This past Thursday, the Blunt Amendment was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 51-48.
If passed, this bill could have screwed over a lot of people, both men and women. All for the sole purpose of denying women contraceptive coverage.
I know what you're thinking. Women's reproductive issues aren't the standard fare on my blog. I usually leave that to someone better-qualified like Saranga. I'm not even technically full-blown pro-choice; I'm on the fence. But over the past year and a half, these issues have played an increasing personal role in my life, for reasons I will explain shortly.
Unless you've been in a coma, you may have heard of the recent controversy over President Obama's recent mandate requiring employers to cover birth control in their employee health plans as part of a condition for receiving federal funding. While Catholic churches themselves are exempt, secular Catholic institutions which hire non-Catholic employees, such as hospitals and universities, aren't. Later, Obama compromised with a tweak of the proposed legislation that puts the onus for covering contraception not on those institutions, but rather on their insurance companies.
Cue the conniption fits. And suddenly we find ourselves in the ridiculous position of having to debate, or rather re-debate, the issue of contraception. In the year two-thousand-freaking-twelve!
That's because of a group that has really been making their presence felt. They've always been around in some form, but recently it seems like they've been getting increasingly vocal. And increasingly powerful. And increasingly infuriating.
And increasingly dangerous.
In the interests of fairness, I'm not going to paint everyone in the pro-life movement with the same broad brush. (Also in the interests of fairness, I'll be using the designations "pro-life" and "pro-choice" for the most part, as those seem to be the movements' preferred names.) There are those who sincerely care about the "where does life begin" issue and who are acting in good faith. I'm not talking about them here. I'm talking about a smaller subset group that seems to be dominating the discussion a lot lately. They've been making the news by calling for greater and greater restrictions not only on abortion, but on contraception as well. I refer to these people as The Jason Voorhees Contingent.
Remember Jason Voorhees from the "Friday The 13th" slasher movies? He would walk around killing various horny teenagers at Camp Crystal Lake, often right after or even during the points that they were having sex. It often seemed like he was punishing people, particularly women, for having what he perceived as illicit sex.
It seems that people in "The Jason Voorhees Contingent" have that same primary motivation. There are a lot of people who seem to be making legislation with the primary goal of making women suffer for sexual choices that they don't like or agree with. They seem to be incredibly misogynistic, uncaring, and wllfully ignorant to the consequences of their actions.
The Republicans have been been courting these people since at least the days of Reagan in the 80's. However, the GOP establishment had been relatively successful at keeping them at bay. Conventional wisdom used to be that if you voted Republican strictly on abortion issues, you were getting played, since the GOP establishment would never allow the overturn of Roe v. Wade, lest they lose a powerful wedge issue and give liberals and even moderates greater motivation to vote against them in greater numbers. (Look no further than the Supreme Court. Still no Roe v. Wade overturn, but look! Corporations are people now!) But since the rise of the Tea Party in 2010, all bets have been off.
I'd had a bad feeling we were headed in this direction almost a year back when I wrote this. That's back when the GOP took over the House of Representatives and decided, after campaigning on "where are the jobs?", that somehow the best way to improve the economy was to..... pass a shitload of anti-abortion regulations and no jobs bills. We were treated to the spectacle of the GOP House attempting to "redefine rape" and defund Planned Parenthood.
And it wasn't just at the federal level. Newly-elected Republican governors and Republican General Assemblies have gone hog-wild on abortion, attempting to pass over a thousand new abortion restrictions. You may have noticed how "trans-vaginal ultrasound" has become a household word in recent weeks, as states like Texas, Virginia, and Alabama have introduced legislation to mandate, even against both the women's and their doctors' wishes, that women submit to the procedure if they are planning on getting an abortion. For those here who haven't witnessed a trans-vaginal ultrasound up close (I have), trust me when I say it's not something women should be getting against their will, especially in the case of rape or incest. In light of resistance from women voters, some of those states have backed off on the T-V ultrasounds in favor of only abdominal ones, which still not only subject women to an unnecessary and expensive procedure they didn't ask for, but in many cases also make them pay for it.
All these newfound abortion restrictions seem to have one goal: to reduce the number of women seeking and getting abortions, even at the cost of intimidation. Whch makes those same lawmakers' resistance to birth control even more confounding and illogical, as that would be the surest way to achieve that same goal without those negatives. But if you're in the Jason Voorhees Contingent and your goal is controlling and/or punishing women, resisting birth control makes perfect sense.
Which brings us to the Blunt Amendment, which was introduced by Sen. Roy Blunt as a way to counteract Obama's contraception mandate.
This proposal, if passed, would have allowed employers and health plans regulated by the 2010 health care law to opt out of paying for medical services that are contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions. The potential ramifications of this go far beyond birth control. Suppose you want get your child vaccinated. Now suppose your employer shares Jenny McCarthy's now-debunked beliefs about vaccines and refuses to cover them. You're stuck paying for your child's vaccinations out-of-pocket.
Or allow me to share a personal story:
Recently a major miracle has happened in my life.
My wife and I have been trying to have a child since we got married. After repeated vain attempts to conceive on our own, we decided to try in vitro fertilization (IVF). After some failures on that front, we finally succeeded.
We're going to be parents this fall.
Words can't accurately describe how happy we are about this. I can't think of a better choice to be a mother than my wife. We're looking forward to our new baby with a combination of nervousness, joy, and hope.
But suppose the Blunt Amendment had been in effect as of late 2010. And now suppose that my wife's employer and/or insurance company didn't choose to cover the IVF on religious and/or moral grounds. (After all, IVF, like contraception, isn't condoned by the Catholic Church. ) What would have happened then? I'll spell it out for you bluntly:
We wouldn't have the chance to be parents. Not this fall. Not next fall. Not EVER.
Without health coverage, IVF cycles can get quite expensive, you see, costing thousands of dollars. Depending on the services provided, the cost of one IVF cycle can rival the cost of a wedding, or even surpass it. And we didn't even succeed on the first cycle, so imagine how much repeated uninsured cycles would cost. And neither of us are billionaires like Foster Friess. We would have had to give up, our dream of parenthood unfulfilled.
But the folks in the Jason Voorhees Contingent don't care about stories like that.
And that's the most frustrating about them. They don't know or care about the other uses of contraceptives, like averting endomitriosis or controlling menstrual cycles, or even protecting a woman's ability to conceive and allowing her to conceive safely. They care so little about these nuances that recently they went as far as holding an investigation into contraception with an all-male panel. That's as ridiculous as... having a car thief in charge of Congressional investigations. That same panel excluded their sole female witness, Sandra Fluke, on the grounds that her testimony wasn't relevent.
Here's a little thought experiment for you all: Listen to Fluke's testimony. Then listen to this joke that Friess told about contraception in the "old days". Now think about which one of them will potentially have more influence on our political process. Depressed yet?
The top members of the Jason Voorhees Contingent include a veritable Rogue's Gallery of Hypocrites. There's Rick Santorum, the "devout Catholic" who supports the death penalty against the Catholic Church's teachings and defied two popes in supporting the Iraq War. And Rush Limbaugh, who calls Ms. Fluke a slut for wanting contraception but was busted in the Domenican Republic with loads of Viagra. And let's not forget Ron Paul, the so-called "Libertarian" who just happens to make an exception in the case of women's health. Oh, and lest you think the Jason Voorhees Contingent is an all-male bastion, meet Dana Loesch and "Everybody Loves Raymond" star Patricia Heaton. These folks are aided and abetted by establishment types like John Boehner, who's been coddling them in Congress like overindulged rock stars, and Mitt Romney, who went from being against the Blunt bill to being for it, all in the space of one hour.
In their fervor to impose their will with these issues, they're like the cartoon protagonist who seems so obsessed with ridding himself of an unwanted household pest that he ends up trashing his own house in the process. They just don't care about the collateral damage.
Take their insistence on new forced trans-vaginal ultrasound laws, for example. Anyone who thought TSA patdowns were too invasive should be scared shitless by this. Forget "slippery slope". This is a sheer drop.
In some cases they actually want to give women LESS rights than fetuses. There was the partial-birth abortion ban which curiously lacked any exception for saving the life of the mother. Then there was the recent bill that would have allowed doctors to deny a woman an abortion even if she would die without it. From my perspective, it might as well have been called the "Helplessly Watch Your Wife Die Amendment". If said woman were already a mother, I guess the new widower and his now-motherless children could take comfort in the fact that the doc didn't compromise his morals, except perhaps for the whole "letting Mom die" part, right?
They can't even be concerned with getting protecting the unborn right. These are the same folks who want to allow fracking and roll back safety regulations on food and water, as if those things aren't consumed by expectant mothers along with everyone else. After all, we don't want too much government intrusion, do we?
I can respect people's beliefs on abortion and contraception, whatever they may be. I can respect their wanting fewer abortions. But when their methods become so reckless, short-sighted, and malicious that they severely endanger human health, rights and lives, I can't respect that.
Especially when they're rejecting such a simpler and more obvious solution.