fought all over again.

  6. “How could they expect the president to follow church teachings if they did not?”

    Because like many “christians” they are hypocrits. What they really want to say is vote against Obama because he is the “kenyen usurper” but they know that won’t fly. I actually have been hearing from several pundits how this is just the latest attack on the Catholic church? I would agree though most of the previous attacks stem from church elders fondling underage alterboys.

    Who will the church deny healthcare to next, folks who have been divorced, couples with no children?

  7. “if Rastafarians ran hospitals”
    That sounds like it should be followed with “By Henry Gibson”.(or Tommy Chong)
    Verrrrrry interesting!

    A long time ago in a galaxy far away, my sister attended a Catholic high school.
    She was very beautiful, and a cheerleader ( go figure).
    One of her pals got a wee bit jealous of her and told the campus priest that my sister was dressing kinda slutty, SO, the priest called me Mum, and made an appointment to drop by and inspect my sister’s wardrobe (this was in the mid 60’s)
    My parents had divorced (yikes!), so Dad was not involved in that incident.
    Apparently, the fashion show went well. I guess he liked what he saw, never made another appointment.Pretty funny in retrospect.
    Fast forward to 2012; if this happened to MY daughter, I’d have taken her to Fredricks of Hollywood and maxed out my Visa AND Master Card, then really give the boy a show, maybe have mom do some modeling too.
    Crap that flew back then won’t have a chance these days.
    The contraceptive issue was the main driver in my wife and I leaving the Catholic church. I could not (and still can’t ) understand how priests and bishops can even have an inkling about the issues involved beyond faith and dogma.

  8. The problem with the young women of today is that they did not experience what we experienced before Roe vs. Wade. Experience is the teacher. When I was frustrated with a young woman who criticized me for my feminist attitude. After a long conversation, I discovered that because the work of us postmenopausal women, the young women have better experiences and don’t see the need. Unfortunately, when it comes to discrimination, you have to truly experience it to understand it. I have faced a variety of forms of discrimination; but, the most difficult has been the sexism. And, it is still a battle out there. We have not come as long a way as we like to think where sexism is concerned. That is also why Maha’s suggestion would probably work. But, I personally would hate to see things go backwards just to go forward again.

  9. “Whatsoever is lawful in the Commonwealth or permitted to the subject in the ordinary way cannot be forbidden to him for religious uses; and whatsoever is prejudicial to the Commonwealth in their ordinary uses and, therefore, prohibited by the laws, ought not to be permitted to churches in their sacred rites.”

    Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Religion, 1776.

    My take on Jefferson’s opinion is that as an EMPLOYER, all churches are bound – or should be – to the SAME standard as a non-religious employer. The ruling in question does not require that individuals USE birth control, only that it is to be a part of a basic health package.

    Two facts validate this policy. The Catholic church employs many people who are NOT Catholic, and the employment contract with the church should not make a non-catholic subject to the religous whims of the Bishops. Second, polls of Catholics in America show the the Catholic faithful are NOT faithful to this bit of dogma. When the majority of Catholic women have rejected the rule, on what basis can the Bishops ask the government to partner with organized religion to discourage contraception & make access more difficult and expensive?

    The Catholic Bishops can make up Catholic doctrine – but it’s up to them to SELL the value and virtue of doctrine to Catholic members, not enlist the aid of the government in special exemptions to sound social policy, which family planning is.

  10. Them Bishops! I guess you don’t have a need for contraception when yer dealin’ with Altar boys.

  11. “Who will the church deny healthcare to next, folks who have been divorced, couples with no children?”

    Not to answer me own question but I will: children born out of wedlock, surely we can’t make the church pay for these bastards again?

  12. Online, it is said in various places today, that offering coverage for contraception is already the law in 26 states. Didn’t link because I didn’t have time this morning to follow up and check this.

  13. “ya gave me a flash back”
    Back to the days when Goldie looked good in a bikini, and I was too young to appreciate it……

  14. Catholic women should occupy their church. Not as sitting in the pews, but as taking it over. What knowledge do these ossified old men, closeted since birth, have of being female, or for that matter, of reproduction at all? And they claim their ‘right’ to dictate comes from their ‘god’.

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