Contraceptives and Liberty

Discussion of women’s health has dominated the political circuit recently; however, when the House of Representatives held a hearing on President Obama’s contraceptive-coverage rule, they failed to give women a prominent voice.

“I really find it so objectionable that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would characterize this as something as narrow as being about contraception,” said Representative Ann Marie Buerkle, a Republican and the only woman from her party at the hearing. “This is a fundamental assault on one’s conscience.”

Apparently, Republicans conclude that covering contraception is not really about facilitating health care for women but about conscience. Republicans are redefining the issue of contraceptives because if the issue were contraceptives, they would lose. Polls on CBS and the New York Times shows that 61 percent of Americans are in favor of religious employers being required to cover contraception.

On Feb. 23, the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee heard the testimony of Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown Law student, on women’s health and contraception. And on Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut”:

“What does it say about the college coed Susan Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.”

Following Mr. Limbaugh’s logic, it would make a man a “slut” as well if he were to require his health insurance to cover condoms. But it so happens that condoms are not, according to any medical expert, part of preventive health care while contraceptives are.

Republicans do not even acknowledge that fact.

The Senate is debating the Blunt Amendment, which would exempt employers from providing contraceptive coverage on religious or “moral” grounds.

The amendment is so invasive that it would allow employers to opt out of covering not just contraception but any health services required by President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

The Amendment quotes the words of Thomas Jefferson: “No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.”

There is something else that did not protect the rights of conscience: slavery in 1809 when Jefferson said those words. Republicans forget what English literature professors never do: context.

I wonder if there is any topic on which the Republicans think the Founding Fathers might be too old to opine. So far the answer is no.

The Blunt Amendment makes the Affordable Care Act look like a work of fiction with its implications on real person as merely coincidental and not intended.

Republicans are saying Obama is hostile to religious freedom. Newt Gingrich says Obama will declare war on the Catholic Church the day he gets reelected.

Mr. Gingrich declares war of rationality the day he goes on Fox News. It is one thing to say that religious institutions must not be legally obligated to cover contraception. And quite another thing to say that a woman urging Congress to make an insurance company cover contraceptives is a “prostitute.”

The Senate voted 51 to 48 to reject the amendment.


Sumeet Singh is a second-year English major. He can be reached at