The Great Contraception Debate(s) of 2012

by Be Heard on March 20, 2012

in Health

It is hard to believe that in 2012, contraception has become a hot topic in the news, but here we are. As Daisy recently asked here on the Curvy Girl Guide, you have to wonder if political candidates are using contraception issues to score points with voters and posture? Among many examples of it happening around the country, it seems likely that the White House was doing exactly that when they recently overruled the FDA and decided to limit Plan B to “prescription only” for women 17 and under.

I am a little lost for words (a rarity) as to how to address the issue of contraception within the context of politics.  It has obviously become politicized, which honestly, I find really unfortunate – contraception should never be about politics, playing to a “base” or pandering. To add to the craziness of the topic, there are multiple contraception debates going on across the country.

First  up we have the contraception debate as it pertains to the 2012 presidential election.

We have to begin with a threshold question – what is a conservative? What is a Republican? As stated in my last article, historically, Republicans favored small government but the past decade has not supported that view. Therefore, we have to look at each of the Republican candidates’ perspective/argument/opinion regarding contraception with the current Republican platform – we say small government, but not when it comes to defense spending or your body or bedrooms.  Now to be clear, no candidate, as of this writing, has proposed a ban on contraception. This has been wildly overstated, misreported and hyperbolized. While I may not agree with politicians interfering with reproductive health; no candidate has announced their intent to “do away” with contraception. But what do the candidates think about the issue? This time, in reverse alphabetical order:

Santorum: Senator Santorum believes that states should be permitted to pass laws that outlaw contraception. He has also stated that he would not personally vote for such a law. He also thinks that if such a law were passed that the Supreme Court has no place voting it down. Basically, his stance on contraception is that it is a state’s rights issue. For the arguably most “conservative” candidate, Santorum is actually being conservative, stating in an interview with CNN’s John King that the “government doesn’t have a role to play in everything that, you know, that either people of faith or no faith think are wrong or immoral”.  Senator Santorum has also ripped into Governor Romney’s statement that he did not think mandatory contraception should be repealed from the health care act because the requirement is preventing religious freedom.

Do you think a candidate’s religion should dictate his policies? Or, like Senator Santorum said, do you think that the government doesn’t have to legislate morality?

Romney: not to paint him as the John Kerry of this election, but Governor Romney has had a serious case of flip flopping on some of the issues.  He was recently asked whether he agreed with the proposed amendment to the Affordable Care Act that would allow any employer or insurer to opt out of any provision of the act that they found morally objectionable. In response, Governor Romney stated that he was against this bill. His campaign almost instantly did a 180 and has now stated that he supported the bill, which is more in line with the current Republican rhetoric on the topic.

Paul: True to form, Congressman Paul believes that the free market should work these things out. He has phrased it as “a rather silly argument about who’s going to get free birth control pills” to CNN’s Piers Morgan.  He remains consistent with his prior positions and his overall philosophy.

How do you feel about the government legislating contraception?  And if you are a Republican, how do you feel about this in conjunction with the party’s mantra of small government? Do you think this goes against it?

Gingrich: His spokesperson recently stated that Speaker Gingrich, if he were a Senator, would have voted for the recently proposed amendment to the health care act permitting any and all employers and insurers to opt out of any portion of the act that they had moral objections to. His position is that the government does not have a role dictating people’s religion to them.  Apparently, he is referring to corporations as people and not individual citizens with this statement, for women, under the act, are not required to use contraception.

Do you think a politician’s personal position on an issue such as contraception should even matter?

Next we have a debate over mandatory contraception coverage as ordered by the Health and Human Services via the Affordable Care Act.

Recently, the provision of the health care act that requires coverage for contraception has come under fire. The Republican Party argues that the debate is not over contraception but over religious freedom and is a First Amendment issue. A specific issue that has arisen is whether employers (as an entity or individuals) should have to provide insurance coverage for contraception. This was a bit confusing to me at first, because I didn’t think my boss was going to have to give me the pill. What this meant was that employers had to purchase insurance plans that offer coverage for contraception at no additional cost to the employee.

Some employers objected to this on a moral basis, for example, Catholic hospitals did not feel they should have to go against the Catholic church’s teachings on birth control by providing access to free birth control for their employees. (Side note: these entities all get government funding, in my personal opinion, they should either have to comply with the law or not receive funding, but I digress).  This does not mean that the hospital itself had to give their employees contraception, but merely that the insurance plan they provided contained coverage for contraception.

A compromise has been reached: Religiously affiliated organizations do not have to offer a plan that includes free contraceptive coverage (or any contraceptive/preventive care coverage). If they choose to opt out, the insurer itself must offer the employee free contraceptive/preventive care coverage. This will arguably cost the insurers less than covering the medical costs of an unwanted pregnancy.

Do you think that employers should be able to file for an exemption from this requirement on religious or moral grounds?

The last contraception debate raging in the headlines? Rush Limbaugh. Seriously.

Radio host and “personality” Rush Limbaugh recently stated that a Georgetown Law student who testified before a Democratic committee regarding access to birth control was a slut. Here is the direct quote: “It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps.”  The next day, Limbaugh went further, stating, “So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex. We want something for it. We want you post the videos online so we can all watch.”

Limbaugh later issued an apology, which was criticized for being weak and insincere, and has since lost numerous advertisers over the issue. President Barack Obama called Ms. Fluke to offer his support to her after Limbaugh’s remarks.

Here’s how the four Republican candidates responded to the issue:

Santorum: “He’s being absurd, but that’s you know, an entertainer can be absurd.”
Romney: “Not the words I would have used.”
Paul: “It sounded a little crude the way it came across to me…I don’t know why it has to be such a political football like this, so you have to ask him about his crudeness.”
Gingrich: “I think he was right to apologize.”

Now it begs the question….what are your thoughts on the candidates’ responses and has it had any effect upon how you feel about a particular candidate?


Please note that due to the sensitive nature of political posts,  all opinions are welcome but comments attacking other readers or writers will be deleted.

Elizabeth is a 30-something attorney, recently transplanted to Colorado due to her husband’s job, and a love of the mountains and outdoors. She is currently adjusting to her new life, after being born and raised in Chicago. She has a love of fashion and keeps herself busy running, doing yoga, and cooking. She is your stereotypical Virgo, with her Type A personality and obsession with organization and perfection.  A former college athlete, she must keep moving, and seems to do well at it.

Kayla March 20, 2012 at 10:18 am

Love the candidates’ responses to Limbaugh’s comment, especially Romney….Such a politician!

Rachel March 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm

I am so angry that this is the “hot topic” in this campaign. My reproductive system is not fodder for stumping! And it’s not just about contraceptives. Mitt Romney said in an interview that he plans to get rid of Planned Parenthood. Really Governor Romney? Really??? Do you even know about all the services Planned Parenthood provides? And to whom those services are provided? No. You don’t. Or if you do, you’re choosing to ignore it so then you can wave your red “abortion” flag in front of your conservative constituents and get them riled up. Because they are also ignorant of the other services Planned Parenthood provides.

And to answer your other question, no, I don’t believe employers should be allowed to opt out of the proposed insurance coverage. An organization may be a religious organization, but it is also an employer, and as such should be subject to the same laws as every other employer. The requirement does not in anyway discriminate against any religion or prevent any individual from practicing their religion as s/he sees fit. It is not requiring that women who are employed by religious organizations use birth control. It is simply requiring that all women have the same benefits, regardless of their employer.

Elizabeth March 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm

I agree with Rachel on all her points.

I would add that AZ currently has a bill under consideration to allow any employer with anti-birth control religious convictions to opt out of reimbursing birth control unless the employee were to tell her employer the non-birth control purpose of the medication. So if I use birth control to manage cysts, I would have to tell someone in my company about my cysts who would then tell the insurance company to cover the reimbursement?

Its truly unbelievable to me that this kind of stuff is even out there. In a country where 98% of Catholics have admitted to using some kind of birth control, who is it that these politicians are pandering to? Maybe I’ve had my head in the sand for a while now but it seems like the people who would be happy about these laws are such a minute minority that I don’t understand why my state legislators are spending time on it. It certainly can’t be to get more votes when it means losing so many other votes.

If anyone has some insight into this or agrees with these laws, please help me understand where you’re coming from.

Elizabeth L. March 20, 2012 at 1:55 pm

That’s the thing, Elizabeth. Saying all this stuff actually does get them more votes. I live in Alabama; you would not believe the number of people who are eating up all this and loving it.

However, in the big picture, it’s really all about taxes. Republicans as a whole, and especially conservative Christians (sorry for the generalization here) don’t want to have to pay taxes for services they don’t like or don’t use. They don’t like the idea of someone who doesn’t pay taxes or doesn’t have a job getting something free from the government – that’s why so many are against Planned Parenthood. They see it as getting something for nothing (see also: welfare and immigration). They also see it as the government getting too big for their britches. If the government is getting involved with this, what else are they going to get involved in? The supporters don’t want their taxes to go up (for anything!!) because the government is requiring insurance companies/employers/whoever to pay for something they don’t support (even if they have taken advantage of it in the past – hello hypocrisy).

I feel like I can say all of this because my parents fall into this category. My dad thinks these sorts of services and provisions should be excluded because he doesn’t want to pay for something he or my mother aren’t using. The fact that his daughter needs and supports contraception and access to affordable healthcare is negligible.

I have gotten so bent out of shape and distraught over this because it makes Christians and/or Southerners look bad. Not everyone feels this way but we get pigeon-holed in the category anyway. I was so mad (still am) that I obtained from voting in the primary. And then naturally had to write a blog post about it to vent my frustrations. I was much more eloquent there than I’m being here, so check it out if you are looking for a better idea of what I am talking about and why you can’t pigeon-hole me.

Elizabeth D March 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Elizabeth L – I just read your post and its wonderful. I agree with every one of your points and I thank you for taking the time to so thoughtfully respond to my comment. I can understand a little better why some support these bills. Its so disheartening though.

If this helps at all, I don’t feel like any of these bills makes Southerners look any worse than anyone else. Its happening everywhere. That outspoken extreme right so-called-Christian minority is everywhere. They are definitely having their day and seemingly getting more extreme all the time. I’m a great believer in everything being cyclical and so this is their time but it will end.

Krystle March 20, 2012 at 4:12 pm

I feel so happy to be Canadian during all of this, I cannot believe some of the things that are going on.

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