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Hope Star - Hope, AR
  • Amy Gehrt: GOP launches war on birth control

  • The Republican Party has launched an all-out war on birth control. But while GOP leaders are attempting to portray it as a fight for religious freedom, it is actually women’s rights that are on the line.

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  • The Republican Party has launched an all-out war on birth control. But while GOP leaders are attempting to portray it as a fight for religious freedom, it is actually women’s rights that are on the line.
    In response to concerns over the contraceptive coverage mandate in the health care overhaul, the Obama administration announced a compromise Feb 10. The modification would mean religiously affiliated employers such as charities, hospitals and schools would not have to cover birth control. Instead, women covered under those plans would be offered free coverage directly from the health insurers.
    The move should have appeased all involved and put an end to the political firestorm right there. Yet while it did satisfy a number of religiously based groups — including the Catholic Health Association and Catholics United — ultra-conservative right wingers weren’t ready to give up the fight.
    Congressional conservatives instead introduced legislation that would exempt any employer from the contraceptive coverage mandate due to religious or moral objections. And House Republicans convened a panel on the issue.
    It was quickly evident that the hearing was pure political theater, not an honest debate of the issues. Everyone called to testify spoke out against the health care rule ... and nearly all were men.
    That realization prompted several lawmakers to walk out after the first panel. Before she departed, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., had this to say: “What I want to know is, where are the women? I look at this panel, and I don’t see one single individual representing the tens of millions of women across the country who want and need insurance coverage for basic preventative health care services, including family planning. Where are the women?”
    There were witnesses prepared to speak on behalf of women’s rights. Democrats were told they were allowed only one, so they chose Sandra Fluke, a third-year law student at Georgetown University, a Jesuit school. However, committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., refused to let her speak, saying she did not have the appropriate credentials.
    I strongly disagree. Fluke spoke to reporters in the hallway Thursday, telling those gathered about a 32-year-old friend of hers who was diagnosed with ovarian cysts. The doctor told the young woman there was only one way to prevent the condition from making her infertile: birth control pills. Contraception coverage was not part of the woman’s student insurance plan, however, and she could not afford the prescribed medication on her own. So instead, the woman lost an ovary.
    “Those are the consequences of this policy, and those are the voices the chairman silenced today,” Fluke said.
    Correct me if I’m wrong here, but isn’t protecting a woman’s ability to procreate the very definition pro-life? It’s ironic that the pro-choice proponents are leading the charge, while the anti-choice advocates would rather a woman be infertile than be able to take a safe, and completely legal, medication to preserve her reproductive health.
    Page 2 of 2 - That isn’t the only health benefit of birth control pills, either. At some point in their lives, 98 percent of American women, including Catholics, use birth control. And while many do use it to prevent pregnancy, or simply space them out — something that has numerous health benefits for babies, including reducing the likelihood of autism, premature births and low birth weight — studies show taking the pill can also dramatically decrease a woman’s chance of ever getting certain types of cancer. It can also strengthen bones, prevent rheumatoid arthritis, improve the skin and lessen painful cramps or heavy menstrual flow.
    Of course, most of the people who are leading the fight against birth control are men, so they probably give little thought to such matters. But if we allow them to insert their religious beliefs into U.S. policy, what’s to stop employers from refusing to cover other live-saving medical treatments on religious grounds? The next time, it may very well be your life, or that of a loved one, on the line.
    Amy Gehrt may be reached at agehrt@pekintimes.com. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the newspaper.
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