Warning: I’m fighting mad and jumping back up on my soapbox.
House member Carolyn Maloney from New York spoke out strongly yesterday at the House Oversight and Government Reform hearing on religious liberty and the birth control rule. This is a hearing officially titled, “”Lines crossed: Separation of church and state. Has the Obama administration trampled on freedom of religion and freedom of conscience?”
Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R.-CA) was accused of stacking the panel at the hearing with conservative religious leaders who are opposed to President Obama’s plan to require health insurers to provide birth control coverage. I’m trying to sift through the layers of bureaucracy, news and policy to figure out what’s really going on.
So, let’s look at this logically. The president has supported birth control coverage for women through insurance. Yay! A rallying cry goes up. Some religious leaders object because they don’t want their institutions to be required to provide this coverage if it goes against their religious beliefs. Obama comes up a compromise that respects religious beliefs and doesn’t throw women under the bus. Cause for celebration, right? It depends on who you talk to. Planned Parenthood and other groups were supportive of the President’s plan. The House Republican-led committee is holding this hearing today.
Let’s revisit the name of the hearing for just a moment–“Lines crossed: Separation of church and state. Has the Obama administration trampled on freedom of religion and freedom of conscience?” Notice words like lines crossed, trampled, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience. Now notice that the words women and family planning and compromise are not included. What they’re doing takes a complex issue and reduces it down to a very narrow focus. The focus constricts even further when conservative male religious leaders basically constitute the entirety of the panel addressing the committee.
This is what caused Rep. Maloney to ask, “Where are the women?” Why were there no women on a panel about birth control? Or religious freedom, for that matter. It’s what caused three Democrats on the committee to walk out of the meeting in protest. Leader Nancy Pelosi has added her voice to this mess. From the Huffington Post:
“I think it’s really curiouser and curiouser that as we get further into this debate, the Republican leadership of this Congress thinks it’s appropriate to have a hearing on the subject of women’s health and can purposely exclude women from the panel,” Pelosi said during a press conference. “What else do you need to know about the subject?”
One of the purposely excluded women Pelosi refers to is Georgetown Law School student, Sandra Fluke. Fluke like many other women at Catholic universities was pleased to hear that Obama’s plan would extend birth control coverage to them. Paying out of pocket for birth control is expensive for college students. Fluke was planning to testify about a woman she knows who used birth control pills to control ovarian cysts. When she could no longer afford the Pill, she developed a cyst which led to removal of an ovary. Her doctors are now worried that she’s going into early menopause. This would of course make it impossible for her to ever become pregnant.
Rep. Issa blocked Fluke from testifying with claims that she wasn’t an expert qualified to speak to the committee and that Democrats hadn’t followed proper procedure in submitting her name for the hearing. Republican members of the committee broke those same rules for timely submission of witnesses’ names, but their witnesses were still allowed to testify, according to reports I read.
Obviously, this is an infuriating situation. In answer to Maloney’s question, Where are the women?–I can only answer for myself, but I know there are others like me. We’re here furiously typing away to get this story out. We’re using social media and other means to spread the word to our politicians that this exclusion is unacceptable. We’re supporting our politicians who are protesting these tactics and using their power in the media and in Congress to make their voices heard.
I watched part of an interview where Rick Santorum talks about wanting sex to be “special” and to focus on the procreative function and not pleasure. Okay. So if he becomes president, he’s going to legislate this? It seems a little insulting to average, everyday Americans to point out that people have been having sex for a long time, but maybe we really do need to break this down. People have sex not only for procreation, or even just carnal pleasure, but biologically we’re wired for this kind of experience. And this includes that complicated rush of the physiological and emotional elements of physical intimacy. Like it or not, Mr Santorum, people are going to heed those special urges.
Why do these people keep fighting biology as though most of us are orgy loving hedonists? I don’t want to resort to the tactic of using hyperbole to over-dramatize and over-simplify this issue. But how many times are we going to replay this controversy? The American people overwhelmingly support consistent, affordable access to birth control and family planning measures. Statistics show that 60% of women on birth control use it to control medical conditions such as endometriosis (which my spell check doesn’t recognize as a word. Come on WordPress, get with it.), ovarian cancer and ovarian cysts.
I had plans for today that didn’t include climbing up on my soapbox. I’ve included lots of hot links in this article because the story just seems to be getting more complicated and I don’t want you just take my word on what’s going on. If you want to take action, here are a few things you can do.
1. Send this article out, post it on Facebook and twitter: http://wp.me/pbgSK-rw
2. Sign this petition from UltraViolet.
3. Email Congress in support of birth control coverage.
4. Or sign Planned Parenthood’s petition.
I’m sure I’ll be writing about this again. The Republicans who are against contraception just keep ratcheting up the discourse, trying to remove women and their healthcare concerns from the debate. We just can’t let that happen.