The birth control debate, whether or not the “pill” should be provided as a covered medication by insurance companies, has opened that tired old can of worms regarding sex and sexuality. It has also shown that leaders in our country remain “paternal” in their attitudes towards women and their care. No elected official would tell you that they believe that contraception is “unacceptable” care for women, but the attitudes they carry certainly show through in the way they approach the entire conversation.
This became most clear to me when the Congressional Republicans had a hearing regarding the nature of contraception and the costs that it engenders. The entire hearing was testimony from men, many of them religious leaders. While the House Chair stated that this was a hearing on religious freedom, there were no religious leader women included in the hearing either.
Fairly or not, the spin coming out of the hearing was not about how religious institutions might be threatened by a federal requirement that employees be provided insurance coverage for contraceptives, which is what the committee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, intended. Instead, the story became how women were left out of a discussion about birth control.
The major issue at hand is whether or not religious institutions that hire a large number of women, regardless of their belief system, have an obligation to offer health coverage for this most basic health need. Contraceptives are used for many health conditions, they are not only for birth control. Women have the right to their care and their choice of care. Since just about every religious institution advocates for freedom of belief, this issue should not be used to cloud perception. The affordability and access to birth control will not change Americans approach to sex in any radical way.
Women will choose their approach to sex and sexuality regardless of birth control. Failure to provide access and affordable assistance will most likely end up in many more unwanted pregnancies than we already see. Isn’t it our responsibility then to ensure that we provide excellent health care PRIOR to that event?